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The Classroom as a Negotiated Social Setting: An Empirical Study of the Effects of Faculty Members' Behavior on Students' Participation

Carol J. Auster and Mindy MacRone
Teaching Sociology
Vol. 22, No. 4, Interpersonal and Interactional Aspects of Teaching (Oct., 1994), pp. 289-300
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1318921
Page Count: 12
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Abstract

Since we believe that the relationship between students and teachers is the result of responses to a negotiated social setting, we studied the impact of faculty members' interactional behaviors, particularly those indicating role distance from the powerful and all-knowing professor, on students' participation. We examined the effect of students' gender on their perceptions of male and female faculty members' behavior in the classroom. Findings generally indicated that interactional behaviors which show students the importance of their questions, ideas, and knowledge promote student participation regardless of the student's gender. Although female professors' courses were more likely to be those in which students participated the most, the findings also showed that participation was not affected by gender per se, but rather by how often the faculty member engaged in the behavior with the respondent. Consequently, faculty should often: 1) call on students when they volunteer, and call on them by name; 2) provide positive reinforcement in the form of encouragement and approval; 3) ask analytical (not factual questions) and provide students ample time to answer; and 4) ask for students' opinions even when they do not volunteer. The discussion section further elaborates on the implications of the findings for teaching and for future studies on this topic.

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