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29 January 2016 @ 08:36 am
On the bias  
Way back in the tween years, I took courses in cooking and sewing while the boys got to take shop courses. Yes, there was some sort of gender bias there, but we good girls learned how to cook some basic stuff (i.e., chocolate chip cookies, Welsh rarebit) and make handy things (aprons, simple A-line dresses, dish towels). Later, in high school, we were directed into tracks: vocational, secretarial, college bound. I had to argue to be permitted to take both science and English classes since I had not yet made up my mind about "majors;" I was 14 at the time. No one wanted to be put in clerical or secretarial tracks. Heavens! That was for kids who were not smart enough for college (or so we believed after hearing adults talk about this). I can tell you that almost as soon as I attended my first classes, I desperately wished I had taken shorthand and typing courses. Even today, I am a terrible typist. I am faster than I was back then. But accuracy????

I say all this to demonstrate that bias was alive and well even back in the stone age of my youth. And it appears to be alive and well today, too. Female professors score lower on evaluations than their male counterparts: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/01/25/463846130/why-women-professors-get-lower-ratings?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20160125. Read about the two experimental designs and their conclusions.

This takes me back to the post at the beginning of the week when I discussed student comments and evaluations. A large part of my effectiveness as a teacher is measured by these very flawed instruments. I am compared to other instructors. Unfortunately, there are no other professors of Library Science who are evaluated using this instrument except for my colleagues in the department. Accordingly, we are compared to teachers from other disciplines, rendering this whole exercise pretty doggone inaccurate at best.

And look at yesterday's post. Here is some bias as well. I know there will always be some bias. We cannot control for it all. But when gender becomes a bias, when grades interfere, when extraneous factors come into play: maybe it is time to channel our energies into something that might actually have a positive impact on learning?
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