Race, Cognitive Biases, and the Power of Law Student Teaching Evaluations

41 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2018

See all articles by Gregory Scott Parks

Gregory Scott Parks

Wake Forest University - School of Law

Date Written: February 23, 2018


Decades of research shows that students' professor evaluations are influenced by factors well-beyond how knowledgeable the professor was or how effectively they taught. Among those factors is race. While some students' evaluative judgments of professors of color may be motivated by express racial animus, it is doubtful that such is the dominant narrative. Rather, what likely takes place are systematic deviations from rational judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations are illogically drawn. In short, students' cognitive biases skew how they evaluate professors of color. In this Article, I explore how cognitive biases among law students influence how they perceive and evaluate law faculty of color. In addition, I contend that a handful of automatic associations and attitudes about faculty of color predict how law students evaluate them. Moreover, senior, especially white, colleagues often resist considering the role of race in law students' evaluations because of their own inability to be mindful of their own cognitive biases. Lastly, given research largely from social and cognitive psychology, I suggest a handful of interventions for law faculty of color to better navigate classroom dynamics.

Keywords: Teaching evaluations, student evaluations of teachers, Professor teaching evaluations, cognitive biases

Suggested Citation

Parks, Gregory Scott, Race, Cognitive Biases, and the Power of Law Student Teaching Evaluations (February 23, 2018). Wake Forest Univ. Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3129019 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3129019

Gregory Scott Parks (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States
3367582170 (Phone)

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