The importance of making a good first impression in the classroom

Dec 10, 2010

A study of how medical students evaluate their professors is illustrating the critical importance of making a good first impression.

Students in a physiology course at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine were asked to evaluate 16 professors who lectured during the course. Students had the option of evaluating each professor concurrently during the course, or waiting until the course ended. Students were allowed to change their minds before the evaluations were finalized at the end of the course.

The study, published in the December, 2010 issue of the journal Advances in Physiology Education, included 144 students. Twenty six percent filled out evaluations during the course and 65 percent waited until the course ended. Nine percent did not submit evaluations.

The scores professors received on early evaluations were markedly similar to the scores they received on evaluations made after the course ended. (In statistical terms, the correlation was .91.) And students rarely changed their minds about professors -- only 3 percent of evaluations were revised before the evaluations were finalized.

"Students tended not to change their scores and comments, regardless of the time they submitted their evaluations," researchers wrote. "Hence, first impressions appear to be important."

For decades, students in colleges and graduate schools have been evaluating their professors. promotion and tenure decisions are based in part on these evaluations.

"The first lecture a faculty member gives to a class really sets the impression," said John A. McNulty, PhD, first author of the study. "The professor is either going to click with the student's learning style, or not."

At Loyola's Stritch School of Medicine, students are asked to rate how well professors communicate, relate course content to learning objectives and add to the student's understanding. Professors are rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 the worst and 5 the best. also can write comments.

In the most recent evaluations, the average score for basic science faculty was 4.2, and the average score for clinical faculty (physicians) was 4.38.

"We have a really good faculty," McNulty said. "The distribution of scores is skewed toward the high end."

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Seasoned profs prepare students for advanced learning

Jun 10, 2010

Highly credentialed and experienced professors are better at preparing students for long-term academic success than their less-experienced counterparts, but that ability isn't necessarily reflected in their students' teaching ...

Gender-bias impacts women physicists

Aug 03, 2010

While some might argue that the lack of women in physics is down to personal choice or perhaps even biological determinism, Amy Bug, a physicist at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, USA instead claims it could be due to small, ...

Teaching communication and information literacy skills

Aug 30, 2010

Undergrads often take communication courses unrelated to their major or discipline. The Iowa State University Department of Horticulture teamed up with the Library and English Departments to develop a course section to teach ...

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.