‘Hot For Words’ could revolutionize education

One night last week, instead of doing homework, a friend and I decided to start browsing YouTube videos. We watched our usuals — “The Turtleman,” “7-Year-Old Takes Car On Joyride” and “Hippies – Crying Over Dead Trees” — but then my friend showed me a video from a YouTube series called “Hot For Words.”

“Hot For Words” is an educational series in which a very attractive Russian etymologist named Marina Orlova analyzes English words and phrases that are suggested by viewers and explains the history behind them.

At first I thought it was just funny and over the top. I didn’t really put much thought into it. But two days later I started thinking about some of the videos I had watched, and I realized that not only could I recite the definitions of “capricious,” “antidisestablishmentarianism,” and “cacology,” but I could also remember their roots and the languages that they are derived from.

It was the weirdest thing. It usually takes me a good 30 minutes with flashcards to remember things like that, so I took a cue from my freshman biology course, and formed a hypothesis: “The reason I learned these words so easily was because the teacher was so attractive.”

So I did some research. In my research I found a couple of studies that hinted at a correlation between teacher attractiveness and student learning, but none of the studies completely answered my question. According to a study from Old Dominion University, male students who watched a video session from a teacher when she looked attractive were more likely to rate her as competent and interesting than when she looked unattractive.

That only partially addresses the issue though. Is student learning really improved by having a hot teacher? So, in my quest for the answer, I took a not-so-scientific approach and consulted the thousands of teacher reviews available on RateMyProfessors.com.

RateMyProfessors.com is a Web site in which students can evaluate teachers in the areas of clarity, easiness, helpfulness, overall quality and hotness (yes, that is how the site words it). If a teacher has a high enough hotness rating, a chili pepper appears in their listing.

So what I did was I took the overall quality rating of all non-chili peppers whose last name started with the letter “A” and compared it to that of the chili peppers whose last name begins with “A”. The average overall quality rating of the non-chili peppers was 3.35, while the average overall quality rating of the chili peppers was almost an entire point higher at 4.34. What makes this experiment different from the ODU study was that, among other things, the ratings used were given after students had much more than a single video to judge their professor on.

Whether these results actually mean anything, I don’t know. A lot more research has to be done, but at least this gives guys a good excuse to think with the wrong head from time to time.

Cullen is a journalism junior. He can be reached at cmwheatl@asu.edu


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