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The role of gender in perceived speaker competence: an analysis of student peer critiques

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Previous research suggests that college students bring gender biases to their evaluations of male and female instructors. Increasingly, college oral communication classes are utilizing peer evaluation of student speeches. This study of 330 student evaluators at a Midwestern university examined gender bias in student peer evaluations of public speeches. Findings indicated that neither speaker sex nor sex of the student evaluator affected overall ratings of speaking competence. Formality of attire, however, did influence the ratings and types of comments provided to speakers. Speaker sex did influence the degree to which evaluators were persuaded and the types of comments given by student evaluators, however. Positive open-ended comments about female speakers were limited to remarks about quality of external sources, whereas positive comments addressed to male speakers covered a wider range of attributes. In general, results encourage use of peer evaluations of public speaking performance, since they appear to be relatively immune to extraneous biases.

Keywords: gender bias; higher education; peer evaluation; public speaking classes

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2004


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