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STUDY: Students give higher marks to professors who are ‘hot’ and have easy classes

Voters in the U.S., Europe and Australia allegedly prefer conservative politicians because they are better-looking than liberals, and American students show similar preferences with their professors, a new study claims.

Published in the journal Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, the study by Northwestern University chemical engineering Ph.D. candidate Andrew Rosen looked at nearly 8 million ratings posted by students on RateMyProfessors.com:

Positive correlations were observed between ratings of instruction quality and easiness, as well as between instruction quality and attractiveness. On average, professors in science and engineering disciplines have lower ratings than in the humanities and arts. When looking at RateMyProfessors as a whole, the effect of a professor’s gender on rating criteria is small but statistically significant. When analysing the data as a function of discipline, however, the effects of gender are significantly more pronounced, albeit more complex.

Most of the gender differences are small: Only two fields (history and communications) favored male instructors by more than two-tenths of a point for “overall quality” on RateMyProfessors’ five-point scale.

MORE: Unattractive people more likely to donate to Occupy movement

Only history showed an advantage for men on “easiness” of more than one-tenth of a point, and in mathematics, female professors scored slightly higher on overall quality and easiness.

The findings are significant because student reviews are often used to “inform high-stakes personnel decisions,” Inside Higher Ed reports:

Students also tended to rate professors significantly better teachers if they perceived the courses to be easy. Professors in the sciences, technology, engineering and math fields had lower scores as a whole than those in the humanities and arts.

And, sigh, professors rated as attractive also had higher overall teaching scores. That’s why the study excluded “hot” professors from its gender analysis.

Rosen said the results show why student evaluations should be “more critically and accurately evaluated” by institutions.

Read the abstract and Inside Higher Ed story.

MORE: Conservative politicians have privilege because they are good-looking

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