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The role of gender in teaching effectiveness ratings of faculty.


This paper examines the role of gender and its influence on student ratings of faculty teaching effectiveness. The study recorded professor effectiveness ratings by 930 undergraduate students consisting of 472 females and 458 males. The results reveal several gender differences. Generally, female students rated faculty effectiveness higher than male students. When gender of faculty was considered, female students rated male faculty higher than male students, but did not rate female faculty higher than male students. Gender differences were also examined using an integrated model for student rating behavior. This model included the theories of motivation, grade leniency/stringency, and construct validity, which have been integrated into a structural equation model. Previous research generally treated these theories independently. The effect of gender on the role each of the competing theories was studied. Rating behavior was generally consistent between male and female students. Females seemed to exhibit lower academic expectations than males. The results of this study, in conjunction with previous studies, continue to show that significant bias exists in student ratings of faculty teaching effectiveness regardless of gender of students or faculty.


Many studies have been conducted to study the various factors that influence student ratings of professor effectiveness. Those that have focused on gender differences have revealed inconsistencies related to faculty evaluations. Some studies have shown higher ratings for instructors by females, though in some instances same sex preferences were found also (Ferber & Huber, 1975, Tieman & Rankin-Ullock, 1985). Others studies have shown little or no gender interactions (Elmore & LaPoint 1974, 1975, Wilson & Doyle 1976). Hancock, Shannon & Trentham (1993) considered gender and college disciplines (human sciences, liberal arts, etc) and found no uniform patterns. They did find female students rated instructors higher than did males. Feldman (1993) did an extensive analysis and found minor differences and inconsistent results, though students rated same sex instructors somewhat higher. Fernandez, 1997 reviewed the literature and concluded that gender differences were minimal with regard to rating of faculty. His own study supported these conclusions, stating "...that the effect of student and faculty gender on teaching quality assessment is slight to non-existent".

Other factors also impact teaching evaluations. Academic success expectancy has been studied and found that there were small gender differences with females expectancy slightly less than males (Gigliotti & Seacrest, 1988). The effects of motivation on professor ratings are probably the most agreed upon systematic influence in student ratings of faculty. It has been demonstrated that student motivation, represented by student interest and course type (elective/required), plays a significant role in student ratings of professor effectiveness (Howard & Maxwell, 1980; Hoyt 1973; Marsh, 1984; Marsh & Duncan, 1992). Howard and Maxwell (1980, 1982) modeled the relationship between student motivation, student learning, expected grades, and student satisfaction with the instructor and field of study. These and other studies show that motivation and learning are more highly correlated with ratings of professor effectiveness than is expected grade with professor effectiveness. The authors conclude that student motivation drives the correlation between grades and student satisfaction with the instructor. Therefore, the correlation between grades and ratings of professor effectiveness is an expected artifact, rather than an indication of a direct relationship between grades and ratings of professor effectiveness. Using path analysis, Marsh (1984) also concluded that prior subject interest had a stronger impact on student ratings of various professor effectiveness characteristics than did grades. Additionally, simple classifications (required versus elective) and expanded categories of course type have been found to be significantly correlated with ratings of professor effectiveness (Aleamoni, 1981; Centra, 1993; Feldman, 1978; Marsh & Dunkin, 1992).

Construct validity theory proposes that student ratings reflect student learning and, therefore, measure professor teaching effectiveness. That is, higher student ratings for the instructor indicate greater student learning. Some studies have demonstrated that classes with the highest student ratings have also performed best on standardized final examinations in multi-section classes (Marsh & Roche, 1997). In addition to the earlier studies that provided the foundation for validity theory, numerous factor analytic studies have been conducted to investigate the validity of student ratings (Cashin 1988; Feldman 1989; Howard, Conway, & Maxwell 1985; Marsh 1984; Marsh & Duncan 1992).

Using SEM, Greenwald and Gilmore (1997a&b) found support for grade leniency theory by suggesting that only grade leniency allows for a negative workload a grade relationship. This relationship is explained by students' willingness to work harder in order to avoid very low grades. This negative relationship between workload and grades has been observed in other studies (Marsh, 1980). However, other explanations have been offered for the negative relationship, such as subject difficulty and student capability (McKeachie, 1997

In an effort to integrate the competing theories, SEM analysis was conducted by Hatfield and Kohn, 2004, which confirmed the presence of all the competing theories and their interactions.


Based on the literature and the findings of several studies, we propose that there are differences in the way male and female students rate male and female faculty.

H1: Female students rate faculty higher than male students.

