first day of class. no pressure. you’ve got two seconds.

Classes started today.  Somehow I still have first-day jitters.  The problem could be that I am overly cognizant of the importance of first impressions, you know, those first two (!) seconds of teaching.  I think the received wisdom is that one should aggressively wave one’s hands around (as modeled by Dwight) and, well, look good.   That finding of course was popularized by Gladwell.  Here’s Ambady’s original JPSP (pdf) piece on “predicting teacher evaluations from thin slices of non-verbal behavior and physical attractiveness.”  Here are the cliff notes on the six second teacher evaluation.

And, how much do students remember after the semester?  Research says, not a ton.  So there’s the five minute approach.

Written by teppo

August 29, 2011 at 8:39 pm

4 Responses

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  1. That’s OK. I give them about two seconds as well, so it balances out—after all, if they have this wonderful ability, then so do I.



    August 29, 2011 at 8:46 pm

  2. Another teaching improvement strategy I am testing this semester – going out on a high note:



    August 29, 2011 at 9:19 pm

  3. Jesus, I’m lecturing tomorrow. I should probably do laundry.


    Mark H.

    August 30, 2011 at 12:25 am

  4. Obviously, as highly intelligent social animals, we can judge each other quickly. And yet, Bernard Madoff is only a symbol, not an anomaly. We can be wrong about people, or crimes would be impossible. It is true that we can predict how likable someone will be found by other people. But social grace is not the touchstone of intellectual achievement. Gregory Browne teaches philosophy. He is a first class nerd and he comes off that way; and his students blow him off. But I was 58 when I heard him lecture at Eastern Michigan University, finally competing a degree at my fifth school in 40 years, including teaching at one of them. So, I locked in on his structured, integrated, informed and authoritative lectures – and I was not even enrolled in the class: I just enjoyed listening while waiting in the halls.

    And we have always had student evaluations. Newton lectured to an empty room. (At least he was not booed as others had been.) Imagine being at Cambridge, and not meeting Newton… Obviously students are ignorant. That’s why they come to school. Learning how to judge a professor is an important skill – and seemingly one that has been neglected for almost a thousand years.


    Michael E. Marotta

    August 30, 2011 at 3:56 am

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