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.


Checking your attitude: Interpersonal interactions and the Turning Points they cause

Tiffany R. Wang (2014) Formational Turning Points in the Transition to College: Understanding How Communication Events Shape First-Generation Students’ Pedagogical and Interpersonal Relationships With Their College Teachers, Communication Education, 63:1, 63-2,DOI:10.1080/03634523.2013.841970


Tiffany Wang sets the scene for helping us understand how the simple interactions educators have with students, in particular first generation students, can have a lasting effect on their perception of college, their transition, and ultimately their success rates. Mainly focusing on the transition period in first generation student’s college career, Wang looks to explore and find the “Turning Points” that occur in a student’s career path caused by interpersonal communication between educator and student.  Turning points being the interactions that help a student and make them feel successful and continue on an upward path, or those that are not helpful and become areas for divergence.  She also poses that knowing your audience and understanding them will go a long way in helping both student and teacher achieve success.  Wang utilizes several theories as a basis for research, citing many articles on the topics of interpersonal communication, retention, success and transition.  Perhaps the quote that helps surmise the overall theme is “results in a change in assumptions about oneself and the world thus requires a corresponding change in one’s behavior and relationships” (Wang, 2014).


Over the course of the research Wang used a mixed methods approach to answer the proposed research questions.  The methods taken were that of interview, resulting in 480 pages of transcription, and of graphing of experiences on an x,y axis chart and plotting points self identified as turning points.  The interesting point about the qualitative data received, is that from having a discussion about what the turning points were, and why they were ranked high or low on the chart.  This method provided participants the ability to tell their story, which in turn helped develop a sense of shared points of reference.  The researcher was then able to pull together common themes from the population.

The sample for this study consisted of 30 students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, at least 19 years of age, and qualified as first generation as defined by the US Department of Education.


Interactions with students that resulted in a “Turning Point” pedagogical

  • Helped students with course-related problems
  • Failed to help students with course-related problems
  • Engaged students
  • Misbehaved
  • o   Incompetence
  • o   Offensiveness
  • o   Indolent

Interactions with students that resulted in a “Turning Point” interpersonal

  • Empowered students
  • Minimization of power and distance
  • Helped with personal problems

Through the research it can be inferred that personality of each individual can and will be a factor in the perception of interactions.  Much of this can be found in the direct quotes and vivid information pulled from the qualitative data. It is also filled with rich story telling that gives much insight into the expectations and mind set of these first generation and students and what could be seen as a regular interaction with a student, can be taken as being rude, incompetent, or even failing to help, based on their contextual knowledge of navigating the collegiate environment.


  • Student population demographics of the study
  • Sample size
  • Classes/subjects of participants
  • First generation students lack of preparedness for rigor and types of interactions at college level
  • Access to students supplemental resources to assist in transition

Usage for myself:

I personally see great benefit from this study, both from the topic of inquiry to the actual design method.  Gathering information through mixed methods gives me the sense that I am getting more of the full picture.  In this research the participants had the opportunity to actually tell their story, to help give shared meaning and understanding of who they are and what their experience is.  Personally I like the idea of the turning point, as it worked with existing theory, but also accounted for student experience not being linear, or there being defined areas of progress through a stage.

The topic was very interesting as my undergraduate degree in organizational/interpersonal communication paired with my masters in higher education; this research was a great intersection of my passions.  Not only did it bring my education together, it hit on area of interest, in bridging the gap between academic and student affairs in the approach of working with each student as an individual.

This research also sheds light on the concept of students perception is their reality.  Although it was not explicitly stated in the article, one can infer that checking your attitude when working with a student can have a lasting effect on their overall experience.  I think to myself of how many times I was tired, frustrated, or not 100% invested in the conversation with a student, did that cause a turning point downward.  Has a meeting that ran late, resulting in missing an appointment that I did not follow up on result in a turning point.  Wang’s research has given me some things to think about in my own work and in future research.


Tiffany R. Wang (2014) Formational Turning Points in the Transition to College: Understanding How Communication Events Shape First-Generation Students’ Pedagogical and Interpersonal Relationships With Their College Teachers, Communication Education, 63:1, 63-2,DOI:10.1080/03634523.2013.841970