Academic journal article Communication Studies

Out of Class Communication between Faculty and Students: A Faculty Perspective

Academic journal article Communication Studies

Out of Class Communication between Faculty and Students: A Faculty Perspective

Article excerpt

Researchers examining educational settings and communication practices have focused largely on behaviors inside the formal classroom. For example, Nussbaum's (1992) review of effective teacher behaviors was limited to in-class behaviors of teachers and found over 1000 studies in this area published since 1970. In comparison, relatively little research has focused on out of class (OOC) communication (e.g., impromptu office visits, scheduled advising sessions, chance meetings, etc.), yet what has been conducted consistently supports the importance of this kind of faculty-student interaction. It is certainly considered important by the vast majority of universities that require faculty to maintain office hours for this purpose, and it is generally considered to be a part of teaching for faculty.

The limited research that has been conducted on OOC contact between faculty and students, however, has generally not examined the role that communication plays in these interactions. Thus, research is needed to explore the role of communication and sex in OOC interaction settings from both the point of view of the students and faculty involved. This study deals with faculty reports of and perceptions about their out of class communication interactions with college students.

Benefits of OOC Communication Between Faculty and Students

Most of the research on student-faculty OOC contact has been published in the education literature, focusing on its importance in student retention (e.g. Pascarella, 1980; Pascarella and Terenzini, 1979, 1977; Pascarella, Terenzini, and Hibel, 1978; Terenzini and Pascarella, 1980, 1977; Tinto, 1987; Wilson, Wood and Gaff, 1974). Generally, students who stayed in college reported significantly more contacts with faculty outside the classroom than did students who eventually dropped out. Due to changing demographics, increased public criticism of higher education, and more competition for a declining number of students, student retention is becoming a high priority at most institutions.

There are, however, other important benefits associated with student-faculty interaction outside the traditional classroom. Some researchers have found that this OOC contact has a direct influence on students' academic performance (e.g. Chickering, 1969; Pascarella, 1980; Pascarella and Terenzini, 1976, 1977, 1978; Pascarella, Terenzini and Hibel, 1978; Spady, 1970; Terenzini and Pascarella, 1979; Theophilides and Terenzini, 1981). This research has supported the concept that greater OOC contact leads to improved GPA's and better GRE scores.

Other benefits for students from greater OOC contact found in prior literature have included better developed career plans (Pascarella, 1980; Wilson, Gaff, Dienst, Wood and Bavry, 1975; Wilson, Wood and Gaff, 1974; Wood and Wilson, 1972), higher educational aspirations (Grigg, 1965; Gurin and Katz, 1966; Pascarella, 1980; Phelan, 1979), more satisfaction with college experiences (Astin, 1977; Newcomb, Brown, Kulik, Reimer and Revelle, 1970; Pascarella, 1980; Pascarella and Terenzini, 1976; Spady, 1971; Wilson et al., 1974, 1975; Wood and Wilson, 1972), and better intellectual and personal development (Chickering, 1972; Chickering and McCormick, 1973; Pascarella, 1980; Pascarella and Terenzini, 1976).

While the cause-effect sequence could be debated (i.e., does OOC produce these benefits or do students with better developed career plans and higher educational aspirations seek out more OOC), it is clear the OOC contact plays a beneficial role for students. Further, these contacts, which help students, also benefit educational institutions as well. Certainly educational institutions seek to improve student performance and student satisfaction, and OOC communication is considered by some to be an integral part of liberal education. As Theophilides and Terenzini (198 I) suggest "... a sound undergraduate liberal arts education is gained in a holistic academic context, one grounded in faculty-student interaction not confined by the physical boundaries of the formal classroom. …

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