Saturday, February 7, 2015

Fun and Games with Evaluations

Lots of profs spent this morning playing online.  Why?  There is a new tool out there that scrapes date from Rate My Prof so that one can see how various words are used to describe professors.  The major punchline, of course, is that students provide different words when they describe female profs than male profs.  Which is not really that new, but appalling as it is illustrated so dynamically.  See the NYT story that describes the data and has the tool available.

The fun and games comes in largely when comparing disciplines.  One can enter a word or a two word phrase and see how the disciplines compare and how wide a split there is between comments used for men and women.

Before discussing specific results, I should note a couple of biases in the data: Rate My Prof is purely voluntary so it tends to get the students who are most pleased or displeased.  Why post a meh/moderate rating when one can simply do something else on the web?  The other bias is we should have more reviews of men than women in many fields due to the reality that many disciplines are still male-dominated.  For instance, in just the study of International Relations, the numbers are roughly 70-30, at least according to the latest round of TRIP data.  I am working with the Canadian TRIP data right now--the American/UK/World (those places where TRIP has surveyed) range between 65% and 70% male.

Anyhow, the least surprising result, aside from gender, may have been that Political Science profs get reviewed as biased the most.  Why?  Are poli sci profs more liberal?  According to these reviews, they are.  But it is probably more the case that Political Science profs are viewed as more liberal and more biased because we talk about politics, where our students have strong opinions and where our expertise is not as respected.  Which might explain why we are also seen as arrogant (males far more than females).*  The interesting thing is that political science profs also get labeled as smart by more students.
* Hat tip to Mathis Lohaus (@mathislohaus) for pointing out arrogant to me.

We are not seen as especially silly.  We are far down when it comes to stressful (almost gender parity on that one).  In the middle on hard and funny. We are in the top ten on boring, far ahead of accounting and math and the like, which seems strange to me.  Strangely, political scientists are also near the top on sexy with men getting this label far more than women.  So, this is a boring but sexy discipline?  Oh, and a dynamic one (although far fewer times mentioned). 

To be sure, there are probably some extreme selection effects in play.  But one can play with adjectives for hours and compare disciplines.  Which one is seen as smelly?  Strange?  Obsolete?  Geriatric?  Enjoy!

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