Saturday, June 2, 2007

I'll See You On "Facebook"

I'll See You On "Facebook": The Effects of Computer-Mediated Teacher Self-Disclosure on Student Motivation, Affective Learning, and Classroom Climate
Authors: Joseph P. Mazer; Richard E. Murphy; Cheri J. Simonds

Communication Education, Volume 56, Issue 1 January 2007 , pages 1 - 17

This experimental study examined the effects of teacher self-disclosure via Facebook on anticipated college student motivation, affective learning, and classroom climate. Participants who accessed the Facebook website of a teacher high in self-disclosure anticipated higher levels of motivation and affective learning and a more positive classroom climate. In their responses to open-ended items, participants emphasized possible negative associations between teacher use of Facebook and teacher credibility. Participants offered recommendations for teachers regarding the use of Facebook and other weblog services.

Computer Mediated Communication via Virtual Social Networks

Over the past 30 years, computer mediated social networks have been developing at an increasing rate. While time constraints can often limit the amount of face-to-face student socialization, students who use forms of computer-mediated communication (CMC) (e.g., online meeting places or social networks) may experience more opportunities to develop personal relationships than their face-to-face counterparts (Walther, 1995).
O'Sullivan et al. (2004) found that students who viewed an instructor's website with high levels of mediated immediacy, including forms of self-disclosure, reported high levels of motivation and affective learning, indicating positive attitudes toward the course and the teacher. Therefore, teachers can increase mediated immediacy by including forms of self-disclosure on personal webpages; however, to date, research has not explored the effects of teacher self-disclosure on student outcomes or teacher characteristics via virtual social networks used primarily by students.
Teacher use of Facebook provides a unique perspective to the current CMC literature. With large numbers of students and teachers using this virtual social network as a medium of communication (Lashinsky, 2005), it is important to understand how students use and make sense of specific social networks. This understanding can provide useful information for teachers who use virtual social networks to communicate with students. Students may perceive a teacher's use of Facebook as an attempt to foster positive relationships with his or her students, which may have positive effects on important student outcomes. Teachers may violate student expectations of proper behaviors and run the risk of harming their credibility if they utilize Facebook. Despite this potential consequence, teachers may enhance their credibility among students by signifying an understanding of the contemporary student culture.

A teacher's use of Facebook is an attempt to communicate with students outside of that controlled environment where teachers can meet students in their territory. All teachers will enter the face-to-face classroom and talk to their students, but only some teachers may choose to enter a virtual social network. Once teachers enter the network, they must make decisions about how much information to disclose.

Communication Privacy Management Theory

Teacher Self-disclosure
Fusani (1994) contends that teacher self-disclosure is a "rich personal source of student-faculty communication" (p. 249). Cayanus (2004) argued for the use of teacher self-disclosure as an effective instructional tool to foster student learning. Research has suggested that teachers who personalize teaching through the use of humor, stories, enthusiasm, and self-disclosure are perceived by their students to be effective in explaining course content (Andersen, Norton, & Nussbaum, 1981; Bryant, Comiskey, Crane, & Zillman, 1980; Bryant, Comiskey, & Zillman, 1979; Civikly, 1986; Norton & Nussbaum, 1981).

Christophel (1990) found teacher immediacy to be positively associated with student motivation and concluded that immediacy first modified state motivation and then affected student learning. If teacher self-disclosure serves as an immediacy behavior that leads students to higher levels of affective learning (i.e., students perceive the instructor and class positively), students should likewise perceive the classroom climate positively. Guided by Christophel's (1990) findings and the theory and research presented here, we advanced the following research hypotheses to explore teacher self-disclosure via Facebook:

H1: Participants who view the Facebook website of a teacher high in self-disclosure will anticipate higher levels of student state motivation than participants who view the Facebook website of a teacher low in self-disclosure.

H2: Participants who view the Facebook website of a teacher high in self-disclosure will anticipate higher levels of affective learning than participants who view the Facebook website of a teacher low in self-disclosure.

H3: Participants who view the Facebook website of a teacher high in self-disclosure will anticipate a more positive classroom climate than participants who view the Facebook website of a teacher low in self-disclosure.

Finally, we were interested in how participants perceived the appropriateness of a teacher's use of Facebook and if their perceptions varied according to the amount of self-disclosure on the Facebook website. To explore this issue, we posed the following research question:

RQ: How appropriate do participants perceive teachers' use of Facebook?

The participants were 133 undergraduate students (125 first-year students, 5 sophomores, 3 juniors) enrolled in sections of the basic communication course at a large Midwestern university. The participants represented various academic disciplines, as the course is required of all students at the university. The sample consisted of 39 males and 94 females, with an average age of 18.76 years (ranging from 18 to 23 years). The racial/ethnic distribution of the sample consisted of 44.4% Caucasians, 3.1% African Americans, 2.3% Hispanics, and 1.2% Asian Pacific Islanders.

***Affective learning
***Classroom climate
***Manipulation check
***Appropriateness of Facebook for a teacher
***Supplementary qualitative data

Manipulation Check
Primary Quantitative Analysis
Supplementary Qualitative Analysis
Perceptions of the teacher
Teacher use of Facebook
Suggestions for teachers who use Facebook


The qualitative data supports the quantitative findings in that a majority of the participants in each condition perceived the teacher's use of Facebook positively. While our findings reveal a positive association between teacher self-disclosure and important student outcomes, teachers should be consistent with their self-disclosure on Facebook and their teaching style in the classroom .... . In their open-ended responses, students encouraged teachers to use Facebook so that they could have the opportunity to become acquainted before meeting in the classroom. However, students recommended that teachers "be themselves" on Facebook so they can "get a better feel for their personality."

Teachers may consider the use of Facebook as an important tool to foster the student-teacher relationship; however, they should proceed with caution. Our qualitative data reveals that students were highly concerned with how the teacher would be perceived as a professional. In addition, students reported that teachers should self-disclose appropriate information. Scholars should explore forms of self-disclosure that students may deem appropriate or inappropriate via this virtual social network. As such, the nature of Facebook presents a unique set of criteria for teacher self-disclosure. Future research might explore if certain forms of self-disclosure are more appropriate for Facebook as opposed to the traditional classroom.

Self-disclosure is one approach that teachers may take to develop relationships with their students. However, as communication technology develops at an increasing rate, it is important for teachers to recognize how certain technologies, even those used largely by students, can positively affect student-teacher relationships. Facebook is a contemporary technological tool that can offer teachers and students a unique method to nurture the student-teacher relationship, which can ultimately create a positive learning experience for both parties.

Source []


Anonymous said...

Gerry. Thanks for this. THe information would be applicable for other social software services such as the better choice - MySpace! Stephen

Dan Coffey said...

Gerry, this is great! Thanks!

Stephen, Facebook is MySpace 2.0 :)

Denise said...


Thanks for this. I checked the source link, and found it to be the publisher's, with an offer to buy article. Fortunately I found a library in our consortium that carries the journal and put in an ILL. We have been debating facebook for a while here at our academic library. It will be interesting to read this research. Thanks again.

Cathy said...

Very interesting article and certainly an important debate to consider teaching & for professional purposes. It will be useful to see these hypotheses tested on students & teachers in other disciplines (could it be that in Communications there is a greater expectation & openness to experimenting and valuing new approaches to teacher-student communications?). aLSO, Could someone define 'student state motivation' for me? Thanx.