Research shows that people make assumptions about our credibility, professionalism, and sincerity within a few seconds of meeting us for the first time. The way we present ourselves--dress, body language, attitude, behavior—all impact on how others perceive us.
This emphasis on first impressions translates to the classroom as well. Dr. Frank Bernieri (Oregon State University) conducted an experiment where he discussed his syllabus the first day of class and then had the students filled out a teaching evaluation form. At the end of the semester, they completed the same form. He found the rating the students gave him at the end of the semester was essentially the same as that given the first day. According to Bernieri, if your students think the class will be interesting and useful and that you are a credible professor on the first day, they will tend to think that throughout the semester. In fact, Bernieri states that people will make excuses and manipulate the data in order to reinforce their first impressions.
Professor Nalini Ambady (Tufts University) concurs with Bernieri. She conducted a study where she showed students a ten second video of professors they had never met. Their ratings of the professors in the videos were the same as those given by students who had had the professors in class for several months. In addition, the students’ first impression of whether the professor was an effective teacher predicted how well the students themselves performed on tests.
Think impression management when preparing for that first day of class...