H2: Female students rate male faculty higher than male students

H3: Female students rate female faculty higher than male students

Theories of student rating behavior suggest a variety of hypotheses which form the basis of an integrated approach to study gender differences. Several theories have been offered in explanation of the positive relationship between grades and ratings of faculty (Greenwald & Gilmore, 1997a). Grade leniency suggests that grades directly affect ratings of faculty. Construct validity and motivation assert that a third variable (learning positively affects both grades and ratings, thus, resulting in a positive relationship between grades and ratings. While these theories have been studied extensively in the past, the effect of gender has not been studied when all three theories are present simultaneously.

Grade Leniency/Stringency

This theory suggests praise induces liking for the individual giving the praise (Aronson & Linder, 1965; Hatfield & Kohn, 2003). In the context of student ratings, praise is interpreted to be high grades and liking is translated into high faculty ratings. Grade leniency theory suggests that there is a causal relationship between expected grades and ratings of faculty. Further, Greenwald and Gilmore (1997a) suggest that there is a negative relationship (grade stringency) between students working hard and expected grades. In courses that have strict-grading policies students have to work hard in order to avoid very low grades, yet overall grades are still lower than in classes with easy-grading professors. These premises suggest the following hypotheses:

H4: The higher the expected grade, the higher the professor effectiveness rating.

H5: The higher the student effort (worked harder), the lower the expected grade.

Construct Validity

This theory suggests that high instructional quality induces high student learning, which results in higher grades and higher professor ratings (Cashin & Downey, 1992; Cohen, 1981; Feldman, 1976 & 1989; Marsh, 1984). Therefore, the following hypotheses are provided to evaluate construct validity:

H6: The higher the student learning, the higher the professor effectiveness rating.

H7: The higher the student learning, the higher the expected grade.

H8: The higher the professor effectiveness rating, the higher the student learning.

H9: The higher the worked hard rating, the higher the student learning.

Student Motivation.

This theory suggests that student motivation positively affects both grades and ratings of faculty, through student learning, thereby resulting in a positive correlation between grades and ratings of faculty (Aleamoni, 1981; Braskamp & Ory, 1994; Centra, 1993; Kohn & Hatfield, 2001; Marsh, 1984; Marsh & Dunkin, 1992). Student motivation results in more student learning and appreciation for the course and instructor, which leads to higher grades and higher professor effectiveness ratings. Researchers have identified two measures of student motivation: course-specific and general (Howard & Maxwell, 1980; Marsh, 1984). These indicators of student motivation will be examined in this study--student interest in the subject matter of the rated course and course type (major or elective, versus required or core course). Student interest is a course-specific measure, whereas course type is a general measure. The following hypotheses are designed to test the impact of student motivation in student rating behavior:

H10: The higher the student interest, the higher the student learning.

H11: Lack of choice in course (required or core courses) results in lower student learning.

H12: The higher the student learning, the higher the expected grade.

H13: The higher the student learning, the higher the professor effectiveness rating.


The student rating survey contained eight items, which students rated on a six-point Likert scale: (1) strongly agree, (2) agree, (3), slightly agree, (4) slightly disagree, (5) disagree, (6) strongly disagree. The first six items were designed to examine professor effectiveness, with the sixth item being a global item. Student learning was assessed by item 7 and course specific student interest by item 8.

1. The course requirements, including grading system, were explained at the beginning of the semester.

2. The professor provides feedback on exams and assignments.

3. The professor is willing to answer questions and assist students upon request.

4. The professor uses examples and practical applications in class, which aid in my understanding of the material.

5. The professor encourages students to analyze, interpret, and apply concepts.

6. The professor was effective teaching this course.

7. I learned a significant amount in this course

8. I am interested in the subject matter of this course.

These items were selected based on past research, which suggests the desirability of global items that address professor effectiveness (#6) and student learning (#7) factors, and the need to control for student interest (#8) (Cashin, 1995). Items one through five address commonly used dimensions of professor effectiveness in student rating research (Braskamp & Ory, 1994; Cashin, 1995; Centra, 1993; Feldman, 1989; Marsh, 1991).

Students completed a student data sheet that contained demographic items, two grade-related items, and one general student motivation item: (1) The grade I expect to achieve in this course, (2) I worked harder in this course than in most of my other courses, and (3) course type. All response options were designed so that students could use opscan sheets to report their ratings. The scale for expected grade was: 1.A, 2.B, 3.C, 4.D, 5.F. The agree-disagree Likert scale noted above was also used for the 'worked harder' item. Five categories of course type were provided: A. required by major/minor, B. elective in major/minor, C. general education requirement, D. free elective, E. program core course. These items reflect commonly used measures in testing for grade leniency and motivation effects on student ratings of faculty (Greenwald & Gilmore, 1997a&b; Howard & Maxwell, 1980; Marsh, 1984).


