What is the Benefit of Authenticity in the Classroom?

During your elementary years, you may have experienced shock when you saw your teacher outside of school for the first time. This common epiphany, that teachers are people who go to grocery stores, is an important realization, and one that should not be left behind when we advance to higher education.

In a nutshell:
Large lecture classes present substantial obstacles for students to get to know their professors. However, research suggests that this connection is an important one. Specifically, instructors who are authentic or share their thoughts and experiences in the classroom may promote student engagement. Their self-disclosure could also lead to a collaborative classroom culture.2

Why bother?
It is no secret that the educational environment within the United States is a competitive, individualistic one. However, the skills needed for workplace success in the 21st century digital economy are focused on communication and collaboration.Therefore, as instructors, we need to model positive interpersonal skills by being authentic with our students. The benefits of doing so are quite exciting.

Professors who self-disclose more frequently may increase students’ motivation.Further, “students may feel more comfortable communicating in the classroom and will approach the teacher with course questions and concerns, which may have a positive influence on important learning outcomes.”2

The how-to guide:
Some authenticity strategies to apply in your courses include:

  • using personal examples when lecturing on material,
  • saying students’ names in discussion, and
  • including humor occasionally.1

If you have a smaller class size, consider individual meetings with each student at the beginning of the semester to simply get to know one another. An easy conversation starter is to ask the student why they enrolled in the course.

History lesson:
Petronio’s work on the Privacy Management Theory explains how we all maintain public and private lives by managing information.Overall, students respond positively to professor’s self-disclosure. Consider the research conducted by Andersen, Norton, & Nussbaum (1981), Bryant, Comiskey, & Zillman (1979), Civikly (1986) and Norton & Nussbaum (1981) all which demonstrated that instructors are perceived as more effective in explaining course content the more often they self-disclose.2

In addition, “Prior research suggests that teacher self-disclosure has a positive influence on important variables such as teacher clarity (Wamback & Brothen, 1997), student participation (Fusani, 1994; Goldstein & Benassi, 1994), and effective learning (Sorensen, 1989).”2

The bottom line:
Although it is a balancing act between promoting your credibility and status, and building genuine relationships with students, the positive impact you can make will be worth the effort.

References:

  1. Gorham, J. (1988). The relationship between verbal teacher immediacy behaviors and student learning. Communication Education, 37, 40-53.
  2. Mazer, J. P., Murphy, R. E., & Simonds, C. J. (2007). I’ll see you on ‘facebook’: The effects of computer-mediated teacher self-disclosure on student motivation, affective learning, and classroom climate. Communication Education 56(1). Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.469.2386&rep=rep1&type=pdf
  3. Murphy, J. (2018, April 27). Four essential skills for workplace success in the 21st century digital economy. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2018/04/27/four-essential-skills-for-workplace-success-in-the-21st-century-digital-economy/
  4. Petronio, S. (2002). Boundaries of privacy: Dialectics of disclosure. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

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About the author:

Tricia Tauer is in her last semester of the educational leadership program at NDSU.  She will graduate with a Master of Education degree in August 2019.  Tricia has worked as a Graduate Assistant for Learning Services for the past two years, and she is passionate about helping new students develop the study skills they need to be successful in college.  Her personal motto is to, ‘work hard and be nice to people’.

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