The Impact of Student-Faculty Informal Interpersonal Relationships on Intellectual and Personal Development

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of student-faculty informal interpersonal relationships on student's intellectual and personal development. An instrument developed by Pascarella and Terenzini (1977) based on Tinto's model, was applied on 252 students (100 males and 152 females) who were enrolled in bachelor programs at Ajman University, UAE during the second semester of 2004-2005. Student- faculty informal interpersonal relationships were measured in six components: academic integration, peer relations, social integration, informal faculty relations, faculty concern, and student commitment. Multivariate regression procedures were used to determine the extent to which social interaction can predict students' personal and intellectual development. Significant differences were found between males and females on their personal and intellectual development. Also, social interaction was able to explain 34% of the variance on students' intellectual development and 45% of the variance on their personal development.

Introduction

Most experts in higher education agree that students' informal interactions with faculty members have a positive relationship to personal growth as well as academic achievement. Many studies have indicated that student outcomes are dependent on school environment (Hughes, 1986). Successful students consistently rated teachers as friends, helpers, and assistants. Informal interaction of college students and faculty affects students' academic achievement, satisfaction with college, and intellectual and personal development (Lamport), 1993).

The results of a study by Terenzini and Pascarella (1980) noted a positive influence of both the frequency and quality of students' informal relationships with faculty. Bean and Kuh (1984) found that some students may select demanding courses and try to influence professors through informal means to improve their grades. Other students may visit faculty members during office hours or after class and appear interested in the material covered in class. The professors in this case may think that the student is really interested in the course and give a student a good grade because of enthusiasm rather than performance. These situations show that students may try to influence the professors by informal means with the goal of raising their grades. It is hard to determine whether these students are initially motivated to achieve high grades or are stimulated to work hard by contact with faculty.

According to Aluko (1994) teaching goes beyond transmitting knowledge to students. Faculty members, therefore, must help to develop their students emotionally. It is important that faculty members interact with their students, not only in the classroom but outside the classroom as well.

Yet, little is known about how student-faculty informal interaction can positively affect students' intellectual and personal development. Thus, this study focused on the impact of student-faculty informal interpersonal relationships on the intellectual and personal development of students. The research will attempt to find if the intellectual and personal development of students is related to their social and faculty interaction. Research in this area increases the faculty awareness of the need for keeping an open climate and good communication with their students. It will also encourage college administrators and faculty members to facilitate student-faculty communication.

Review of the Literature

Nadler (1994) studied the nature of the relationship between the level of first-year college students' communication and academic achievement and their perceptions of the university environment. The researcher found that there are strong relationships between student communication on campus and student academic achievement. He recommended increasing the level of interaction between instructors and students, and increasing student levels of adjustment to school by assisting them with their academic achievement. …