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Students interpret the teacher’s dialect and bad grammar as lack of competence
A poor student evaluation of a teacher’s English-language skills may lead to a poor student evaluation of the teacher’s competence and the course in general.
This is certainly the hypothesis of researchers in the project Students’ Perceptions of the English of Academics.
Current research will shed light on whether lecturers that are evaluated badly in terms of English-language, also are evaluated badly in terms of professional skills.
»We suspect that there is a connection between bad English evaluations and bad scores on professional competence,« says Christian Jensen, assistant professor at the Centre for Internationalisation and Parallel Language CIP who is participating in the project.
»If students hear poor language skills, then they may take this as a signal that the teacher is generally not very skilled,« he says.
The hypothesis is based on sociolinguistic research which has shown that people’s accents – whether native or non-native – affects how we perceive them in terms of skills, intelligence, friendliness etc., he explains.
Other, previous, research shows other trends in student evaluations.
The better the English-language skills of the student, the more tolerant they are of bad English.
»Students who are good at English, are milder in their evaluations of the lecturer’s English-language,« Christian Jensen says.
In the meantime, some academics’ basic English skills may actually give them a better rapport with internationals who are struggling themselves.
As one international student who prefers to remain anonymous expresses it:
»I like the class because of the simple English he uses. I know that it may not be the best for a lecturer to have just basic English skills, but I somehow feel better when seeing him talking this way. I see that when he can use this level of English as a professor, I don’t need to be ashamed of my own English skills«.