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Twitter advice for profs: keep it personal

twitter_newbird_boxed_blueonwhite.pngPosted on behalf of Zoe Corbyn.

From the night’s television to what the cat dragged in, professors who want to gain credibility with their students should give up tweeting scholarly material and instead concentrate on tweeting social snippets of their lives. At least this is the message from a new study of 120 undergraduate students published in the current issue of the journal Learning, Media and Technology.

To test the impact of twitter posts on students perceptions of instructor credibility, communications researchers at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, split participants into three groups showing each different types of tweets – purely scholarly, purely social and a mixture. They then asked the students to rate the credibility of the three fictional female professors who had tweeted them. The professor with the purely social tweets was perceived as having a “significantly” higher credibility, seen as more caring while retaining the same level of competence to if her tweets had included scholarly material.

“Social tweets are very important to a professor’s credibility – even more so than tweeting about scholarly activities,” said Kirsten Johnson who led the work. “If you really want students to find you credible don’t even worry about the intellectual stuff.”

She adds that as long as they are not “too personal”, such tweets could be a way of deepening connections with students and speculates the reason why scholarly tweets might be a turn-off is because students see them as too “self promotional”.

But Stephen Curry – a professor at Imperial College London who tweets in both a personal and a scientific capacity – was unimpressed, noting only 30% of the students involved had used Twitter before and the professors were fictional. He adds that neither using Twitter to modify his students’ perceptions or balancing scholarly and social tweets is on his mind. “I do use Twitter as a form of personal expression but it’s all rather unconscious. I am not seeking to project an image or a brand of ‘myself’,” he says, though he did admit he avoids tweeting about meals.


  1. Report this comment

    Uncle Al said:

    “Social tweets are very important to a professor’s credibility – even more so than tweeting about scholarly activities”

    A gumball dispensor that does not dispense gumballs is not useful as a gumball dispensor. Everybody short of Diversity Studies must be productive, not pretty as a substitute for competence.

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