The Effect of Faculty Self-Promotion on Student Evaluations of Teaching

Article excerpt

This study investigated the effect that varying degrees of faculty self-promotion had on 322 student evaluations. As high student evaluations are correlated with greater student learning, it is imperative that we assess how faculty's presentation style is perceived by students so as to enhance instruction and therefore student learning. Students read a biographical introduction to a speaker followed by a transcript of a lecture. A manipulation check revealed that only the boastful, individual self-promotion condition was perceived as significantly different from the other three self-promotion conditions, so the data were recoded according to what students perceived to be self-promotion. Subsequent analyses found that this perceived self-promotion leads to lower evaluations. Personality and competence attributions accounted for 67% of students' perceptions of faculty.

keywords: student evaluations of teaching, student ratings of instruction, teacher effectiveness evaluation, teaching evaluations, self-promotion, self-presentation, impression management, faculty instructors

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Impression management refers to ways in which people attempt to influence how others see them. The most prominent way, self-presentation, involves how people manipulate information about themselves in order to create and maintain a desired perception of themselves (Gardner & Martinko, 1988; Schneider, 1981; Turnley & Bolino, 2001). Although psychologists have studied self-presentation since the early 1960s, most of the recent research conducted in this area has focused on business settings, specifically addressing employment interviewing and hiring and performance evaluation (Howard & Ferris, 1996). To our knowledge, no research has addressed the effect of self-presentation in an educational setting.

Jones and Pittman (1982) identified five strategies comprising self-presentation: ingratiation, intimidation, self-promotion, exemplification, and supplication. Ingratiation and self-promotion are the two most influential ones that have been researched (Ellis, West, Ryan, & DeShon, 2002; Stevens & Kristof, 1995). Ingratiation tactics are intended to evoke attributions of social attractiveness or likeability, while self-promotion tactics are intended to evoke competence attributions (Ellis et al., 2002). Very often many settings demand that individuals exhibit both social attractiveness and competence.

The goal of self-promotion is to promote one's accomplishments, achievements, contributions, talents, and qualities so favorably that others will view the self-promoter as highly competent (Cialdini & de Nicholas, 1989; Giacalone & Rosenfeld, 2001; Godfrey, Jones, & Lord, 1986; Higgins & Judge, 2004; Orpen, 1996; Rudman, 1998; Stevens & Kristof, 1995). Self-promotion is greatest (and most useful) when the self-promoter is not well known or when the intended audience is not a highly informed audience (Cialdini & de Nicholas, 1989; Rudman, 1998).

The data are mixed as to whether self-promotion leads to favorable or unfavorable outcomes. In organizational contexts, some studies have found that self-promotion leads to better interviewer evaluations (and thus increased hiring and promotion), possibly because these decisions tend to be based on perceived competence (Ellis et al., 2002; Gilmore & Ferris, 1989; Miller, Cooke, Tsang, & Morgan, 1992; Rudman, 1998; Stevens & Kristof, 1995). Despite perceived competence, however, self-promoters also come across as conceited, self-serving, and showing off, leading others to dislike him/her (Giacalone & Rosenfeld, 2001; Gilmore & Ferris, 1989; Miller et al., 1992; Orpen, 1996; Turnley & Bolino, 2001). In these cases, perceived modesty is more important than perceived competence (Carlston & Shovar, 1983).

The mixed data are particularly relevant with respect to women. In order for women to compete effectively with men they need to come across as competent. …