SWIP UK Notice - 14th January 2016

SWIP UK responded to the TEF consultation by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills

Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice - Consultation

Public sector equality duty, question 1:

a) What are your views on the potential equality impacts of the proposals and other plans in this consultation?

We are extremely concerned about the equality impact of giving a leading role to NSS scores, given documented gender bias in the evaluation of lecturers. We think this is enormously problematic. We are also concerned about the equality impact of using Employment/Destination/Salary data as a measure of teaching quality. Given wage inequality and unequal access to labour markets, degree pathways which have fewer women/more men will ‘score’ better in the TEF.

b) Are there any equality impacts that we have not considered?

Recent studies have shown that male instructors consistently receive higher student evaluation scores than female instructors, even though there is no evidence that they are more effective teachers. (Teaching effectiveness is generally measured by subsequent student performance.) This holds true even when what is measured is something objective like promptness of feedback, which was in fact the same across genders. One key study compared student reactions to the very same online teacher, who posed as male for some students and female for others, receiving substantially better scores when “male”. Another study showed that women were especially likely to be negatively evaluated if they did not give high marks.

If the TEF takes the form currently anticipated—one that gives a leading role to NSS scores—then it will incorporate into the governmental research framework this extremely problematic form of gender bias. This may have very damaging effects: i) it may hinder the progression of women who are excellent teachers and researchers in their academic careers; ii) since Universities are keen to secure good NSS scores, perverse incentives may prevail whereby we are under increasing expectation to hire lecturers who will get high NSS scores - men, according to the current research. ('It's plausible that the same effect will occur for other groups such as black and minority ethic lecturers, although there needs to be more research carried out for those groups.)

This has the potential to have extremely negative effects for women in academia. These effects would thwart the efforts that have been made by Universities and Governments to increase the representation and success of excellent women in academia see e.g. this report. Since the Government has recently identified 'removing barrier's to women's success' as a 'key priority', we expect this concern to be one that you will share.

Incorporating bias-inflected NSS scores into assessments in the way proposed would be a step in the wrong direction. We urge consideration of other metrics of teaching evaluation that more accurately track real quality.

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