Academic journal article College Student Journal

College Students' Perceptions of What Teaching Assistants Are Self-Disclosing in the Classroom

Academic journal article College Student Journal

College Students' Perceptions of What Teaching Assistants Are Self-Disclosing in the Classroom

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to examine college students' perceptions of their teaching assistants' self-disclosure behavior in the classroom. Students in the introductory speech course rated their teaching assistants' self-disclosure based on positive and negative statements. In addition, student rated the self-disclosure on intent to disclose, amount of disclosure, depth of disclosure, accuracy/honesty of the disclosure, positive or negative nature of self-disclosure. Results indicate that students are able to discern their teaching assistants self-disclosure behaviors.

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Good communication is essential for good teaching. As McCroskey and Richmond (1983) stated, "The importance of effective communication in the classroom can not be overstated. Communication is central to the teaching process" (p. 175). However, not all teachers are trained with the skills and knowledge to communicate effectively in the classroom. Some of these untrained teachers are graduate teaching assistants.

Teaching assistants are frequently employed in the college classroom (e.g., Myers, 1998). Teaching assistants are often given the advice to self-disclose in the classroom to create immediacy and credibility. Yet, little is known concerning how much, what, and when teaching assistants are self-disclosing in the college classroom. Could personal information damage the image of the teaching assistant and in turn damage the dynamics of the classroom environment? Moreover, some examples that teaching assistants may use to self disclose and to use as an illustration to classroom content may cross the boundary of what is appropriate and what is not. Could disclosing information in the classroom cause tension or embarrassment for teaching assistants based on their students' perceptions? Hence, certain self-disclosures may have positive or negative effects in the classroom.

Williams and Roach (1992) found that teaching assistants reported that classroom management was a major concern. Managing the classroom requires effective communication behaviors and appropriate self-disclosure behaviors. Hence, this paper shall highlight some of the previous research literature on teaching assistants and self-disclosure. Likewise, this study investigates college students' perceptions about their teaching assistants' self-disclosure behaviors.

Teaching Assistants

Roach (1991) noted that graduate teaching assistants' instruction to undergraduates is an area of major importance. Buerkel-Rothfuss and Gray (1990) ascertained that graduate teaching assistants have a huge impact in American colleges and universities. Teaching assistants have become a common routine in the college classroom (Anderson, 1992).

Despite the prevalence of teaching assistants in the classroom, most teaching assistants do not get any type of training (Buerkel-Rothfuss and Gray, 1990). In fact, 25% of teaching assistants reported that they did not receive any type of training such as directing discussions and lectures (Diamond & Gray, 1987). If communication is important in the classroom, then what teachers disclose in class should be important as well.

Self-Disclosure

Research indicates that self-disclosure has an impact on relationships (e.g., Dindia, Fitzpatrick, and Kenny, 1997; Martin, & Anderson, 1995; Jones & Brunner, 1984). Derlega, Metts, Petronio, and Margulis (1983) defined self-disclosure as the manner in which individuals reveal information about themselves to another person. Wheeless (1978) believed that self-disclosure is comprised of five dimensions: Intent to disclose, amount of disclosure, depth of disclosure, accuracy/honesty of the disclosure, positive or negative nature of self-disclosure.

In the instructional context, Sorenson (1989) maintained that self disclosure by teachers are, "teacher statements in the classroom about self that may or may not be related to subject content, but reveal information about the teacher that students are unlikely to learn from other sources" (p. …

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