Academic journal article College Student Journal

Can Teacher Self-Disclosure Increase Student Cognitive Learning?

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Can Teacher Self-Disclosure Increase Student Cognitive Learning?

Article excerpt

Students (N =102) from communication courses at a Southern regional university was divided into two groups. Each group listened to a 10-minute taped lecture about personality types. One group listened to a lecture that included self-disclosures by the lecturer. The other group listened to a lecture that covered the same material but without the self-disclosures. Regression results showed that the self-disclosure was a significant predictor for test scores on definitions but not examples. Stepwise regressions suggest that self-disclosure marginally predicts relevancy but not perceptions about the credibility of the instructor. The authors note that the tests did not count for course grade and students had little incentive to recall the lecture material. Perhaps self-disclosure effects would be stronger if students had an incentive to learn.

Keywords: self-disclosure, relevancy, cognitive learning, expertise, credibility, recall

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Does teacher self-disclosure impact student cognitive learning? Research has linked teacher self-disclosure to many different variables (for a review, see Manzer, Murphy, & Simonds, 2008; for more recent research, see: Cayanus & Martin 2008; Cayanus, Martin & Goodboy, 2009), but little research has tried to find a connection between teacher self-disclosure and cognitive learning. The present study seeks to explore this connection. McCarthy and Schmeck (1982), one of few researchers to explore this connection, concluded that teacher self-disclosure positively affected the cognitive learning of male participants more than females (p. 48). More recently, Stoltz, Young, and Bryant (2012) found that teacher self-disclosure positively affected cognitive learning for both male and female students. The present study seeks to replicate these findings and examine two possible explanations for them.

The present study offers relevancy and teacher credibility as two possible factors to explain why teacher self-disclosure would increase student cognitive learning. Zhang (2009) reported connections between teacher credibility and affective learning. Keller's (1983; 1987a; 1987b; 2012) ARCS model explains that students must see material as relevant in order to learn it. If teacher self-disclosure can be shown to increase student perception of the relevancy of the material, then this explanation is plausible. Alternatively, since the connection between teacher credibility and student learning is well established (Zhang, 2009), a connection between teacher self-disclosure and student cognitive learning may be established if the self-disclosure can be shown to increase teacher credibility.

What makes course content material relevant?

The present study assumes that relevancy is not an immediacy variable but a content variable. Cayanus (2008) points out that self-disclosure may lose some of its ability to impact student learning if its content does not have some relevance to the material being taught. Frymier and Shulman (1995) explain this further when they write: "There is nothing in the conceptualization of relevancy that indicates that the [immediacy of the] teacher-student relationship will play a role in increasing relevance" (p. 41). Other researchers have acknowledged that relevance is content oriented (Keller, 1983, 1987; Sass, 1989; Weaver and Cottrell, 1988). The present study hypothesizes that teacher self-disclosure with content that is relevant to the course material will increase student perception of the relevance of the material.

One of the major theories to address the issue of relevance in student learning is Keller's (1983, 1987a, 1987b, 2012) ARCS Model of Motivational Design. The ARCS Model identifies four essential strategy components for motivating instruction: Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction (Keller, 1983,1987a, 1987b, 2012). Relevance is defined as strategies that connect material to the motives, needs, and interests of the learner (Keller, 1983). …

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