The Effect of Student-Faculty Interaction on College Students' Academic Achievement and Self Concept

Article excerpt

Numerous projects have focused on the relationship between student-faculty interactions and outcome variables such as academic achievement and overall satisfaction of college students (e.g., Lamport, 1993; Pascarella, 1980; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1976; Pascarella, Terenzini, & Hibel, 1978). To date, however, there has been no empirical work that has examined the relation between student-faculty interaction and college students' self-concept. Determining whether or not faculty have an impact on students' self-concept may be meaningful in regard to students' overall achievement as well as, their general experience in college.

Student-Faculty Interaction

Tinto (1987) stated that student-faculty interactions, which include both formal classroom experiences and informal interactions outside of class, are crucial to the academic continuation and intellectual development of students. According to Tinto (1987), a lack of such interactions is a very significant determinant of attrition. Likewise, Pascarella and Terenzini (1976) reported that the frequency and quality of student-faculty interactions significantly predict freshman academic outcomes such as college satisfaction and attrition. Related work has found that students who frequently interacted with faculty expressed greater satisfaction with their total college experience in comparison to students who interact at a lesser level (Wilson, Gaff, Dienst, Wood, & Bavry, 1975). Wilson et al. (1975) also indicate that faculty who enjoy and seek interaction with students outside of class demonstrate their accessibility for such interaction through their in-class attitudes and teaching styles.

In a project that specifically examined the relation between student-faculty interaction and academic performance, Pascarella, Terenzini, and Hibel (1978) found that student-faculty interactions had a significant influence on students' academic performance as measured by students' SAT scores and freshman year cumulative GPA. Interactions focusing on intellectual or course-related matters had the strongest association with achievement (Pascarella, Terenzini, & Hibel, 1978). However, interactions dealing mostly with future careers also made a significant contribution to students' achievement. Further, they found that students who interacted more frequently with faculty, performed better academically than what was predicted from their pre-enrollment characteristics (i.e., SAT scores). On the other hand, students who seldom met with faculty tended to achieve at lower levels than predicted. Taken together, the existing research suggests that student-faculty interactions are important to a student's college experience.

College Student Self-Concept

Self-concept can be defined as how a person thinks about him/herself in different areas of his or her life. More specifically, academic self-concept refers to a student's perceptions of his or her academic abilities (House, 1992). A number of projects (e.g., Hamachek, 1995; House, 1993) have shown that students' self concept is significantly associated with academic achievement. Further, Loeb and Magee (1992) suggest that students with low self-esteem who find it difficult adjusting to college academics may benefit from support (e.g., faculty, peers, family) which may lead to increased satisfaction with college and enhanced self-concept. Lastly, Gerdes and Mallinckrodt (1994) recently suggested that having support and interaction with faculty may be related to students' academic achievement and self-concept.

The Present Study

The present study examines the relation between student-faculty interactions and students' academic achievement and self-concept. Based upon the existing research, it is hypothesized that positive student-faculty interactions will result in higher levels of academic achievement among college students. There has been no empirical work, to date, which directly examines the relation between student-faculty interaction and college student self-concept. …