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The relationship between students' motives to communicate with their instructors and perceived instructor credibility, attractiveness, and homophily.

This study investigated the relationship between students' motives to communicate (i.e., relational, functional, participatory, excuse making, and sycophantic) with their instructors and perceived instructor credibility, attractiveness, and homophily. 150 undergraduate students (85 men, 64 women, one did not indicate sex) enrolled at a large Mid-Atlantic university completed the Student Motives to Communicate Scale, the Measure of Source Credibility Scale, the revised Measure of Interpersonal Attraction Scale, and the revised Measure of Homophily scale. Analysis indicated that the functional motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor character and caring. Moreover, the relational motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor social and physical attractiveness; the functional motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor task and social attractiveness; the participatory motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor task, social, and physical attractiveness; and the sycophantic motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor social and physical attractiveness. In addition, the relational motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor attitude and background homophily, the participatory motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor attitude homophily, and the sycophantic motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor attitude and background homophily. Also, the excuse-making motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor social attractiveness and attitude homophily.

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Within the past decade, researchers have paid increasing attention to the role students' motives to communicate with their instructors plays in the college classroom. Conceptualized by Martin, Myers, and Mottet (1999), students' motives to communicate with their instructors represent the needs that students desire to have fulfilled through communication with their instructors and can emerge in five forms: relational, functional, participatory, excuse making, and sycophantic. Students who communicate for the relational motive are interested in learning more about their instructors on an interpersonal level. Students who communicate for the functional motive do so to obtain information about course requirements or assignments. Students who communicate for the participatory motive are interested in becoming actively involved in classroom discussion and responding to instructor queries or comments. Students who communicate for the excuse making motive do so to offer reasons for why their work is late, incomplete, or not finished. Students who communicate for the sycophantic motive desire to make a favorable impression on their instructors.

For many students, their desire to communicate with their instructors to fulfill their relational, functional, participatory, and sycophantic motives is related to whether instructors engage in verbal and nonverbal immediacy (Gendrin & Rucker, 2007; Martin, Valencic, & Heisel, 2001), utilize verbal approach strategies (Mottet, Martin, & Myers, 2004), engage in self-disclosure (Cayanus, Martin, & Goodboy, 2009), and use humor (Dunleavy, 2006) who also avoid the use of verbally aggressive behaviors (Myers, Edwards, Wahl, & Martin, 2007) and instructional misbehaviors (Goodboy, Myers, & Bolkan, 2010), largely because instructors' use of these behaviors implicitly invites students to interact with them. Conversely, whether students communicate for the excuse making motive is considered to be more dependent on their own personality and communication traits (e.g., Machiavellianism, communication apprehension) rather than instructors' in-class communicative behaviors (Jordan & Powers, 2007; Martin, Myers, & Mottet, 2006).

Given these findings, we were interested in examining whether students' motives to communicate with their instructors are linked to the impressions they make about their instructors. These impressions include perceived instructor credibility, instructor attractiveness, and instructor homophily. Instructor credibility refers to the extent to which students consider their instructors to be believable (Teven & McCroskey, 1997) across the three dimensions of competence (i.e., the instructor is considered to be an expert on the subject matter), character (i.e., the instructor is considered to be trustworthy), and caring (i.e., the instructor is considered to be concerned about students' welfare; J. C. McCroskey, Richmond, & McCroskey, 2006). Instructor attractiveness refers to the extent to which students consider their instructors to be appealing and desirable in the areas of task attractiveness (i.e., the instructor is considered to be someone with whom students would desire to work or complete a task), social attractiveness (i.e., the instructor is considered to be someone with whom students would want to socialize), and physical attractiveness (i.e., the instructor is considered to be someone that students rate as physically appealing; Edwards & Edwards, 2001). Instructor homophily refers to the extent to which students consider their instructors to share similar attitudes (i.e., shared beliefs, attitudes, and values) and backgrounds (i.e., shared experiences; J. C. McCroskey et al., 2006).

