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

Date: 10 June 2013 Time: 2.00-3:00 pm

Venue: FASS Meeting Room 3

UCREL Corpus Research Seminar

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

Neil Millar (University of Birmingham)

The evaluation of the effectiveness of teaching in universities most commonly involves asking students for feedback - so called Student Evaluations of Teaching (SETs). These are typically written questionnaires comprising predominantly Likert-scale type items. As such, the responses that students can provide are heavily constrained by the design of the instrument. Although SETs often contain opportunities for free-text comments, to date, there have been no large-scale analyses of the perceptions, opinions and beliefs that the students themselves choose to express. Systematic analyses of free-text responses have the potential to inform our understanding of what students value in teaching, what constitutes effective teaching and how we might best assess it.

This presentation reports a large-scale analysis of over half a million free-text comments on the popular review website (RMP). Principal components analysis (PCA) of adjectives was used to identify how students commonly perceive their instructors. Seven principal components were extracted and categorized based on component loadings:

  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 dimensions and (1) corresponding Likert scale ratings, and (2) the Five Factor model of personality traits. It is argued that the components reflect latent dimensions along which commonly perceive their instructors. Discussion of the results raises practical implications for educational assessment and teaching, and methodological implications for the use of questionnaire data in the social sciences.

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Computing and Communications, Linguistics and English Language, University Centre for Computer Corpus Research on Language (UCREL)


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Graduate School, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
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