Knowing your interpersonal strengths to develop trust and answer questions

Frymier, A. B., & Houser, M. L. (2000). The teacher/student relationship as an interpersonal relationship. Communication Education, 49(3), 207–219.



Developing more effective educators through the understanding of how they communicate with their students is shown to increase student success.  If we take the application from the study done by Frymier (2000), and apply it to higher education administrators we should see an increase in student satisfaction.  The focus of the study was to take existing research on the development of interpersonal relationships, friendships (communication skills) and the use of verbal and non verbal communication(immediacy behaviors), and apply it to student/teacher relationships in the effectiveness of their teaching.

The test used by were based on Burleson and Samter’s Communication Functions Questionnaire (CFQ)(p. 208).  This research tool is able to evaluate eight communications skills: conversational, referential, ego supportive, comforting, conflict, persuasive, narrative and regulation.  Each of these eight areas was then broken down into two different sub sections: affectively oriented and nonaffectively oriented.  Affectively oriented skills consist of: ego support, comforting, regulative behavior and conflict.  The nonaffectively skills consist of: persuasion, narrative, referential, and conversational.

The second focus area of the research was that of the verbal and nonverbal immediacy.  Some of the verbal and nonverbal ways the researchers looked at immediacy were through calling students by name, inquiring about students lives, and engaging them in information seeking (verbal), making eye contact, moving around the room, changes in voice during presentations (nonverbal).  By looking at the ways in which faculty communicate immediacy towards their students, we can see how students perceive closeness and involvement in their classes.

The research was conducted using two studies to answer three research questions looking to answer: perceptions of communication skills and immediacy, differences in male and female perceptions, and relationships between students’ perceptions resulting in motivation and learning.

The first study surveyed students during an introductory communication course in which they completed the CFQ as well as a likert scale test of the importance of immediacy.  The second study was conducted also used the CFQ, and the likert test, but this test focused on the use of immediacy.  Unlike the first study, the second was given to students but they were to reflect on the class in which they just came from.

The first test found that of the eight communication skills, referential, ego support, conflict management, regulative and conversation skills, along with verbal immediacy where the most important factors in the perceived importance of teachers.  The second study showed that the communication skills (referential and ego support) resulted in significant predictors of the learning and the motivation of students to be engaged.

Personal Application:
                        I think that by getting a better understanding of how I communicate with my students and learning how to effectively use my verbal and nonverbal communication, I can better engage with the students I work with.  The researchers discussed that application of better communication and immediacy in the classroom can result in the building of respect and trust (p. 217).  They further state that with increased levels of respect and trust, students are more inclined to engage and most importantly to my work and potential in my research, student ask questions without fear of being judged, or that it is a “stupid question”.

            Unfortunately I am not a mind reader, so when I engage with students I do not always know what is going on with them personally or academically, sometimes they have issues that I can assist them with, if they were willing to share and ask questions.  If I am able to change the way that I am presenting myself to students, I can hope that they become more willing to share so that I can connect them to the resources they need to be successful.

I can also take the information from this study and apply it to the small group that I work with in order to increase the effectiveness of interpersonal communication within the group, which in turn will hopefully make us as a collective more effective in communicating with our students and become more informed of our students.  I find it interesting that much of what is brought up in this research, relates to class discussions in uncertainty reduction, allowing for more open conversations.

Limitations in my practice:
                        Knowing that this research was focused on student/teacher relationships and the ability to be more effective in the classroom, a realm that I am not a part of.  Although I do see myself as an educator, I am not always sure the students that I, and the small group I chair, oversee, see us as teachers.  Bridging the gap between academics and student engagement through formal and informal education will be an area that we need to make more seamless so students can see all administrators at the university as teachers.

Final thoughts:
            I will need to start being more conscious of the ways in which I communicate with my students, including my verbal and nonverbal cues, especially with the first year students that are new to the university and will need more assistance navigating resources.  Only though building more effective interpersonal relationships, supporting students desire to learn, reducing uncertainty, building respect and trust so that they are comfortable talking and asking questions, will I be able to provide the highest levels of access and support to the students so that they can be successful.


Frymier, A. B., & Houser, M. L. (2000). The teacher/student relationship as an interpersonal relationship. Communication Education, 49(3), 207–219.


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