Paper in Personality and Individual Differences
  • Kim, L.E., MacCann, C. (2016). What is students' ideal university instructor personality? An investigation of absolute and relative personality preferences. Personality and Individual Differences, 102, pp. 190-203.

    Despite intuitions that the ideal teacher has a particular set of non-cognitive characteristics, there is little research investigating such issues. The current two studies investigate students' descriptions of “ideal” instructor personality using the Five-Factor Model of personality. Both absolute personality preferences (certain traits are universally desired) and relative personality preferences (certain traits are desired relative to students' own level of the trait) are examined among 137 first year mathematics students (Study 1) and 378 first year psychology students (Study 2). Students provided Big Five personality ratings for themselves, their actual instructor, and their ideal instructor. Supporting the absolute preference hypothesis, students rated their ideal instructor as having significantly higher levels than both themselves and the general population on all five personality domains (except for openness in Study 1), with particularly large effect sizes for emotional stability and conscientiousness. Supporting the relative preference hypothesis, students also rated their ideal instructor as having a similar Big Five profile to themselves. Moreover, if their actual instructor's personality was similar to their ideal instructor's personality, students showed greater educational satisfaction (but not higher performance self-efficacy nor academic achievement). The extent to which institutions should consider student preferences is discussed.