"Boring, pompous and arrogant" or "funny, interesting, and HOT!" What university students really think of their professors!

Lecture Room 3 - Arts Building
Arts and Law
Tuesday 19th February 2013 (16:15-17:30)
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  • Neil Millar (University of Birmingham) 


This presentation explores how students who post free-text comments on the popular review website RateMyProfessors.com (RMP) perceive their instructors. Principal components analysis (PCA) was employed to identify how commonly occurring adjectives group naturally based on the individual instructor to whom they refer. Seven principal components were extracted from an analysis of c. 300,000 adjective tokens distributed over c. 30,000 individual instructors. Adjectives with strong loadings on each of the components cluster in coherent semantic sets, and are interpreted as latent dimensions along which students commonly perceive their instructors. The seven dimensions are:

1. HELPFULNESS (e.g. helpful, willing, approachable)

2. FUNNINESS (e.g. funny, hilarious, entertaining)

3. INTELLIGENCE (e.g. brilliant, intelligent, knowledgeable)

4. RUDENESS (e.g. rude, condescending, arrogant)

5. INCOMPETENCE (e.g. disorganized, confusing, not_clear)

6. TOUGHNESS (e.g. tough, difficult, not_easy)

7. HOTNESS (e.g. hot, gorgeous, sexy)

Secondary analyses explored the relationship between these text-derived dimensions and (1) corresponding likert scale ratings, and (2) the Five Factor model of personality traits (i.e. extraversion, agreeableness, contentiousness, emotional stability, and intellect). Strong correlations with the ‘Big Five’ illustrate how student perceptions are influenced by personality, and indicate that the corpus-derived dimensions have some psychological validity. These and other findings are discussed in relation to research on SETs and debates surrounding the validity of RMP. It is also argued that multivariate techniques such as PCA represent a useful means for automatically extracting meaningful lexical themes from a large number of texts. In certain contexts, this approach may provide a more objective and data-driven alternative to keywords analysis. 

About the English Language Research seminars

  • Convener: Neil Millar

The ELR seminars are a long-running weekly research seminar series within the Department of English, English Language and Applied Linguistics Division. The seminars are aimed primarily at staff, postgraduate students, and academic visitors in the department, but everyone with an interest in language research is welcome! Seminars are usually held on Tuesdays during term time, starting at 4:15 and finishing around 5:30.