Fake Professor, Real Course
Brief summary: A professor ("Dr. H") allowed a group of students from a campus radio show to pretend to pull a prank on the first day of class. They hired an actor to pretend to be Dr. H and start the course, emphasizing difficulty of the course and describing a very restrictive cell phone and laptop policy.
This prank seems fairly harmless (the real Dr. H shows up and "debriefs" the class) but I wonder whether there are potentially long-term impacts to this prank. Specifically: we know that first impressions and the fundamental attribution error are powerful (irresistible, to some extent) and I wonder if some students in this class might develop harmful schemata about the course (and/or their success in the course) based on the prank?
One semester I asked a student to help me with a fundamental attribution error demonstration. We pretended to have a verbal fight in front of the class, then I surveyed students about their attributions. The demonstration "worked" - students attributed my behavior to the situation and hers to her inner disposition - but I never did that demo again because students told me that it "colored" their experience in the class for days.
I'm sure that the demo in this video did "enliven" the experience of the chemistry students, but I wonder about it. What do you think? Am I taking it too seriously? Would you do a demonstration like this? Since many of you reading this probably just started your teaching year, how do you "enliven" the first day of class?
posted by Rob McEntarffer