Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

R&S Digest Header Image

What’s the Eberly Center reading and thinking about this month?

The Research and Scholarship Digest, published the first Monday of each month, consists of short summaries of recently peer-reviewed studies on teaching and learning topics. This digest offers a view into what we are reading and thinking about at the Eberly Center that:

• adds to our understanding of how students learn
• is potentially generalizable across teaching contexts in higher education
• provokes reflection on implications for our teaching and educational development practices.

We hope the readers of this digest will find it a useful resource for staying in-tune with the rapidly expanding education research literature.

March 2018

Changes in syllabus tone affect warmth (but not competence) ratings of both male and female instructors

This study aimed to show correlations between the "friendliness" of a syllabus and student perceptions of the instructor's approachability and competence by gender. 150 undergraduate students were given either "friendly" or " not friendly" syllabi from either a female, male, or gender-unspecified instructor. The results showed that students perceived the "friendly" syllabus instructors as "more approachable, more caring, and more motivating, but not any more or less competent than those receiving the not friendly syllabus," regardless of gender. The article also includes a detailed list of example phrases from both the friendly and unfriendly syllabi, providing examples that could be used when teaching instructors about syllabus tone.

Denton, A.W.; Veloso, J. (2017). Social Psychology of Education (20). 1-15.
[link to article]

Student learning with permissive and restrictive cell phone policies: A classroom experiment

Two sections of a class taught by the same instructor had either a restrictive cell phone policy or a permissive cell phone policy (N=31). Students in the restrictive section were told they could be removed from class for use of their cell phones, and students in the permissive section were allowed to use cell phones during class. Researchers found no significant difference in the students' learning but found a statistically significant difference in the ratings of the instructor. The restrictive section gave higher ratings to the instructor than the permissive section. This research shows that student attitudes toward the instructor may not be negatively affected by a restrictive cell phone policy.  

Lancaster, Alexander (2018). International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, vol. 12, no. 1
[link to article]

[Read the Archive]