Teacher hostility can dampen students’ desire to learn and harm their grades.

That’s the suggestion of a new study that included nearly 500 undergraduate students who watched either a lecture presented in a normal fashion or one in which the teacher was antagonistic, such as belittling students, showing favoritism or criticizing their input.

Both groups of students then answered questions about the lecture content and completed a multiple-choice test.

The students who watched the antagonistic lecture scored 5 percent lower on the test, the findings showed. They were also less likely to put much effort into learning, and didn’t want to take future courses taught by that teacher.

The findings highlight the long-term consequences of what the researchers called “teacher misbehavior.”

The study was published May 10 in the journal Communication Education.

“Even slight antagonism, coupled with otherwise effective teaching, can demotivate students from being engaged and hinder their learning opportunities,” said study leader Alan Goodboy, from West Virginia University, in Morgantown, W.V.

“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,” Goodboy added in a journal news release.

Teachers need to be careful not to allow negative behavior into the classroom, he suggested.

“Antagonism can come into classrooms unexpectedly and suddenly, even without the knowledge of the teachers themselves,” Goodboy said.

“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,” he concluded.

More information

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