Teachers who antagonize their students, even slightly, by belittling them, showing favoritism, or criticizing their contributions and efforts can damage the students’ learning potential, according to a new study published in the journal Communication Education.
This is true even when an otherwise effective teacher has one bad day; the harmful behavior can ruin the students’ perception of that teacher, essentially demotivating them from doing well in the class.
For the study, the researchers investigated the influence of teacher “misbehavior” on student learning by setting up a teaching experiment in which almost 500 undergraduate students watched a video of a lecture.
The students were randomly split into two groups: one group watched a lesson with teacher antagonism, and the other group watched a standard lesson without antagonism. They then answered a series of questions about the content, before completing a multiple-choice test.
After comparing the test scores of the two groups, the researchers found that the group who watched the video with teacher antagonism performed worse than the standard group. Test scores were up to 5 percent lower for those who watched the lesson with antagonism because they disliked what they were learning.
In addition, the students who were exposed to teacher hostility were less likely to put as much effort into learning, and were unwilling to take part in future courses taught by that teacher.
The researchers stress that beyond just the short-term stress of teacher antagonism, there are also long-term negative consequences of this teacher misbehavior on student learning.
“Even slight antagonism, coupled with otherwise effective teaching, can demotivate students from being engaged and hinder their learning opportunities. So even one bad day of teaching can ruin a student’s perception of the teacher and create an unnecessary roadblock to learning for the rest of the term,” said study leader Dr. Alan Goodboy.
Teachers should therefore be especially careful to prevent negative behavior seeping into the classroom.
“Antagonism can come into classrooms unexpectedly and suddenly, even without the knowledge of the teachers themselves,” said Goodboy.
“We therefore need to ensure that future teachers are better equipped to recognize when antagonism may be creeping in, focusing on how antagonism manifests itself and working on developing more positive ways of interacting with students, even during times of disagreement.”
Source: Taylor & Francis Group