Instructor Race and Gender Matter to Experiences with Faculty

Instructor Race and Gender Matter to Experiences with Faculty

Allison BrckaLorenz and Bridget Yuhas — As part of the 2016 Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE), more than 14,500 instructional staff from 119 bachelor’s degree-granting institutions responded to questions about their engagement in effective teaching practices and aspects of their interactions with students. While only one in five instructional staff identified as faculty of color, we found that racial/ethnic and gender identifications were related to how instructional staff teach and engage with students (Figures FS1 and FS2). In general, male instructors interacted with students and used effective teaching practices less often in their courses. Hispanic or Latino men and Black or African American men used effective educational practices more often than other men, and White women did so less often than other women and some men of color.

Interestingly, Black or African American male and female instructors interacted most often with students in meaningful ways, while White and Asian men did so the least. On average, White and Asian men and women interacted with students significantly less than Hispanic or Latina women or Black or African American men and women. The range of variation within these subgroups, however, is notable. For example, there is noticeably less variation among Hispanic or Latino men than Hispanic or Latina women (Figure FS1). Relative to Hispanic or Latino men, a greater proportion of Hispanic or Latina women scored above 45 on the student-faculty interaction scale. So, while there is considerable overlap in the two distributions, the greater variability for Hispanic and Latina women results in a higher average score for that group.

Figure FS1: Student-Faculty Interaction by Instructors’ Racial/Ethnic Identification and Gender Identity

Effective Teaching Practices, on average, were most likely to be used by Asian and Hispanic or Latina women instructors. White men did so the least often – averaging significantly less frequent use of effective practices than Black or African American, Asian, and Hispanic or Latino men. Although there is considerable variation within these subgroups, it is more consistent across groups than for Student-Faculty Interaction (Figure FS2).

Figure FS2: Effective Teaching Practices by Instructors’ Racial/Ethnic Identification and Gender Identity

Given the above findings, institutions seeking to improve the amount of student-faculty interaction and the use of effective teaching practices should consider multiple strategies. First, they can communicate the importance of these measures and the results illustrating group differences to their instructional staff. Second, they can put additional energy into recruiting and retaining faculty from groups likely to score high on these measures. Third, they can adapt support mechanisms (e.g., faculty development opportunities) to better address the needs of those groups of instructional staff likely to score low on these measures.

This story previously appeared in NSSE’s 2016 Annual Results report: Engagement Insights: Survey Findings on the Quality of Undergraduate Education.

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Note: The Asian category of racial/ethnic identification reported here includes Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander instructional staff.