For many students, their decision to participate in class is linked to their impressions of instructor credibility, attractiveness, and homophily. For instance, Myers (2004) reported that students are willing to talk in class when they consider their instructors to possess character and caring and students are likely to engage in out-of-class communication with their instructors when they consider their instructors to possess competence, character, and caring. In a similar vein, students are likely to participate in class when they consider their instructors to be both socially and physically attractive and to possess both attitude and background homophily (Myers et al., 2009). Based on these findings, it is likely that students who consider their instructors to be credible, to be attractive, and to possess homophily will be motivated to communicate with them for relational, functional, participatory, and sycophantic reasons. At the same time, it is uncertain whether a relationship exists between students' motives to communicate with their instructors for excuse making and instructors' credibility, attractiveness, and homophily. To investigate this likelihood and address this uncertainty, the following hypotheses are posited and the following research question is posed:

H1: Students' motives to communicate with their instructors (i.e., relational, functional, participatory, and sycophantic) will be related positively to perceived instructor credibility (i.e., competence, character, and caring).

H2: Students' motives to communicate with their instructors (i.e., relational, functional, participatory, and sycophantic) will be related positively to perceived instructor attractiveness (i.e., task, social, and physical).

H3: Students' motives to communicate with their instructors (i.e., relational, functional, participatory, and sycophantic) will be related positively to perceived instructor homophily (i.e, attitude, back ground).

RQ1: Does a relationship exist between students' motives to communicate with their instructors for excuse making and perceived instructor credibility, attractiveness, and homophily?

Method

Participants

Participants were 150 undergraduate students (85 men, 64 women, one student did not indicate age) enrolled in an introductory communication course at a large Mid-Atlantic university. Their ages ranged from 18 to 24 years (M = 18.51, SD = 1.95). The majority of the participants were first year students (n = 129, or 86%).

Procedures and Instrumentation

Participants completed four instruments in addition to providing the demographic data profiled above. These instruments were the 30-item Student Motives to Communicate scale (Martin, Mottet, & Myers, 2000), the 18-item Measure of Source Credibility (J. C. McCroskey & Teven, 1999), the 38-item revised Measure of Interpersonal Attraction scale (L. L. McCroskey, McCroskey, & Richmond, 2006), and the 25-item revised Measure of Homophily (L. L. McCroskey et al., 2006). Using the procedure advocated by Plax, Kearney, McCroskey, and Richmond (1986), participants completed the instruments in reference to the instructor of the course they attended immediately prior to the research session. Data were collected during the last week of the semester.

Results

Table 1 reports the mean, standard deviation, and alpha coefficient for each instrument as well as a correlation matrix of the variables examined in this study. Due to the large number of correlations computed specifically to address the hypotheses and research question (n = 40), only those correlations that reached significance at the p <.001 level were examined. The first hypothesis predicted that students' motives to communicate with their instructors (i.e., relational, functional, participatory, and sycophantic) would be related positively to perceived instructor credibility (i.e., competence, character, and caring). This hypothesis was supported minimally in that only the functional motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor character and caring.

The second hypothesis predicted that students' motives to communicate with their instructors (i.e., relational, functional, participatory, and sycophantic) would be related positively to perceived instructor attractiveness (i.e., task, social, and physical). This hypothesis was supported partially. The relational motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor social and physical attractiveness; the functional motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor task and social attractiveness; the participatory motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor task, social, and physical attractiveness; and the sycophantic motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor social and physical attractiveness.

The third hypothesis predicted that students' motives to communicate with their instructors (i.e., relational, functional, participatory, and sycophantic) would be related positively to perceived instructor homophily (i.e., attitude, background). This hypothesis was supported partially. The relational motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor attitude and background homophily, the participatory motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor attitude homophily, and the sycophantic motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor attitude and background homophily.

The research question inquired about the relationship between the excuse making motive to communicate and perceived instructor credibility, attractiveness, and homophily. It was found that the excuse making motive was correlated positively with perceived instructor social attractiveness and attitude homophily.

