Kindness at First Sight: The Role of Syllabi in Impression Formation

Author / Creator
Nusbaum, Amy T.; Swindell, Samantha; Plemons, Anna
Part of
Teaching of psychology, 2021-04, Vol.48 (2), p.130-143
  • Strong faculty–student relationships are an important predictor of student retention and success in higher education. Faculty often work to establish these relationships by developing rapport with students in the classroom, but minimal research has been done on whether syllabus design and language can affect these relationships. The goal of Experiment 1 was to examine whether the use of a more visual syllabus design or more welcoming syllabus language could affect students’ perceptions of their instructors or knowledge of the syllabus content. Overall, neither visual formatting nor language had a significant impact on perceptions of the syllabus or scores on quizzes about the syllabus. However, participants who viewed the syllabi with a more visual design rated the hypothetical professor as kinder, more creative, and more approachable than those who viewed syllabi with a less visual design. Experiment 2 used a heat-mapping technique to determine which elements of the syllabus students were responding to when forming their impressions.



  • Altruism
  • College Faculty
  • College Students
  • Computer Assisted Instruction
  • Course Descriptions
  • Curricula
  • Higher education
  • Postsecondary Education
  • Psychology
  • School Holding Power
  • Student Attitudes
  • Student retention
  • Student teacher relationship
  • Teacher Characteristics
  • Teacher Student Relationship
  • University students
  • Visual Aids

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