Kelly Rocca

St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, St. John's University

Kelly Rocca
What are the key issues related to the role of the affective domain in teaching geoscience that you would like to engage at the workshop?

I would love to discuss areas such as: the impact of teacher affect on student retention, classroom control with affect, etc. I would enjoy hearing others' perspectives and research on the affective domain, and I would also like to share my own research and experiences in affect between professors and students.

What expertise or experience (in study of the affective domain or teaching of geoscience) will you bring to the workshop? How would you like to contribute to the workshop?

My expertise is completely in the area of the "affective domain" and not in geoscience. My doctoral degree is in Educational Psychology with a "minor" in Instructional Communication. I have researched a number of areas in instructional communication (how students and faculty members communicate in the classroom setting), many of which are in the affective domain. This instructional research is my area of expertise that I will contribute to the workshop. Although my area of study is communication, many of these instructional principles are applicable to any area of teaching, including that of geoscience. I would be happy to share more details if needed at this time.

Essay: The Affective Domain of Learning: Nonverbal Immediacy

A commonly researched area in the field of instructional communication, impacting affect between teachers and students is a construct defined by Mehrabian (1971) called "immediacy." This concept, which has been researched extensively in the instructional communication literature in the past 30 years (for a summary of the research in this area, see McCroskey & Richmond, 1992 and Richmond, Lane, & McCroskey, 2006) is defined in terms of Mehrabian's "principle of immediacy" which states "people are drawn toward persons and things they like, evaluate highly, and prefer; and they avoid or move away from things they dislike, evaluate negatively, or do not prefer" (Mehrabian, 1971, p.1). The overall theme in the research is that immediacy is a positive attribute for professors to engage in when it comes to the affect in the classroom.

Nonverbally immediate behaviors include the following: gesturing, speaking without a desk/podium, moving around the classroom, eye contact, appropriate gestures, appropriate touch, smiling at students, and using vocal variety (Thomas, Richmond, & McCroskey, 1994). Professors who are higher in these areas are rated as higher in immediacy by their students, and higher levels of immediacy are related to a number of positive affective areas with students, as shown in empirical research, and as evidenced in classroom observations as well.

Early studies very quickly linked immediate behaviors with student affective learning (e.g., Andersen, 1978; 1979; Kearney, Plax, Smith, & Sorensen, 1988; Kearney, Plax, & Wandt-Wesco, 1985; Plax, Kearney, McCroskey, & Richmond, 1986; Witt & Wheeless, 2001). Recently, a meta-analysis on teacher immediacy and student learning was conducted which included 81 studies from 1979-2001 (Witt, Wheeless, & Allen, 2004). These studies found teacher immediacy to be associated with positive student affect (liking of the teacher, liking of the subject matter) as well as increased cognitive learning and more positive student evaluations of immediate teachers.

Richmond (1990) also found that teachers who were nonverbally immediate and used prosocial (i.e., asking nicely) means of gaining compliance had much greater affect with their students than those who used antisocial (i.e., verbal aggression) methods of compliance gaining. Teachers who are immediate have students who have greater affect for them (e.g., Chesebro, 2003; Gorham, 1988), have higher motivation levels (Christophel, 1990; Christophel & Gorham, 1995), and are more likely to attend (Rocca, 2004) and participate (Rocca, 2001) in class than students with non-immediate teachers.

There are numerous means by which professors can increase students' affect in the classroom, both for the subject matter and for the professor. Nonverbal immediacy is one of those methods, one that is linked to many other positive affective behaviors in the classroom.


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