Data were collected from students and professors in the three colleges (business, arts and science, and education) at Shippensburg University at the end of the first semester of the 1997-1998 academic year. Classes were included in the sample from professors volunteering and by request (in order to insure adequate representation from all colleges and departments), a mix of student classes (such as freshman and senior), and a mix of professor characteristics (such as gender, race, degree, and rank).

Nine hundred and thirty students, (472 females and 458 males) and 44 professors (17 females and 27 males) were included in the sample, with the largest percentage (51) of faculty in Arts and Sciences, and equal percentages in Business and Education. The largest percentage of students were seniors, 36 percent, followed by sophomores at 19 percent, juniors at 18 percent, freshmen at 14 percent, and graduate at 13 percent.


The professor effectiveness dependent variable is a composite measure, developed by averaging the ratings of the six professor effectiveness items. The reliability coefficient, alpha, for the composite professor effectiveness measure is 0.84. Expected Grade is both a dependent and independent variable, and is used directly as reported. Student Learning, Student Interest, and Worked Hard are also used as directly reported in the survey instrument. The Course Type categories were collapsed into a two-category independent variable: (1) major/minor/elective, and (2) required/core course. There are two measures of student motivation: Course Type and "Student Interest in the subject matter of this course". There are two measures of grade leniency: Expected Grade and "Worked harder in this course than in most other courses". Student Learning, a self-reported rating, is a construct validity measure.

The scales for five variables (professor effectiveness, expected grade, student learning, student interest, worked hard) were reversed so that interpreting the findings would be more consistent with the way these variables are typically referred to, e.g., low to high. For example, the higher the student learning rating, the more the student learned, etc. The course type variable is categorical, and, thus did not need to be reversed.


Descriptive statistics (means, standard deviations, and correlations) for all the variables used in this study are provided in Tables 1, 2, and 3. The hypotheses will be tested on the within-class data using structural equation modeling (SEM) and the Amos 5.0 modeling software. While there are many goodness-of-fit statistics in SEM, this study will report three of the most popular measures (CFI, NFI, Chi-square/df), with Comparative Fit Index (CFI) being the primary fit-statistic used in this study (see End Notes). Path coefficients are tested for significance using Critical Ratios (CR). Amos 5.0 reports both the CR's and the P values for each path so that level significance can be determined. In addition, comparisons of professor effectiveness will be made among the combined male and female, male only, and female only samples for professor effectiveness rating behavior. Average scores will be tested to see if there are differences among the groups using a difference of means test. Finally, a comparison will be made to determine if male and female students rate male and female faculty members differently. A one-way analysis of variance will be performed to see if there are any significant differences in rating behaviors.

A comparison was performed to contrast average professor effectiveness rating scores among male and females combined, females only, and males only. (see Tables 4 & 5). A test for the difference of means was performed (assuming unequal variances) and a highly significant difference (Z = 3.453, P < .000) was found between Females only and Males only. Thus, female average professor effectiveness rating scores are significantly higher than males. These results support H1 and similar findings (Benz and Blau 1995) which also found female ratings higher than males.

An analysis was conducted to determine if the gender of either students or faculty played a role in rating of faculty effectiveness. Because of fewer missing data for this analysis, the total sample size was 936 instead of 930 students. The gender of the faculty was noted and a one way analysis of variance was conducted among the 4 combinations of male and female students and male and female faculty. Table 6 presents the averages and standard deviations of faculty effectiveness ratings, along with sample size. Table 7 presents the results of the analysis of variance indicating significant differences among groups (P < .001). Sheffe multiple comparisons were made between male and female student ratings for male and female faculty. Female students rated male faculty significantly higher than did male students (mean difference = .177, P < .05), supporting H2. There was no significant difference in female and male students ratings of female faculty (mean difference = .103). Therefore, H3 is not supported.


One of the problems with testing each of the above theories in isolation of each other is that intervening and moderating effects on the predicted relationships are not taken into account. Such effects may suppress or reinforce the predicted relationships. Thus, to accurately assess the presence of the theorized relationships, all the variables of interest need to be included in the same model. This section will integrate the findings predicted by the various theories, using structural equation modeling. The impact of student gender will then be studied to determine the role gender plays in rating behavior.

