Evaluations of woman lecturer

Posted: July 3, 2012 by Jender in implicit bias

I am teaching at an all-male philosophy faculty, and last year I got the opportunity to teach a full undergraduate course at the intro level. (Context: since this is the European system, students specialize already very early on). My particular course was interdisciplinary, with about 50% of students being philosophy undergrads, and the other 50% from a cognate discipline. I designed a fresh course that was supposed to appeal to both groups.
When the student evaluations came out, I was naturally curious to see what the students had to say about my course. The students from the other discipline were unanimously positive. In contrast to the philosophers, they have other female lecturers who teach them, so I was not the only female teacher they knew. However, I was shocked by the remarks of the philosophy undergrads. Their evaluation scores were OK, but some of the individual remarks were devastating “For a beginning lecturer, she definitely did her best”, “She lacked academic level”, “She doesn’t challenge us intellectually, like the other faculty members do”. Etc. I have no way to actually prove that the philosophers evaluated me in this way because I am the only woman teaching them (there may be other reasons the students from the cognate discipline were happier with my teaching). However, my student evaluations for international graduate courses were always very good, so I cannot believe that my undergrad classes lacked academic level or weren’t challenging.
In any case, because of these remarks, the evaluations are now quite useless to me (for applying for jobs), even though the overall scores are good.

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