“Students rated sociability (e.g., friendliness, warmth) as significantly more important than did faculty.”

A 2014 study by Megan Gerhardt evaluated how instructors and students ranked contributors to teaching credibility. While everyone agreed that competence in subject matter and character are most important, students noted a desire for sociability that “has important implications for the classroom experience.” As Sarah Cavanagh observes, “one route to being perceived as trustworthy and competent is to be friendly and warm.”  This is the exact opposite of the advice I received at UW-Madison when I started teaching, which was “Don’t smile before Thanksgiving.” The world is changing, and so are the needs of our students. Should we change too?

Cavanagh, Sarah Rose. The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion. West Virginia UP, 2016, p. 87.


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