Saturday, March 26, 2005
So, should I wear more short skirts to class?
Apparently it'll be good for my career... at least, as far as my teaching evaluations go.
Check it out:
In a well-known study, a professional actor was hired to deliver a non-substantive and contradictory lecture, but in an enthusiastic and authoritative style. The audience, consisting of professional educators, had been told they would be listening to Dr. Myron Fox, an expert on the application of mathematics to human behavior. They were then asked to rate the lecture. Dr. Fox received highly positive ratings, and no one saw through the hoax.(14) Later studies have obtained similar results,(15) showing that audience ratings of a lecture are more strongly influenced by superficial stylistic matters than by content.
Mmm, short skirts.
Further, this may be the only way to be truly impressive and not offensive:
Professors discussing unconventional or controversial ideas may also receive a larger number of very positive student evaluations, relative to other professors whose classes are more bland and, perhaps, boring. In spite of this, there are two reasons why the overall incentive created by SEF will be for the professor to avoid controversy. First, the average rating professors receive is 4 or above on a scale of 1 - 5; therefore, a very hostile student can give a rating three points below the average, whereas a very enthusiastic student can only give a rating one point above the average. Thus, assuming the professor is average, the marginal unusually hostile student has an impact up to three times greater than the marginal unusually enthusiastic student. Second, there is a saying in American politics to the effect that one doesn't gain votes, one only loses them--meaning that it is much easier to earn a voter's opposition through taking substantive stands on issues than it is to gain support by doing so. If a politician says three things that I agree with and one that I disagree with (all concerning emotionally charged issues), I am more likely to vote against him, provided the other candidate did not say anything I disagreed with, even if this was because the latter said very little at all. This explains why American politicians often avoid taking non-trivial stands on issues. A similar principle applies to professors, when their retention is decided in a similar manner: any statement or question a teacher raises that anyone could take offense at will run a risk of evoking hostile reactions from a few students who will regard the statement or question as grounds for a negative evaluation, while there is little chance that even a non-hostile student will take it as grounds for an especially positive evaluation. Thus, it is reasonable to suppose that the degree to which a professor is controversial would be a strong depressive factor on his student evaluations, although this thesis has not yet been subjected to systematic testing.
Of course, I'm reading all this stuff instead of grading as I should be...
jane 10:46 AM [+]