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Sex Roles [sers] PP023-290880 November 28, 2000 16:34 Style ﬁle version Nov. 19th, 1999
Sex Roles, Vol. 43, Nos. 5/6, 2000
Best and Worst Professors: Gender Patterns
in Students’ Choices
Susan A. Basow
Over 100 primarily White students described their best and worst professor.
For “best,” female professors were chosen more by their female students and
less by their male students than expected. There were no gender differences in
choice of “worst” professors. The qualities that students criticize are similar
for their male and female professors, mainly a lack of organization and clarity.
“Best” professors most often are described as caring and knowledgeable, but
other qualities vary as a function of professor or student gender. These ﬁndings
suggest that more attention should be paid to gender dynamics in classroom
teaching and in student evaluations.
Research on the question of whether gender bias exists in student ratings of
professors has provided mixed results. Many reviews cite no or little effect of
gender (e.g., Feldman, 1993); others suggest subtle gender patterns, usually
in interaction with other factors (e.g., Bachen, McLoughlin, & Garcia, 1999).
For example, Basow (1995) found that male students sometimes rate female
faculty more negatively, while female students sometimes rate female faculty
more positively, than they rate male faculty. Basow (1998) also describes re-
search that suggests that male and female professors may behave differently
in the classroom, and that male and female students may react differently to
their professors’ behaviors.
Evaluations of teaching typically tap different teaching dimensions.
Leventhal, Perry, and Abrami (1977) developed a 25-item questionnaire
(adapted from Hildebrand & Wilson, 1970) which measures ﬁve teach-
ing factors: Scholarship (e.g., “discusses points of view other than his or
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2000 Plenum Publishing Corporation