Discussion

In examining the collective findings obtained in this study, two conclusions can be drawn in terms of explicating the relationship between students' motives to communicate with their instructors and their impressions of their instructors. The first conclusion is that perceived instructor credibility plays a minimal, if almost nonexistent, role in whether students are motivated to communicate with their instructors. With the exception of a significant relationship obtained between the functional motive and both the character and the caring dimensions of instructor credibility, no other significant relationships were observed. This lack of a series of significant relationships may be due simply to the idea that college students expect their instructors to be credible; that is, beginning with the first day of class and continuing throughout the semester, students expect their instructors to be content experts, to be ethical, and to be concerned with their welfare. As such, perceived instructor credibility may be an instructor impression to which students pay little attention when it comes to their motives for communicating with their instructors, despite Myers's (2004) finding that a link exists between students' in- and out-of-class interaction and perceived instructor credibility. In his study, however, he centered on students' reports of their actual behaviors--their reports of their classroom activity (e.g., contributing to class discussion, responding to a question from the instructor) and their out-of-class communicative encounters with their instructors (e.g., office visits, telephone calls)--rather than their possible (and potential) reasons for being motivated to communicate with their instructors either in or out of the classroom.

The second conclusion is that perceived instructor social attractiveness appears to be the instructor impression that is the most appealing when it comes to whether students are motivated to communicate with their instructors. Because students consider socially attractive instructors to be verbally (e.g., addressing students by name, using inclusive pronouns such as "we" or "us") and nonverbally (e.g., walking around the classroom, smiling, looking directly at students) immediate (Edwards & Edwards, 2001), it is likely that socially attractive instructors exemplify a relational approach to teaching. Instructors who take such an approach signify to students that they are willing to listen, are interested in learning more about their students, and are responsive to students' abilities, interests, and needs; this approach to teaching considers communication to be a mutual exchange between instructors and students that not only is devoid of power issues, but also emphasizes feelings of concern and caring (Mottet & Beebe, 2006). When instructors embrace this approach, they likely appear to be easygoing, pleasant, and friendly, all of which are components of social attractiveness.

Future researchers might consider extending this study to examine whether and how students' motives for communicating with their instructors change over the course of the semester (i.e., at the beginning, at the midpoint, and at the end). Not only do the communicative demands associated with the instructor-student relationship likely increase over the semester as the course workload (e.g., exams, papers, and projects) increase, but also it is possible that instructors are apt to increase their use of affiliative behaviors (e.g., humor, self-disclosure, narratives) with students over time. As such, students' motives to communicate with their instructors may extend well beyond students' impressions of their instructors' credibility, attractiveness, and homophily.

References

Cayanus, J. L., Martin, M. M., & Goodboy, A. K. (2009). Teacher self-disclosure and student motives to communicate. Communication Research Reports, 26, 105-113.

Dunleavy, K. N. (2006). The effect of instructor humor on perceived instructor credibility, student state motivation, and student motives to communicate in the classroom. The Kentucky Journal of Communication, 25, 39-56.

Edwards, A., & Edwards, C. (2001). The impact of instructor verbal and nonverbal immediacy on student perceptions of attractiveness and homophily. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 12, 5-16.

Gendrin, D. M., & Rucker, M. L. (2007). Student motive for communicating instructor immediacy: A matched-race institutional comparison. Atlantic Journal of Communication, 15, 41-60.

Goodboy, A. K., Myers, S. A., & Bolkan, S. (2010). Student motives for communicating with instructors as a function of perceived instructor misbehaviors. Communication Research Reports, 27, 11-19.

Jordan, W. J., & Powers, W. G. (2007). Development of a measure of student apprehension toward communicating with instructors. Human Communication, 10, 20-32.

Martin, M. M., Mottet, T. P., & Myers, S. A. (2000).Students' motives for communicating with their instructors and affective and cognitive learning. Psychological Reports, 87, 830-834.

Martin, M. M., Myers, M. M., & Mottet, T. P. (1999). Students' motives for communicating with their instructors. Communication Education, 48, 155-164.

Martin, M. M., Myers, S. A., & Mottet, T. P. (2006). Students' Machiavellianism and motives for communicating with instructors. Psychological Reports, 98, 861-864.

Martin, M. M., Valencic, K. M., & Heisel, A. D. (2001, April). The relationship between students' motives for communicating with their instructors with their perceptions of their instructors" nonverbal immediacy. Paper presented at the meeting of the Eastern Communication Association, Portland, ME.

McCroskey, J. C., Richmond, V. P., & McCroskey, L. L. (2006). An introduction to communication in the classroom: The role of communication in teaching and training. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

McCroskey, J. C., & Teven, J. J. (1999). Goodwill: A reexamination of the construct and its measurement. Communication Monographs, 66, 90-103.

