How can you spot a good professor?

An infamous study by Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal, “Half a Minute: Predicting Teacher Evaluations From Thin Slices of Nonverbal Behavior and Physical Attractiveness,” shows that students can predict a teacher’s ratings with significant accuracy after watching a 30-second silent video clip of the teacher at work.  Resist the urge to attribute this to the superficiality of students’ ratings.  What is the nonverbal magic that an audience recognizes so quickly?

I believe self-confidence is the critical non-verbal quality which audiences pick up on very quickly.  Do you agree?  Here is more, full of good advice, via Greg Mankiw (now a member of the American Academy) and Craig Newmark.


I'm surprised that William Thomson's excellent "Guide to the Young Economist" (available on paperback from MIT Press) has not been mentioned in this context. Yes, this comes from one of William's former graduate students/advisees, but I think it's not just an automatic ad for my ex-advisor's book. It seems to me the book has a lot of sensible advice, along the line of the second link in the post, but targeted explicitly to the economics graduate student / new professor.

Attentiveness, enthusiasm, interest, and interaction are probably all discernible to some extent.

I will say this for a teacher's deliver as I say it about getting your way with a woman:
If you can make her smile, you are halfway up her leg!
humor always helps

I wish to understand this post a little better: Is the fact that 30-second, silent, observations of teachers accurately predict their course evaluations suppose to indicate (a) that people can pick up a lot of information very quickly? Or it it perhaps (b) that end-of-term student course evaluations of teachers are extremely shallow and don't really measure teacher quality or effectiveness?

I lean toward (b), myself...

The New Yorker Magazine did a great article on this subject about 8 years ago. Talked about Microsoft's Steve Ballmer making a hiring decision based on a person who asked a question in the audience during one of his speeches. Ballmer had his handlers track the guy down and offer him a job.

Comments for this post are closed