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The Impact of Gender on Teaching Evaluations in Danish Higher Education

Surveys to evaluate teaching (SETs) are increasingly used for systematic quality assurance in Danish higher education (Akk 2013). International studies have found evidence of gender bias with female teachers receiving lower evaluation scores than male teachers. (E.g. Boring et al. 2016; Mengel et al. 2019). To the extent that SETs reflect underlying bias rather than teaching quality, it is problematic for quality systems.

The overall project asks: Is there a gender bias in teaching evaluations at Danish universities, and if so, what are the possible mechanisms?

The project aims to maximize external as well as internal validity by using both observational and experimental research strategies.

In this sub-study, we examine whether a possible gender-SET association is mediated by teachers’ approach to teaching because students prefer some teaching behaviors to others. We will examine in detail how a possible gender bias may be influenced by contextual factors such as class size, teaching format, academic discipline and personal and motivational aspects of the teachers themselves for example the strategies they use, perceived self-efficacy or perceptions of departmental support and control of teaching, pedagogical training, and level of appointment.

Hypothesis 1: Students evaluate male teachers higher than female teachers. Hypothesis 2: Students evaluate teachers of their own gender higher than they evaluate teachers of the opposite gender. Hypothesis 3: The relation between teacher gender and student gender and teaching evaluations is mediated by differences in teachers' approaches to teaching. Hypothesis 4: The relation between teacher gender and student gender and teaching evaluations is mediated by differences in teachers' self-efficacy as teachers

Method

This project combines data on SETs (approx. 50,000 observations) with survey data among teachers (approx. 600 respondents) measuring different aspects of teachers’ beliefs and intentions concerning their teaching in the courses, actual approaches to teaching in the course and background information, e.g. teaching experience, age and academic position.

The predictors of course evaluation will be analyzed with both unadjusted bivariate and multiple regression analyses with SET as dependent variable, adjusting for the other independent variables investigated to explore the possible associations between SET, gender, teaching approach and motivational factors.

Perspectives

The project contributes to the international literature in three ways: First, there is limited European research on gender bias, and our study will be the first in Scandinavia. Second, we explore the mechanisms at play by using data on actual SETs as well as conducting an experiment and observational studies of teaching. Third, we examine the role of contextual factors – for example between contexts traditionally dominated by men vs. women – by including variation between a university and a university college and in the gender balance among faculty across study programmes.

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Berit Lassesen

Associate Professor

Collaborators

The research project is hosted by the Department of Political Science, Aarhus University and col-laborate with VIA University College. Members of the research team: Professor Anne Skorkjær Binderkrantz, Dept. of Political Science, Aarhus University (PI), Associate professor Berit Lassesen, CED, Aarhus University, Postdoc. Lea Skewes, Dept. of Political Science, Aarhus University and Postdoc. Mette Bisgaard, Dept. of Political Science, Aarhus University

The project is supported by the Independent Research Fund Denmark: Rammebevilling: 8108-00034B