McCroskey, L. L., McCroskey, J. C., & Richmond, V. P. (2006). Analysis and improvement of the measurement of interpersonal attraction and homophily. Communication Quarterly, 54, 1-31.

Mottet, T. P., & Beebe, S. A. (2006). Foundations of instructional communication. In T. P. Mottet, V. P. Richmond, & J. C. McCroskey (Eds.), Handbook of instructional communication: Rhetorical and relational perspectives (pp. 332). Boston: Pearson.

Mottet, T. P., Martin, M. M., & Myers, S. A. (2004). Relationships among perceived instructor verbal approach and avoidance relational strategies and students' motives for communicating with their instructors. Communication Education, 53, 116-122.

Myers, S. A. (2004). The relationship between perceived instructor credibility and college student in-class and out-of-class communication. Communication Reports, 17, 129-137.

Myers, S. A., Edwards, C., Wahl, S. T., & Martin, M. M. (2007). The relationship between perceived instructor aggressive communication and college student involvement. Communication Education, 56, 453-466.

Myers, S. A., Horan, S. M., Kennedy-Lightsey, C. D., Madlock, P. E., Sidelinger, R. J., Byrnes, K. et al. (2009). The relationship between college students' self-reports of class participation and perceived instructor impressions. Communication Research Reports, 26, 123-133.

Plax, T. G., Kearney, P., McCroskey, J. C., & Richmond, V. P. (1986). Power in the classroom VI: Verbal control strategies, nonverbal immediacy, and affective learning. Communication Education, 35, 43-55.

Teven, J. J., & McCroskey, J. C. (1997). The relationship of perceived teacher caring with student learning and teacher evaluation. Communication Education, 46, 1-9.

SCOTT A. MYERS

Professor

Department of Communication Studies

West Virginia University

ALEX D. HUEBNER

Undergraduate Student

Department of Communication Studies

West Virginia University
Table 1
Correlation Matrix

Variable           M          SD         [??]       2          3

1. Relational      13.89      6.24       .90        .12        .48 *
2. Functional      19.73      6.29       .87        --         .47 *
3. Participatory   15.75      5.85       .81        --         --
4. Excuse making   15.78      5.88       .79        --         --
5. Sycophancy      14.49      6.00       .84        --         --
6. Competence      33.71      7.38       .83        --         --
7. Character       31.80      6.58       .78        --         --
8. Caring          30.48      7.74       .84        --         --
9. Task            52.98      10.70      .89        --         --
10. Social         40.61      10.22      .89        --         --
11. Physical       34.39      9.80       .89        --         --
12. Attitude       43.73      9.60       .86        --         --
13. Background     27.64      5.19       .67        --         --

Variable           4          5          6          7          8

1. Relational      .40 *      .56 *      .02        .07        .20
2. Functional      .40 *      .17        .18        .27 *      .26 *
3. Participatory   .54 *      .63 *      .04        .13        .19
4. Excuse making   --         .54 *      -.03       .05        .11
5. Sycophancy      --         --         .06        .06        .12
6. Competence      --         --         --         .69 *      .60 *
7. Character       --         --         --         --         .77 *
8. Caring          --         --         --         --         --
9. Task            --         --         --         --         --
10. Social         --         --         --         --         --
11. Physical       --         --         --         --         --
12. Attitude       --         --         --         --         --
13. Background     --         --         --         --         --

Variable           9          10         11         12         13

1. Relational      .14        .42 *      .27 *      .39 *      .30 *
2. Functional      .38 *      .32 *      .20        .11        .08
3. Participatory   .28 *      .38 *      .23 *      .29 *      .15
4. Excuse making   .09        .23 *      .13        .21 *      .11
5. Sycophancy      .07        .28 *      .22 *      .22 *      .22 *
6. Competence      .54 *      .43 *      .19        .38 *      .18
7. Character       .59 *      .58 *      .26 *      .33 *      .19
8. Caring          .70 *      .72 *      .34 *      .53 *      .31 *
9. Task            --         .71 *      .31 *      .44 *      .18
10. Social         --         --         .52 *      .62 *      .34 *
11. Physical       --         --         --         .43 *      .36 *
12. Attitude       --         --         --         --         .58 *
13. Background     --         --         --         --         --

Note. * < p .001.
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Author:Myers, Scott A.; Huebner, Alex D.
Publication:College Student Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2011
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