Sex bias in student assessments

Warren, Erica (1997) Sex bias in student assessments. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Previous research examining sex bias in student assessments has focused on the differential evaluation of final year project marks (Bradley 1984, 1993, 1994; Newstead and Dennis 1990, 1993; Hartley 1992, 1994) and the pattern of degrees (Rudd 1984, Belsey 1988) awarded to male and female students. Within this body of research the effectiveness of marking by numbers has also been investigated.
However, the evidence for sex bias in assessments and the effectiveness of marking by numbers drawn from this research is inconclusive; for this reason new data must be collected for research to develop in this area.
The overall aim of the research was to investigate the occurrence of sex bias in the assessment of final year projects and degree results in Psychology. Two studies were carried out examining two different models of sex bias.
Study 1 involved examining the "central-tendency" model of bias (Bradley, 1984), in final year project marks and degree class statistics. Departments which used marking by numbers (a procedure which involves replacing names on exam scripts with numbers, thus maintaining the anonymity of the student) were compared with departments that did not. The hypothesis, derived from Bradley (1984) who found evidence of this type of bias in project marking, stated that sex bias will result in men
being marked more towards the extremes than women (more first and third class degrees), with women being marked more towards the centre (more lower-second class degrees); with this effect being reduced when marking by numbers is introduced.
Significantly, the fmdings of Study 1 did not replicate those of Bradley, despite similar methodology and a larger sample than in her original study Study 2 involved examining the simple "anti-female" model of sex bias (Goldberg, 1968 and Eagly & Mladinic, 1994) in final year project marks and degree results. The "anti-female" model of bias stated that men will be awarded more "good" degrees than women, that is more first and upper-second class degrees, as identified by Rudd (1984). In addition, the hypothesis stated that this effect will be reduced when marking by numbers is introduced. Again, the results of this study did not support the general hypothesis of 'anti-female' bias operating in the assessment of students. Overall, there was no evidence for a general tendency for women to be rated less favourably than men in final year projects and degree results. These results are consistent with more recent studies which have also found no evidence of sex bias in the assessment of students (Newstead & Dennis 1990 and Hartley 1992). This suggests a need to question the reliability of findings from isolated studies and perhaps employ more meta-analytic procedures to detect or refute the existence of real
effects in data. Furthermore, it is suggested that future research into the stereotypical perceptions of social groups needs to examine the more specific subtypes of the superordinate group to establish a more meaningful understanding of the effects of stereotyping on assessments. This research would also need to address both the cognitive and affective nature of impression formation based on stereotyping.

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