Students have teachers figured out in just 2 seconds

Seriously? Well yes; according to research from two Harvard psychologists, backed up by later studies, two seconds is all it takes for your students to pick up on traits that correlate very strongly with your quality as a teacher. Teachwire reports.

Not only that: it’s two seconds of non-verbal communication.

The research was published in 1993 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, under the snappy title of Half a Minute: predicting teacher evaluations from thin slices of non-verbal behavior and physical attractiveness.

The authors, Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal, wanted to look at our ability to form impressions of others based on very short instances of non-verbal behaviour.

To do this, they showed a group of university students some thin slices of lecturers in action: three thirty second, non-verbal, clips. The viewers were then asked to rate the lecturers on fifteen qualities (eg enthusiasm).

These ratings were then compared to the ratings the lecturers’ actual students had given them after a semester of being in their classes.

The evidence was stark. Six qualities were “significantly predictive” of teacher effectiveness: appearing active, confident, dominant, enthusiastic, likeable and optimistic. The higher teachers scored in those areas, the higher their teacher quality ratings.

Read the full article and what two traits were significantly predictive across both studies. Plus what you should and shouldn’t be doing in front of your class  Students have teachers figured out in just 2 seconds 

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin



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  1. Judith Wilson

    As a TA, whenever I was asked to support NQTs in the classroom (or newly appointed teachers), I could always tell during the first lesson which ones were going to succeed and which ones were doomed!

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