the effect of gender—of both the evaluating student and the teacher—on student evaluations. Most of these studies indicate there is no significant difference in ratings given to male and female instructors by students of the same or the opposite sex (Centra and Gaubatz, 2000a; Feldman, 1993). In certain areas of the natural sciences and engineering in which women faculty members are a distinct minority, female teachers have been found to receive higher ratings than their male counterparts from both male and female students. Female teachers also were more likely than male teachers to use discussion rather than lecturing as a primary method for teaching, which may help account for the higher ratings they received (Centra and Gaubatz, 2000a).
The question of whether teachers who are highly entertaining or expressive receive higher ratings from students has been examined in a series of “educational-seduction” studies (Abrami et al., 1982; Naftulin et al., 1973). In one study, researchers employed a professional actor to deliver a highly entertaining but inaccurate lecture. The actor received high ratings in this single lecture, particularly on his delivery of content. A reasonable conclusion from these studies is that by teaching more enthusiastically, teachers will receive higher ratings (Centra, 1993).
Evaluations of an instructor’s teaching by graduating seniors and alumni can be useful in providing information about the effectiveness of both individual teachers and the department’s overall curriculum. Current students can comment on day-to-day aspects of teaching effectiveness, such as the instructor’s ability to organize and communicate ideas. Graduating seniors and alumni can make judgments from a broader, more mature perspective, reflecting and reporting on the longer-term value and retention of what they have learned from individual instructors and from departmental programs. They may be particularly effective contributors to evaluations based on exit interviews (Light, 2001). There are, however, drawbacks to surveying seniors and alumni, including difficulties in locating graduates and deciding which students to survey (e.g., the percentage of students included in an evaluation process based on random surveys versus those recommended by the faculty member being evaluated), and the hazy memory alumni may have about particular instructors (Centra, 1993).
Teaching assistants are in a unique position to provide information about