Following similar methodology of Hatfield and Kohn 2004, all of the predicted direct relationships proposed in the grade leniency/stringency, construct validity, and motivation theories were used to construct integrated structural models for males and females, males only, and females only. The initial analyses of these models are presented in left hand column for figures 1, 2, and 3. Analysis of the model reveals that the fit for all three models was very good (CFI = .94 for all 3 models) and resulted in [R.sup.2] s of .35 (M & F), .41 (F), and .28 (M) for professor effectiveness. However, several path coefficients were not significant. For each model, removal of these paths was evaluated by iteratively removing the path with the highest P value greater than .05, rerunning the model with the path deleted, and then inspecting the P values of the remaining paths for those P values that were greater than .05. The procedure stopped when all remaining paths were significant. The final models are presented on the right hand side of figures 1, 2, and 3.


As a result of these procedures, both Course Type a Student Learning (Motivation H12) and Professor Effectiveness a Student Learning (Construct Validity H8) were deleted from all three models (M & F, M, F). In addition, Worked Harder a Student learning (Construct Validity H6) was deleted from the female model. Inspection of the modification indices of the final models of both males and females, males only, and females only indicated that no additional paths would strengthen the model. These results are presented in the right hand column of Figure 1. All paths of the final models are significant, the fit is very good (CFI = 1.00 (F) and .999 (M & F, M)), and [R.sup.2] s are .35 (M & F), .41 (F) and .29 (M). While the [R.sup.2] s of the final models remained at their original levels, the fit indices of both models improved significantly. The [R.sup.2] for all models are quite strong. [R.sup.2] for females only is 46% higher than for males only. All three of these [R.sup.2]values are much higher than usually reported in many studies. In addition, there is a high degree of consistency in the structural nature of all models with only Worked Harder a Student Learning linkage being omitted from the female only model.

Thus, 9 of the original 12 hypotheses were strongly supported, lending considerable support to the three theories of student rating behavior, regardless of gender. Interestingly, both grade leniency (H4) and grade stringency (H5) are supported. While grade leniency is commonly understood and generally accepted, grade stringency (negative workload, expected grade relationship) has been rarely observed (Gilmore and Greenwald - 1997a & b). In this analysis, it is not only observed in the combined sample of males and females but in both sub-groups of male only and females only. Moreover, the standardized path coefficient between Worked Harder and Expected Grade is much stronger for females (-.31) than males (-.17).

In all final models, the Professor Effectiveness a Student Learning (H8) was removed. This hypothesis is part of Construct Validity theory and may indicate that the feedback loop between student learning and ratings of professor effectiveness may not be as well defined as assumed. A possible explanation for this weakness is that higher effectiveness ratings may not be a good measure of teaching ability and thus does not lead to greater student learning.

Although found in other studies, the Course Type (H12) link was dropped from all final models. It is generally assumed that students are more motivated in electives or courses in their major and less so in required courses. This facet of motivational theory then leads to higher professor effectiveness ratings. Our results do not indicate this to be so. Course Type is an indirect affect, influencing student learning which in turn affects professor effectiveness ratings. In an integrated model, Student Interest has a major impact (path coefficient--.70 (M&F), .81(F) and .64(M)), eliminating the role of Course Type component of Motivation theory. Thus, in an integrated model Course Type may be a redundant variable with Student Interest providing a much stronger indication of student motivation.


Some inconsistencies continue to show up in the study of gender on faculty effectiveness ratings. In general, females students rate faculty higher than did males students. When gender of faculty was considered, females students rated male faculty higher than did male students. Higher female rating scores have been observed in other studies and the results of our study strongly support this difference. However, the differences ended there. In addition, our findings also provide strong support for the need to integrate theories that explain student rating behavior of faculty. Integration is necessary because of the interactions and indirect effects among the theoretical premises. Structural equation modeling provides an ideal analytical methodology to study the complexities of student-rating behavior

Using an integrated approach based on SEM analysis, we have found surprisingly consistent results among all the models. Structurally, little difference in overall student rating behavior based on gender differences was observed. Except for the removal of one path for females (Worked Harder a Student Learning, [H.sub.6], Construct Validity), the three models are identical. All exhibit the identical simultaneous effects of Construct validity, Grade leniency and Stringency, and Motivational theories. All models fit the data very well and have much higher coefficients of determinations than previously reported. These high values continue to lend support for the significant bias that exists in rating of professor effectiveness that continues to be ignored by many schools. Females experience the negative workload expected grade effect to a much higher degree than males. Some studies have found that females have lower expectancy of success (Gigliotti and Seacrest 1988). The results of our study tend to support these findings. Faced with a difficult course, females may be less likely to have the confidence in themselves and thus expect a lower grade though they will continue to work harder.

This study continues to find significant bias, including gender bias, in student ratings of faculty, suggesting the need to re-consider how student ratings are used to evaluate faculty teaching effectiveness. In order to more accurately evaluate professor effectiveness, administrators and faculty need to control for, or at least acknowledge, the complexity student rating behavior.


