First of all, I would like to thank the editors for inviting me on board as a permanent editor. I am honored and delighted to be here and to join such an illustrious group.
For my first post, I thought I would mention an article that addresses the subjects of several recent discussions. Last August, ELSBlog hosted a one-day forum on the relationship between teaching and scholarship in law schools. A good part of that discussion focused on the accuracy of teaching evaluations. More recently, there have been posts about the effect of the gender of the litigation team and oral advocate on outcomes in the Supreme Court and on scholarship about implicit racial bias and its impact on judges and jurors.
So it turns out that there is scholarship on the relationship between bias and student evaluations. In Bias, the Brain, and Student Evaluations of Teaching, an article that will appear in St. John's Law Review in November, Deborah J. Merritt of Ohio State Moritz College of Law argues that students' stereotypes and biases affect their evaluations of their professors, and in ways that may particularly disadvantage women and minorities. The abstract explains that student assessments of teaching "respond overwhelmingly to a professor's appearance and nonverbal behavior." Merritt reports that "ratings based on just thirty seconds of silent videotape correlate strongly with end-of-semester evaluations." The very interesting article includes an impressive and eye-opening survey of research and concludes with recommendations for creating a more meaningful system for evaluating teaching.