Skip to main content Accessibility help

“She does have an accent but…”: Race and language ideology in students' evaluations of mathematics instructors on

  • Nicholas Close Subtirelu (a1)

Nonnative English speakers (NNESs) who teach at English-medium institutions in the United States (US) have frequently been the subject of student complaints. Research into language ideologies concerning NNESs in the US suggests that such complaints can be understood as manifestations of a broader project of social exclusion operating, in part, through the ideological construction of the NNES as incomprehensible Other. The present study explores the extent to which such ideological presuppositions and exaggerative performances are observable in students' evaluations of ‘Asian’ mathematics instructors on the website (RMP). A mixed methodological approach combining statistical analysis of numeric RMP ratings, quantitative corpus linguistic techniques, and critical discourse analysis was employed. Findings confirm the presence of disadvantages related to ‘Asian’ instructors' race and language. However, RMP users' discourse is shown to be less overtly discriminatory and instead to reproduce dominant language ideology in subtle, previously undescribed ways.(Student evaluations, higher education, university teaching, nonnative speakers, second language users, ethnicity, critical discourse analysis, corpus linguistics, formulaic language)*

Hide All
Albrecht, W. Steve, & Hoopes, Jeff (2009). An empirical assessment of commercial web-based professor evaluation services. Journal of Accounting Education 27:125–32.
Baker, Paul (2004). ‘Unnatural acts’: Discourses of homosexuality within the House of Lords debates on gay male law reform. Journal of Sociolinguistics 8:88106.
Baker, Paul; Gabrielatos, Costas; KhosraviNik, Majid; Krzyżanowski, Michał; McEnery, Tony; & Wodak, Ruth (2008). A useful methodological synergy? Combining critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics to examine discourses of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK press. Discourse & Society 19:273306.
Berdie, Douglas R.; Anderson, John F.; Wenberg, Michael S.; & Price, Candice S. (1976). Improving the effectiveness of teaching assistants: Undergraduates speak out. Improving College and University Teaching 24:169–71.
Bergin, Adam; Sharp, Kevan; Gatlin, Todd A.; Villalta-Cerdas, Adrian; Gower, Austin; & Sandi-Urena, Santiago (2013). Use of data as a supplemental tool for the assessment of general chemistry instruction. Journal of Chemical Education 90:289–95.
Bleske-Rechek, April, & Michels, Kelsey (2010). Testing assumptions about student use and misuse. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation 15(5). Online:
Brown, Michael J.; Baillie;, Michelle & Fraser, Shawndel (2009). Rating A comparison of online and official student evaluations of teaching. College Teaching 57:8992.
Brutt-Griffler, Janina, & Samimy, Keiko K. (2001). Transcending the nativeness paradigm. World Englishes 20:99106.
Center for College Affordability and Productivity (2012). Compiling the Forbes/CCAP Rankings. Online:; accessed June 6, 2014.
Coladarci, Theodore, & Kornfield, Irv (2007). versus formal in-class student evaluations of teaching. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation 12(6). Online:
Davison, Elizabeth, & Price, Jammie (2009). How do we rate? An evaluation of online student evaluations. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 34:5165.
Dick, Hilary Parsons (2011). Making immigrants illegal in small-town USA. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 21:E3555.
Edwards, Autumn, & Edwards, Chad (2013). Computer-mediated word-of-mouth communication: The influence of mixed reviews on student perceptions of instructors and courses. Communication Education 62: 412–24.
Edwards, Autumn; Edwards, Chad; Shaver, Carrie; & Oaks, Mark (2009). Computer-mediated word-of-mouth communication on Expectancy effects on student cognitive and behavioral learning. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 14:368–92.
Edwards, Chad; Edwards, Autumn; Qing, Qingmei; & Wahl, Shawn T. (2007). The influence of computer-mediated word-of-mouth communication on student perceptions of instructors and attitudes toward learning course content. Communication Education 56:255–77.
Fairclough, Norman (2001). Language and power. Harlow: Pearson Education.
Fitch, Fred, & Morgan, Susan E. (2003). “Not a lick of English”: Constructing the ITA identity through student narratives. Communication Education 52:297310.
Fletcher, William H. (2007). kfNgram (Version 1.3.1). Annapolis, MD: United States Naval Academy.
Fox, Wanda S., & Gay, Geneva (1994). Functions and effects of international teaching assistants. The Review of Higher Education 18:124.
Gee, James Paul (2012). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses. London: Routledge.
Hall-Lew, Lauren (2010). Ethnicity and sociolinguistic variation in San Francisco. Language and Linguistics Compass 4:458–72.
Halleck, Gene B., & Moder, Carol Lynn (1995). Testing language and teaching skills of international teaching assistants: The limits of compensatory strategies. TESOL Quarterly 29:733–58.
