Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Article Note: On students and out-of-classroom support

Citation for the article:

Jones, Adam C. "The Effects of Out-of-Class Support on Student Satisfaction and Motivation to Learn." Communication Education 57.3 (July 2008): 373-388.

Read via EBSCO EJS Service.

This article deals with the topic of out-of-classroom support for college students and how it can affect their satisfaction and motivation. According to the article, a lot of the research in communication studies has focused on interactions inside the classroom, and this article adds to the literature by looking at interactions outside of the classroom. For me, I think this is a little bit of validation for some of my experiences in working with students, especially applicable to my previous workplace where I did fairly extensive work with individual students. It may also be good to look at the article in light of some of the literature on retention, which I have looked at previously.

Some general notes from the article:

  • "An increasing body of research points to social support as a means for improving immediate outcomes of stressed individuals (Burleson and MacGeorge, 2002)" (qtd. in 374). This is in the literature review part, and it is in the context of pointing out how stress can have a negative impact on students' psychological and physical health.
  • "The researchers concluded that perceived qualities such as kindness, compassion, and helpfulness, along with teacher humor orientation, promote teacher-student conversations that extend to issues beyond the specifics of course assignments and information" (374).
  • The study reported in this article seeks to learn how teachers that use out-of-classroom support (OCS) affect students' experiences.
  • The definition of OCS: "OCS is defined in this study as as teacher communication, occurring outside of the classroom setting, that demonstrates a responsiveness to students' needs; communicates caring; validates students' worth, feelings or actions; and helps students manage and cope with stressful situations through the provision of information, assistance, or tangible resources" (375).
  • 594 undergraduates enrolled in basic communication courses and one upper division course participated in the study by completing a voluntary questionnaire. They answered questions about six different scenarios that controlled for levels of OCS. Readers can look at the article for details on how the author controlled for the scenarios.
Some of the findings:
  • Similar to results in other studies about communication for young people, "students are also more satisfied after interacting with teachers who communicate OCS in response to students seeking help" (382).
  • "Teachers may take solace in knowing that neither their own sex nor their students' sex interferes with or contributes to their ability to benefit from social support opportunities" (383). In plain English, gender was not a significant predictor for OCS results.
  • However, there is the caveat that teachers are not expected to be counselors or psychologists. They need to know when to refer students to other appropriate campus resources as needed. Yet do keep in mind that teachers are often the first line of defense, so to speak. Note: "Teachers' use of OCS may allow students to feel more comfortable and more connected to their teachers and to their academic institutions, affecting their persistence in school" (383).
  • A limitation of the study was that it was not very ethnically or racially diverse. 89% of participants were identified as Caucasian.
  • Like much of the pedagogical endeavor, there can be some risks. For students, they may be reluctant to seek OCS if they perceive a teacher is not supportive, or if they feel asking for help can be seen by others as weakness or incompetence. For the teacher, providing OCS for one student could be perceived by others as preferential treatment, so a teacher might be reluctant to act. Some teachers may be sceptical about a students' need (for example, do they really need an extension on an assignment for a valid reason?). However, I think the research bears out that the outcomes outweight the risks.

No comments: