Coming Out in the Classroom An Occupational Hazard?: The Influence of Sexual Orientation on Teacher Credibility and Perceived Student Learning

This study examined the influence of instructor sexual orientation on perceptions of teacher credibility. The purpose was to determine if college students perceive gay teachers as less credible than straight teachers. In addition, we sought to explore the role of teacher credibility in terms of perceived student learning. In order to examine these variables, a male confederate presented a lecture on cultural influences to 154 undergraduate students enrolled in eight separate introductory communication classes. In each class, the confederate was careful to keep his delivery and immediacy cues (e.g., vocal expressiveness, movement, and eye contact) natural and consistent. The confederate’s sexual orientation, however, was systematically manipulated. Findings indicate that students perceive a gay teacher as significantly less credible than a straight teacher. This study also found that students of a gay teacher perceive that they learn considerably less than students of a straight teacher. To help explain the complex reasons behind students’ biased evaluations, the authors have included an in-depth qualitative analysis of participants’ responses.