Helterbran, Valeri R. (2008). The ideal professor: Student perceptions of effective instructor practices, attitudes, and skills. Education 129:125–38.
Hill, Jane H. (2008). The everyday language of white racism. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Hossain, Tarique M. (2009). Hot or not: An analysis of online professor-shopping behavior of business students. Journal of Education for Business 85:165–71.
Institute of International Education (2013). Open doors report 2013. Open doors report on international educational exchange. Online:; accessed June 6, 2014.
Kang, Okim, & Rubin, Donald L. (2009). Reverse linguistic stereotyping: Measuring the effect of listener expectations on speech evaluation. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 28:441–56.
Kim, Dongbin; Twombly, Susan; & Wolf-Wendel, Lisa (2012). International faculty in American universities: Experiences of academic life, productivity, and career mobility. New Directions for Institutional Research 2012:2746.
Kindred, Jeannette, & Mohammed, Shaheed N. (2005). “He will crush you like an academic ninja!”: Exploring teacher ratings on Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 10. Online:
Kowai-Bell, Neneh; Guadagno, Rosanna E.; Little, Tannah; Preiss, Najean; & Hensley, Rachel (2011). Rate my expectations: How online evaluations of professors impact students' perceived control. Computers in Human Behavior 27:1862–67.
Lewandowski, Gary W.; Higgins, Emma; & Nardone, Natalie N. (2011). Just a harmless website? An experimental examination of's effect on student evaluations. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 37:9871002.
Lippi-Green, Rosina (1994). Accent, standard language ideology, and discriminatory pretext in the courts. Language in Society 23:163–98.
Mackiewicz, Jo (2010). The co-construction of credibility in online product reviews. Technical Communication Quarterly 19:403–26.
Mateos, Pablo (2007). A review of name-based ethnicity classification methods and their potential in population studies. Population, Space and Place 13:243–63.
McEnery, Tony, & Hardie, Andrew (2012). Corpus linguistics: Method, theory, and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Otto, James; Sanford, Douglas A.; & Ross, Douglas N. (2008). Does really rate my professor? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 33:355–68.
Park, Joseph Sung-Yul, & Wee, Lionel (2009). The three circles redux: A market–theoretic perspective on World Englishes. Applied Linguistics 30:389406.
Plakans, Barbara S. (1997). Undergraduates' experiences with and attitudes toward international teaching assistants. TESOL Quarterly 31:95119.
R Core Team. (2013). R: A language an environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
Reid, Landon D. (2010). The role of perceived race and gender in the evaluation of college teaching on RateMyProfessors.Com. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education 3:137–52.
Rubin, Donald L. (1992). Nonlanguage factors affecting undergraduates' judgments of nonnative English-speaking teaching assistants. Research in Higher Education 33:511–31.
Sanders, Shane; Walia, Bhavneet; Potter, Joel; & Linna, Kenneth W. (2011). Do more online instructional ratings lead to better prediction of instructor quality? Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation 16(2). Online:
Scherr, Sebastian; Müller, Philipp; & Fast, Victoria (2013). Single comments or average ratings: Which elements of™ shape university students' judgments and course choice intentions? Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability 25:131–41.
Sealey, Alison (2007). Linguistic ethnography in realist perspective. Journal of Sociolinguistics 11:641–60.
Shuck, Gail (2004). Conversational performance and the poetic construction of an ideology. Language in Society 33:195222.
Shuck, Gail. (2006). Racializing the nonnative English speaker. Journal of Language, Identity & Education 5:259–76.
Sonntag, Michael E.; Bassett, Jonathan F.; & Snyder, Timothy (2009). An empirical test of the validity of student evaluations of teaching made on Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 34:499504.
Steffes, Erin M., & Burgee, Lawrence E. (2009). Social ties and online word of mouth. Internet Research 19:4259.
Subtirelu, Nicholas (2013). ‘English… it's part of our blood’: Ideologies of language and nation in United States Congressional discourse. Journal of Sociolinguistics 17:3765.
Subtirelu, Nicholas (2014). A language ideological perspective on willingness to communicate. System 42:120–32.
Timmerman, Thomas (2008). On the validity of Journal of Education for Business 84:5561.
U.S. Census Bureau (n.d.). Census regions and divisions of the United States. Online:; accessed April 22, 2013.
Villarreal, Dan. (2013). Closing the communication gap between undergraduates and international faculty. CATESOL Journal, 24:828.
Woolard, Kathryn A., & Schieffelin, Bambi B. (1994). Language ideology. Annual Review of Anthropology 23:5582.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Language in Society
  • ISSN: 0047-4045
  • EISSN: 1469-8013
  • URL: /core/journals/language-in-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed