Thursday, May 3, 2007

Judging Teacher Effectiveness in 6 Seconds

A couple of highlights from a 1993 article describing the outcome of a series of experiments in which female students were shown brief, video only (no sound) clips of a university instructor in the classroom and then rated the instructors on a series of personality variables. The scores on these personality variables were compared to the ratings instructors received in the university's normal end of semester student evaluation program.

"Teachers who were rated higher by their students [on the end of semester evaluations] were judged to be significantly more optimistic, confident, dominant, active, enthusiastic, likable, warm, competent, and supportive on the basis of their nonverbal behavior."

A different group of female students also rated the physical attractiveness of the instructors based on still photographs. Correlations suggested that student evaluation ratings are somewhat influenced by physical attractiveness (r=.32), but that when controlling for the scores on the personality variables, the relationship between physical attractiveness and teacher evaluation ratings dropped to r=.14.

They performed the same kind of study of high school teachers, using principals' ratings of teacher effectiveness, and found similar results - except the correlation between physical attractiveness and ratings from the principal was negative. However, scores on the personality variables given by strangers watching a video clip still predicted the principals' ratings.

I was surprised that ratings on the personality variables were not more reliable when people watched 3 10-second clips than watched 3 2-second clips. People are able to make these kinds of judgments extremely quickly and with a great deal of consensus.

An examination of nonverbal behaviors showed that nodding and laughing are related to higher student evaluation scores while fidgeting with hands or an object is related to lower ratings.

(Source: Half a minute: Predicting teacher evaluations from thin slices of nonverbal behavior and physical attractiveness., By: Ambady, Nalini, Rosenthal, Robert, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 00223514, 19930301, Vol. 64, Issue 3)

Article linked from Marginal Revolution. Like Tyler, and as I have talked about before in the context of credibility, I think giving the appearance of confidence is very helpful in the public speaking arena.


Tam said...

I'm curious about the principals and the negative correlation between attractiveness and evaluations. Maybe younger teachers are both more attractive and less competent?

Tam said...

I also wonder what the results are of studies comparing these factors (the ones that influence student evaluations, or just the results of student evaluations themselves) to actual effectiveness in teaching - i.e., how much students learn.