A 1.0 CFI or NFI suggests a perfect fit and if under .9 the model can probably be improved (Bentler and Bonnett, 1980). Chi-square/df ratios of up to 3 are indicative of acceptable fit models (Marsh and Hocevar, 1985). CFI is less affected by sample size than is NFI or the Chi-square ratio (Kline, 1998).


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Jonathan Kohn, Shippensburg University

Louise Hatfield, Shippensburg University
Table 1: Descriptive Statistics Males and Females: Correlations,
Means and Standard Deviations
(N = 930)

 Prof. Student Student Expect.
 Effect Learn. Interest Grade

Prof. Correlation 1 .565 .381 .350
Effect. Significance .000 .000 .000
Student Correlation 1 .570 .314
Learn. Significance .000 .000
Student Correlation 1 .360
Interest Significance .000
Expect. Correlation 1
Grade Significance
Worked Correlation
Harder Significance
Course Correlation

 Worked Course Standard
 Harder Type Mean Deviation

Prof. Correlation .065 -.182 5.34 .653
Effect. Significance .047 .000
Student Correlation .196 -.141 5.00 .959
Learn. Significance .000 .000
Student Correlation .053 -.174 4.75 1.224
Interest Significance .107 .000
Expect. Correlation -.111 -.079 4.17 .775
Grade Significance .001 .016
Worked Correlation 1 -.178 4.07 1.332
Harder Significance .000
Course Correlation 1 1.26 .441

Table 2: Descriptive Statistics Females Only: Correlations,
Means and Standard Deviations
(N = 472)

 Prof. Student Student Expect.
 Effect Learn. Interest Grade

Prof. Correlation 1 .619 .433 .367
Effect. Significance .000 .000 .000
Student Correlation 1 .602 .332
Learn. Significance .000 .000
Student Correlation 1 .417
Interest Significance .000
Expect. Correlation 1
Grade Significance
Worked Correlation
Harder Significance
Course Correlation

 Worked Course Standard
 Harder Type Mean Deviation

Prof. Correlation .053 -.191 5.41 .633
Effect. Significance .255 .000
Student Correlation .140 -1751 5.07 .970
Learn. Significance .002 .000
Student Correlation .056 -.203 4.71 1.247
Interest Significance .223 .000
Expect. Correlation -.209 -.041 4.17 .775
Grade Significance .000 .372
Worked Correlation 1 -.206 4.11 1.307
Harder Significance .000
Course Correlation 1 1.26 .441

Table 3: Descriptive Statistics Males Only: Correlations,
Means and Standard Deviations

 Prof. Student Student Expect.
 Effect. Learn. Interest Grade

Prof. Correlation 1 0.506 .340 .317
Effect. Significance .000 .000 .000
Student Correlation 1 .543 .284
Learn. Significance .000 .000
Student Correlation 1 .312
Interest Significance .000
Expect. Correlation 1
Grade Significance
Worked Correlation
Harder Significance
Course Correlation

 Worked Course Standard
 Harder Type Mean Deviation

Prof. Correlation .072 -.175 5.27 .665
Effect. Significance .126 .000
Student Correlation .251 -.107 4.94 .944
Learn. Significance .000 .022
Student Correlation .051 -.144 4.78 1.200
Interest Significance .273 .002
Expect. Correlation -.023 -.119 4.08 .770
Grade Significance .618 .011
Worked Correlation 1 -.150 4.03 1.358
Harder Significance .001
Course Correlation 1 1.26 .441

Table 4: Means and Variances for Faculty Effective Ratings for
Females and Males combined, Females only, Males only

Gender N Mean Variance

Males and Females 930 5.340 .426
Females Only 472 5.412 .401
Males Only 458 5.265 .442

Table 5: Differences in Mean Faculty Effectiveness Ratings for
Females only and Males only

Differences Z Score P value

Females--Males 3.453 0.000

Table 6: Measures for Faculty Effectiveness Rating Scores by Gender

 Female Fac. Female Fac. Male Fac. Male Fac.
 Female Stu. Male Stu. Female Stu. Male Stu.

Average 5.43 5.33 5.40 5.223
Standard 0.627 0.640 0.638 0.6767
Sample size 189 159 283 305

Table 7: ANOVA Table: Faculty Effectiveness Rating Scores by Gender

 S.S. D.F. MSQ F Sig.

Between Groups 6.65 3 2.218 5.269 .001
Within Groups 392.30 932 .421
Total 398.95 935
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Author:Kohn, Jonathan; Hatfield, Louise
Publication:Academy of Educational Leadership Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2006
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