Strict teachers outperformed: study

Wednesday, 25 January, 2023

Strict teachers outperformed: study

According to a study by the University of Essex and University of Reading, strict-sounding teachers are worse at inspiring students than their kind colleagues.

The psychological study looked at 250 children, and showed that ‘controlling-sounding voices’ didn't gain cooperation from 10- to 16-year-olds.

In fact, students faced with a strict teacher were more likely to rebel, their wellbeing was affected, and they were less likely to reveal they were facing problems such as bullying.

This is because students felt unable to express themselves when confronted with a harsher, more controlling tone. However, a supportive-sounding voice inspired a connection to a teacher, increasing their intention to cooperate.

The research is hoped to influence teacher training and help boost classroom results. Future studies may head out of the lab and into schools to see where improvements can be made.

Professor Silke Paulmann, Head of the Department of Psychology at Essex, worked with Professor Netta Weinstein at Reading on the study.

“We often think about what teachers say to their students, but we rarely talk about how they say it,” Paulmann said.

“But the tone of voice teachers use really matters and the way we modulate our voice can have profound effects on listeners.”

The study published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology explored teachers’ tone of voice in children’s education.

Pre-recorded teachers’ voices were played to 250 children, who were then asked to judge how the tone affected them. They were asked to rate how it would affect factors such as competence, emotions, trust and their intention to cooperate.

Children reacted much better to supportive voices, while controlling tones made their self-esteem plummet and those teachers’ sound exemplars were perceived to be less trustworthy.

“Tone of voice is a powerful way to convey teachers’ caring, understanding or openness,” Weinstein said.

“It’s easy to forget when we are stressed or tired, but teachers can provide a positive learning environment when they are thoughtful in how they use their tone of voice.”

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