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Comment: The hotter the better?

Russ Mayne looks at one student feedback site, and is unsurprised to discover that the most attractive teachers get the best ratings

The top-rated teacher on ratemyprofessor.com currently is Douglas Klutz, a law professor from the University of Alabama.

Reading through the student comments, which include such insights as ‘hes [sic] so hot’ and ‘Great class.

Easy A if you show up,’ it’s hard not to wonder if students are really the best people to evaluate teaching.

There have been thousands of research articles written on the subject of student evaluation of teaching.

Researchers have examined various factors such as the teacher’s gender, attractiveness and expressiveness, as well as the difficulty of the course and how much the students actually learn.

As with the comments from Klutz’s students, the results can make worrying reading. One study in particular found that teachers rated ‘hot’ on ratemyprofessor.com on average scored 0.8 points higher on a five-point scale than the plainer teachers.

Another study found that an actor who was coached the day before to present a meaningless talk to medical students received good feedback despite the talk being full of ‘double talk, neologisms, non sequiturs and contradictory statements’.

Research into gender has shown, surprisingly, that there doesn’t seem to be a disadvantage for either men or women. Researchers did however find that, whereas low-rated male teachers were considered ‘boring’, similarly rated female teachers were ‘too smart’, ‘not smart enough’ or were simply a ‘bitch’.

Student evaluations of teaching allow students to have a voice and can be a useful source of information, but they need to be used with care.

References for this article can be found on my blog at: http://malingual.blogspot.tw/2017/05/student-feedback-dos-and-donts.html

Russ Mayneweb

Russ Mayne is Centre Manager at Dalian Institute of Technology, Leicester campus.