Academic journal article Community College Review

Informal Student-Faculty Interaction: Its Relationship to Educational Gains in Science and Mathematics among Community College Students

Academic journal article Community College Review

Informal Student-Faculty Interaction: Its Relationship to Educational Gains in Science and Mathematics among Community College Students

Article excerpt


The central purpose of this study was to examine the connection between informal student-faculty interaction, the perceived quality of effort asserted in science courses, and perceived educational gains in science-and mathematics-based courses for community college students within the context of Pace's (1979) concept of social and academic involvement. Pace's "quality of effort" concept of social and academic involvement assumes that the effects of college on students' differential patterns of growth and development can be assessed through the efforts students expend in utilizing the resources provided by higher education institutions. A path analytic model is proposed for the present study operationalizing constructs developed from previous research on the positive influences of informal student-faculty interaction on students' academic achievement in science and mathematics. This examination tested the hypothesized model's applicability in the study of the disparity between men and women persisting in science- and mathematics-based majors.

Academic Environments & Informal Student-Faculty Interaction

The importance and influence of informal student-faculty interaction on the differential patterns of student learning and growth has been documented for decades (see, for example, Feldman & Newcomb, 1969; Lamport, 1993; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1976; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; Theophilides & Terenzini, 1981). The interaction has been identified as a primary agent of college culture, and as a significant influence on the attitudes, interests, and values of college students (Chickering, 1969; Feldman & Newcomb, 1969; Newman & Newman, 1978; Pascarella, 1980; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1978, 1991; Terenzini & Pascarella, 1980; Wallace, 1966).

Other studies have revealed evidence that informal student-faculty interaction plays an important role in the learning environment (Churukian, 1982; Cooper, Stewart, & Gudykunst, 1982; Davis & Young, 1982; Feldman, 1983; Rogers, 1962; Theophilides & Terenzini, 1981). These studies found that the instructional quality and value of the learning environment is related to the quality of the interpersonal relationship between the faculty member and student. For example, the more accessible an instructor is in sharing experiences, ideas, research, and personal time outside the classroom, the more effective the instructor (Churukian, 1982; Feldman, 1983).

In turn, the degree of effectiveness and accessibility of an instructor has also been noted as a positive influence on the academic performance and overall institutional satisfaction for students (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). Those students who have developed interpersonal relationships with faculty members tend to reveal higher degrees of academic skills development. They were also more satisfied with their institutional experiences (Nauta, Epperson, & Kahn, 1998; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1976, 1991).

Gender, Science, & Mathematics

It has been well documented in recent research that women in higher education earn fewer undergraduate and graduate degrees in science- and mathematics-based majors than men (Barber, 1995; Ethington, 1988; Hilton & Lee, 1988; Maple & Stage, 1991). Much of that research has focused primarily on gender differences in academic self-confidence. The accumulated evidence suggests that students' self-perception of academic ability and the confidence they assert in scholarly activities is highly related to their degree of attainment in science and mathematics.

In addition, academic self-confidence ratings tend to be more instrumental in science and mathematics achievement for women than for men (Alper, 1993; Astin & Sax, 1994; Betz & Hackett, 1981; Busch, 1996; Cooper & Robinson, 1989; Fennema & Peterson, 1985; Leder, 1992; Leder & Fennema, 1990; McLeod, 1992; Santiago & Einarson, 1998; Stage & Kloosterman, 1995). …

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