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The impact of instructor's personality characteristics on quality of instruction.

This study examined the effects of teacher personality characteristics on students' perception. Specifically, it hypothesizes that certain teacher personality traits such as agreeableness and extraversion will be positively correlated with higher student evaluations of instructors.

University instructors (n=63) from a small, rural university completed the Big Five Personality Test and agreed to provide archival data of student evaluations from the previous two years,

Scores obtained from the Big Five Personality Test were compared using multiple regression analysis to determine the relationship between each of the five factors of student ratings of instructional quality.

The results indicated that of the five personality characteristics assessed, agreeableness was the only factor that significantly correlated with student ratings of instructional quality.

Although only one personality factor significantly correlated with instructional evaluations, the results suggest that a teacher's personality may have an impact on student perception and the subsequent cycle of interaction between the student and the instructor.


Developing an educational environment that is conducive to optimal student learning is a continual challenge in the field of Higher Education. One essential component of addressing this challenge has been the role and function of the instructor in the classroom, especially as it relates to the concept of teacher expectancy. Research summarized in Jussim and Eccles (1992), Brophy (1983), and Good (1981) suggest that instructional expectations can have a significant impact on both the quantity and quality of a student's learning experience. Numerous studies have been conducted to examine the effects of teachers' perceptions of students and their performance in the classroom (Kuklinski & Weinstein, 2001; Alvidrez & Weinstein, 1999).

Characteristics such as physical attractiveness, SES, and family size have been positively correlated with higher ratings from teachers (Lemer, Delaney, Hess, Jovanovic, &von Eye, 1990). In addition, research has indicated that teachers respond more favorably towards students who are more relaxed and comfortable while interacting with the instructor (Toumaki, 2003). This raises the issue of whether or not the instructor's personality may have an effect on how the student responds to the professor and how this would create a reciprocal interaction that would affect the student's perception of the instructor.

The focus of the majority of this research about the impact of teacher expectancy has been limited primarily to the observable behaviors and various pedagogues employed by the instructor. Although there has been some research (Kegel-Flom, 1983; Silva et al, 2008) that investigates the impact of an instructor's personality on quality of instruction, further research is needed to explore the causal relationship of these factors to the student's learning experience. The current study examines the effects of teacher personality characteristics on students' perception. Specifically, it hypothesizes that certain teacher personality traits such as agreeableness and extraversion will be positively correlated with higher student evaluations of instructors.



The sample for this study consisted of sixty-three (63) participants. Each participant was a faculty member of a southern rural state university, with 58.7% female and 41.3% percent male. The ethnicity of the sample was 6.3% African Americans, 85.7% Caucasians, and 4.2% "'other". Participants possessing a Master's Degree accounted for 49.2% of the sample while those with a Doctorate made up 46% of the sample. "Other" degrees were indicated by the remaining 4.8% of the sample.


Each participant was administered a demographics questionnaire, The Big Five Personality Test, and the University Instructor Evaluation Form.

The Big Five Personality Test.

The Big Five Personality Test (Buchanan, 2001) consists of 41 -questions in a Likert scale response format that was completed via paper and pencil. This instrument was used to measure the five personality characteristics of Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

Alpha coefficients on each dimension were above .70, interrater reliability estimates were above .91, and test-retest reliabilities over a two-week period ranged from .61 to .93. Construct validity was found between this assessment and the NEO PI-R. In a report by Buchanan (2001), the Big Five Personality test achieved the following acceptable reliability figures: Openness (.74), Conscientiousness (.84), Extraversion (.88), Agreeableness (.76), and Neuroticism (.83). Encouraging preliminary indications of validity were found for this measure as well. All of these reliability figures were given using Cronbach's Alpha.

University' Instructor Evaluation

The teacher evaluation form is completed by students at the completion of each semester. This form is designed to ascertain student perception about instructor's performance on such domains as comprehensiveness, adaptability, and instructional quality. There are ten domains which are rated on a 4-point Likert scale response format, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree.


Regression Analyses

A stepwise linear regression equation was employed to measure how each personality factor predicts instructional quality, with each personality variable (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism) as the predictor variables and instructional quality as the criterion variable,

The results showed that agreeableness was the only significant predictor. Results were significant at the .01 level of significance (F (1, 61) = 10.174, p < .01). Agreeableness accounted for 13% of the variance in this analysis (see Table 1 Adjusted R Square).


The personality characteristic of "Agreeableness" appears to be more predictive of student's perception of instructional quality than the other four personality factors. Although it was also hypothesized that "Extraversion" would be significantly predictive, the result of this study did not support this conclusion.

