Commentary on the Impact of Teacher Appearance and Age on Student Attitudes

Colin G. Pennington


Early research in the psychological and social development of students has explored the effect of a teacher’s appearance on physical education students’ learning and perceptions of the teacher. Initial studies of this nature suggested that teachers’ appearance, clothing, and fitness influenced students’ perceptions of teachers’ instructional ability. The purpose of this commentary is to review and summarize the literature relative to teacher age and appearance to provide considerations for sport pedagogists, K-12 educators, and health professionals while teaching students about the concept of age-related stereotypes and healthy aging. A thorough literature review was conducted using search terms related to age, youthful age-related stereotypes, and youthful perceptions of healthy aging. Themes were categorized into logical categories. College, middle school, and elementary school students favor being taught by younger teachers. Research on perceptions of age and aging in general has indicated that a bias against older individuals is evident in very young children and becomes stronger as they age and enter adolescence. Furthermore, research has also indicated that children, adults, and youth often regard older individuals negatively. It is important to further assess how the reduction of age stereotypes among youth influences the attitudes and behaviors of youth. Schools can play a significant role in influencing the perceptions children have of the elderly and the aging process. They have the resources and capabilities to integrate material on healthy aging into their curricula as well as to introduce students to older individuals, thus reinforcing the view of aging as a more positive experience.

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