Fashion in education, or why Mr. Torrano sprouted a beard

Fashion and teaching seem to be completely incompatible notions. Well, not in GSE. Women are always on heels with manicure, men are rather on skis with beards. Frankly speaking, I was favorably impressed by the way the GSE academic staff is dressed. Recently one of the classy professors started to grow a beard, making the students wonder whether it is a new GSE trend or professional need. I subscribed to the latter, before finding two contradicting volume investigations on this topic, which correspond merely in quantitative method. Rollman (1980) affirms that teacher attire explicitly affects the student perceptions, which Gorham et al. (1999) challenge referring to greater affect of the teacher’s behavior, neglecting the close connection between the teacher behavior and attire.

Inspired by the graduate student’s curiosity about the teacher attire affect on students’ perceptions, Rollman (1980) conducted a quantitative research. It is important to highlight that he was the first to investigate this topic in educational context. Six photographs of teachers of different gender and dressing style were used as an instrument. Hundred participants completed five-point likert-scale questionnaires, which included ten personal characteristics. The results showed that regardless the gender, the teacher attire has considerable impact on student perceptions: teachers dressed formally are perceived more seriously than their casually dressed colleagues. By the same token Gorham et al. (1999) conducted as many as three studies. Using the real teachers as instruments, they considered external factors as gender and age of the teacher along with dressing, during the lessons.

As schoolchildren spend “13000 hours” staring at a teacher, the attire must be one of the essential traits that influence the students, which is emphasized in both studies (Lortie, 1975). Considering the different student perceptions according to the gender of the teacher, which is disputed by Rollman (1980), Gorham et al. (1999) urge that behavior is more important than dressing. Obviously, it is important to consider gender, age and behaviour investigating this topic. It is important to study though, the connection between the behavior and attire, which is dismissed in the study by Gorham et al. (1999). It might be difficult to ascribe negative characteristics to the person dressed formally.  On the other hand, the research by Gorham et al. (1999) seems more reliable, as they use real teachers instead of photographs, which added to the paper more data for analysis on other impacts on student perception. One of such aspects is “optimal homophily”, presented by McCroskey et al. (1974), but refuted by Gorham et al. (1999, p 285). The former study implied that the similarity of teacher attire to students’, regarding the quality and style, produces positive outcomes and perceptions.

Both long standing studies, despite complications, show the importance of appropriate teacher attire in formation of positive student perception. Mentioned by Gorham et al. (1999), there should be a balance between formal and informal dressing, considering other impacts. It might be useful to reconduct the studies for confirmation of validity in present circumstances.

References

Gorham, J., Cohen, S. & Morris, T. (1999). Fashion in the classroom III: Effects of instructor attire and immediacy in natural classroom interactions. Communication Quarterly. 47(3). 281-299.

Lortie, D. (1975) Schoolteacher: a sociological study, Chicago, IL, The University of Chicago Press.

Rollman, S. (1980). Some Effects of Teachers’ Styles of Dress. Paper presentei at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Speech Communication Association. Birmingham, AL.

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5 thoughts on “Fashion in education, or why Mr. Torrano sprouted a beard

  1. Well-done Malika! I know that you like to speak about insistent and unusual topics in education. You like surprising and intriguing other people. But I did not expect that you are going to write a post about Mr.Torrano’s beard (actually it is not exactly about his beard)! When I saw your post for the first time I felt very ashamed of you, and then I understood that you wrote that heading in order to catch readers’ attention. You did a great job researching such a great topic about “teacher attire” and its effect on students’ perception. It is a well-researched and unique post. It was very interesting and enjoyable to read. I agree with Lortie (1975) that teachers’ appearance influence students’ perceptions, usually in a positive way. They tend to dress like their teacher or act like them. Not only school children observe their teachers’ attire, other people also like to gaze. Personally, I do care about people’s appearance and dressing.

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    1. Thank you Zhadyra for your comment. I am glad that you found this post interesting. I should also point out that I received verbal informal consent form from Mr. Torrano before publishing this post. Frankly speaking, the idea of this topic came up to me because of Mr. Torrano’s beard. Having searched for the literature, I found really trustworthy studies about the teacher attire. Although there are no issues about the teacher attire in Kazakhstani educational context, the topic is still relevant.

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  2. Dear Abitayeva, the title of your post was a center of hot discussion among my groupmates. I should confess I liked your approach attracting our attention and making us to read your post. Well done (standing ovation =)) And yes I agree with you that in any educational institutions staff and teachers’ dressing is very important, and students notice it usually. We had classes on Governance of HE and discussed with our Professor about political frame of organizations. She drew our attention and gave a good example of how people (faculty members) dress and represent themselves. First, to show the high competence and professionalism and to be perceived seriously by students, teachers might dress smart and official. Once they gained this reputation and unfailing dignity by students and faculty members’ perception, they can slightly change their dressing style, as in this case of Mr. Torrano’s beard. He is well-known, pretty accepted by students as a competent, smart and professional one. So why not to try something new, he has gained respect among students and faculty. Of course, there are teachers who never change their style, and stick to their usual type of dressing and it’s up to them. My point is, once you gained a reputation and glory you can easily change your style or image within the accepted range.

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    1. Thank you! As each of my posts is unique, I can have weird approaches to catch everyone’s attention. I would also like to indicate that I did not mean to discuss specifically Mr. Torrano’s attire; his name was used merely as a bait and to set up the context.
      Frankly speaking, I have not thought about changing the style, which is also dismissed in the studies mentioned in the post. Do you think the sudden changes in the teacher’s style have impacts on the students’ perception? It might be interesting to look for more studies about that. Thank you again!

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  3. I believe that your post is one of the most interesting and triggering one. When you intially suggested to watch a video by Mc Doni and Timati, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mvqAEe58oM), I could not imagine that you write about Mr. Torrano’s beard. Actually, you tried to write in an academic way, which corresponds to APA style. Nice job!

    Nowadays more and more men are growing a full beard. Well, from my personal experince, I grow up with the cartoon that only old people grow a full beard. Therefore, it seems to me that people who have a beard looks like an old one. May be Mr. Torrano wants to like older than he seems to be…

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