Agreeableness as a personality characteristic is described as being positive and accepting of others. It denotes the traits of trustworthiness, helpfulness, and caring (Costa & McRae, 2002). The implications of these results suggest that the instructor who possesses the characteristic of "Agreeableness" may be able to connect more authentically with students, providing an educational environment that enhances the learning experience in the classroom. It may also signify that what many students like in an instructor may be what most people are looking for in relationships in general--acceptance and positive regard. When an instructor demonstrates the qualities of caring and acceptance, it can enhance the students' ability to connect better with them. As evidenced in this study, students rate instructional quality more positively when a positive environment that includes factors such as trust, friendliness, and cooperation are provided. This strengthens the argument for positive reinforcement playing a significant role in the classroom, in that, Agreeableness is a personality factor that impacts positive behavior, which leads to better ratings from students. Although instructors may have well established methods and principles of teaching, if a positive relationship is not fostered with the students, the impact instructors have on students' learning may not be as beneficial.

As denoted earlier, creating an educational environment that is conducive to optimal student learning is of ongoing interest in the field of education. If an instructor's personality plays a beneficial role in the learning experience and outcome for the student, it is reasonable to maintain that other factors also may influence the educational process. As this study did not control for other factors which may be related to instructional quality, further research is needed to explore for what other factors may contribute to instructional quality in the field of higher education.

In conclusion, given the premise that personality traits do impact instructor's behavior in the classroom; becoming mindful of how our personality traits impact our interactions with students may create a more positive environment for students; resulting not only in more meaningful learning, but also in retention and graduation rates. Additionally, faculty may also benefit from a degree of self-awareness in terms of their respective life endeavors. Hopefully, if more awareness is developed with regard to our personality and the behaviors we exhibit, benefits will be achieved in multiple areas of life--not only in the classroom.


Alvidrez. J. & Weinstein, R. S. (1999), Early teacher perceptions and later student academic achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91 (4). 731-746.

Brophy, J. E. (1983). Research on the self-fulfilling prophecy and teacher expectations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 75(5), 631-661.

Buchanan, T. (2001). Online implementation of an IPIP five factor personality inventory. [Online]. Available: hnp:// roduction.html

Costa, P. & McCrae, R. (2002). Looking backward: Changes in the mean levels of personality traits form 80 to 12. In D. Cervone & W. Mischel (Eds.), Advances in personality science. New York: Guilford Press.

Good, T. L. (1981). Teacher expectations and student perceptions: A decade of research. Educational Leadership, 38(5), 415-422.

Jussim, L. & Eccles, J. S. (1992). Teacher expectations TLConstruction and reflection of student achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(6), 947-961.

Kuklinski, M. R. & Weinstein, R. S. (2001). Classroom and developmental differences in a path model of teacher expectancy effects. Child Development, 72(5), 1554-1578.

Kegel-Flom, P. (1983). Personality traits in effective clinical teachers. Research in Higher Education, 19(1), 73-82.

Lemer, R. M., Delaney, M., Hess, L. E., Jovanovic, J., & von Eye, A. (1990). Early adolescent physical attractiveness and academic competence. Journal of Early Adolescence, 10(1),4-20.

Silva. K.M., Silva. M.A., Quinn, J.N., Draper, K.R., Cover, IC.R.. & Munoff, A.A.(2008). Rate my professor: Online evaluations of psychology instructors. Teaching of Psychology, 35(2), 71-80.

Tournaki, N. (2003). Effect of student characteristics on teachers' predictions of student success. The Journal of Educational Research, 96(5), 310-319.





Northwestern State University
Table 1

Model Summary

Model   Variable                           Adjusted R   Standard
        Entered         R      R Square    Square       Error

1       Agreeableness   .378   .143        .129         .36553


             Sum of         Mean
Model I      Squares   Df   Square   F        Sig.

Regression   1.359     1    1.359    10.174   .002
Residual     8.150     61   .134
Total        9.510     62

Variables in the equation

Variable        B       Std. Error   Beta   T       Sig.

Agreeableness   .041    .013         .378   3.190   .002
Constant        2.972   .373                7.978   .000

Variables Not in the equation

Variable            Beta In   Correlation   Tolerance   T        Sig.

Openness            -.173     -.187         1.000       -1.476   .145
Conscientiousness   -.085     -.086         .865        -.666    .508
Extraversion        -.028     -.030         .999        -.233    .817
Neuroticism         -.009     -.009         .816        -.067    .946
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Author:Kneipp, Lee B.; Kelly, Kathryn E.; Biscoe, Joseph D.; Richard, Brandon
Publication:College Student Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2010
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