“Authentic” professors are preferred by students, many of whom learn more from them as a result, according to a new study in Communication Education, the journal of the National Communication Association. The authors questioned some 300 college students on their perceptions of professors’ authentic and inauthentic behavior and communication, and found that authentic instructors were perceived as approachable, passionate, attentive, capable and knowledgeable. Inauthentic professors, meanwhile, were perceived as unapproachable, disrespectful, inattentive, lacking passion and not capable. Students also reported higher levels of learning and deeper understanding in learning experiences they described as authentic, and at-risk students are positively impacted by teachers whose communication is perceived as authentic, according to the study.

The paper says that that professors may work to seem more authentic — only to the degree that it feels natural — by conversing with students before and after class, and sharing experiences and really interacting with them as part of teaching. “‘Authentic’ Teachers Are Better at Engaging With Their Students” was written by Zac Johnson, assistant professor of communication at California State University at Fullerton, and Sara LaBelle, assistant professor of communication at Chapman University.

Instructors perceived as authentic were willing to share details about their lives, told personal stories, made jokes and admitted mistakes, according to the study. They also showed concern for their students as individuals, such as by emailing sick students to see how they were doing. “Our participants made it clear that a teacher’s efforts to view themselves and their students as individuals had a lasting impact,” Johnson and LaBelle say. “The process of teaching authentically need not be more complicated than making simple and direct statements regarding the level of concern and care that a teacher holds for their students. … Our implication is not simply that teachers should engage in limitless amounts of self-disclosure. Rather, by making efforts to engage with students beyond their expected roles in the classroom, teachers can greatly impact students’ perceptions of them and their course.”

From Inside Higher Ed | May 26, 2017 | Written by Colleen Flaherty

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