WELLESLEY, Mass. - College students will soon stand in
front of their professors' office doors to ask for an extension
on an essay paper or to discuss that unfortunate 'C' on
last week's pop quiz. While waiting, what they see on that
office door may make them feel more welcome - or more intimidated.
Wellesley College psychology professor R. Steven Schiavo
has studied the office door decorations of college faculty
"We were interested to see to what extent students formed
impressions of professors from their door decorations, and
to what extent these impressions reflected the professors'
actual message," he said. "Students viewed slides of professors'
office doors and rated their impressions."
Previously, the professors had been interviewed about their
reasons for decorating their doors.
Content - say, a Dilbert cartoon vs. a class schedule-had
an effect on students' impressions. Teachers who papered
their doors with helpful or entertaining items were seen
as happier and more concerned than those who left doors
"Professors displaying more items were perceived to want
students to feel comfortable in their offices, to encourage
students to seek academic assistance, to be willing to hear
students' concerns and to be more enthusiastic about their
academic discipline," Schiavo reported.
But just as you can't judge a book by its cover, you can't
necessarily psych out your teacher by studying his or her
"Student impressions only weakly reflected the professors'
concern for students when decorating," Schiavo said.
While some professors put more effort into decorating their
doors because they wanted them to appeal to students, not
all did. Door decorations may simply define their turf or
express their individuality.
"Nevertheless, the results underscore that door decorations
strongly influence how students perceive professors," Schiavo
said. "Door decorations can create strong, positive student
perceptions of the office occupant."
This fall, as teachers go back to the classroom, it seems
the messages they send via their office doors may help start
the year off on a positive note - or a negative one.
Founded in 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in
liberal arts and the education of women for 125 years. The
College's 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate