Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 319–330

Effect of syllabus tone: students’ perceptions of instructor and course


DOI: 10.1007/s11218-011-9152-4

Cite this article as:
Harnish, R.J. & Bridges, K.R. Soc Psychol Educ (2011) 14: 319. doi:10.1007/s11218-011-9152-4


It is not uncommon for students to complain that faculty are unapproachable, while faculty complain that students are not engaged. Such perceptions, especially when formed at the start of a semester, can impact what students learn and how instructors teach; therefore, it is critical that these perceptions are prevented if a course is to be successful. A good starting point is the syllabus, which not only informs students about a course and its requirements, but creates a first impression about the instructor and his or her attitudes toward teaching. We conducted an experiment in which the course syllabus was manipulated to reflect a friendly or an unfriendly tone so that we could explore the perceptions students formed of the instructor and class. Results supported the hypothesis that a syllabus written in a friendly, rather than unfriendly, tone evoked perceptions of the instructor being more warm, more approachable, and more motivated to teach the course.


Syllabus Tone Classroom climate Person perception 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUpper BurrellUSA

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