Those beloved, comfortable, durable jeans can affect how students and teachers perceive each other, Ohio researchers have found.
A study at Miami University in Ohio looked into the way high school students perceive female teachers based on how the teachers dressed. A study by Bowling Green University in Ohio focused on the way teachers and students perceive teen-agers, based on dress."You might anticipate that a female teacher in a suit would get the most respect, but my research doesn't show that," said Sara Butler, associate professor of home economics and consumer sciences at Miami. "Students said . . . they had no more respect for a suited teacher than one in jeans."
Mrs. Butler and a former graduate student, Kathy Roesel, questioned 201 high school students in Cincinnati. The students, 157 girls and 44 boys, were asked to examine four color pictures showing models from the neck down.
"The teacher in jeans was generally viewed as fun, approachable, not especially knowledgeable, not looking like a teacher and generally preferable," Mrs. Butler said.
The same teacher was also seen as the least fair when it came to grades, she said, speculating that the students suspected this teacher of playing favorites.
"In contrast, the suited teacher was seen as possessing the image of a teacher, but was the teacher students preferred not to have," Mrs. Butler said. "This teacher was seen as unapproachable, not especially fun and an authority figure who assigns homework."
Mrs. Butler emphasized that the study focused on the students' first impressions.
"We don't know if the (impressions) hold all through the school year," she said. "I think the important thing is that teachers' clothing does have an impact."
More formal wear does help convey the image of knowledge, Mrs. Butler said.
"The most interesting part for me was that students generally labeled the teacher in jeans not very knowledgeable, yet that is the person they'd rather have, sacrificing knowledge for fun," Mrs. Butler said.
Research at Bowling Green indicated that teachers and students alike have a less favorable impression of poorly dressed students - those who wear faded jeans, T-shirts and untied shoes.
Those pupils were perceived as being less intelligent, less well-behaved and lacking in ability to grow intellectually.
On the opposite side, well-dressed and casually dressed students were perceived by their peers and teachers as being smart, well-behaved and well prepared for higher education.