Going Digital: How Teacher Immediacy Can Help Reluctant Teachers Embrace Online Learning

Going Digital: How Teacher Immediacy Can Help Reluctant Teachers Embrace Online Learning

Kristal Curry (Coastal Carolina University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2132-8.ch016


The purpose of this chapter is to explore teacher immediacy strategies that help online instructors form connections with students while teaching in distance learning environments. Teacher immediacy consists of both verbal and nonverbal behaviors teachers can use that generate perceptions of closeness with students, which often feels lacking in a distance learning environment. Specific examples of immediacy behaviors in online courses are provided. The chapter shares examples of student/teacher interactions in a course built around teacher immediacy principles, identifying the specific principles visible in each interaction. Finally, the chapter ends with recommendations for practice using teacher immediacy strategies to build relationships with students in online courses.
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Immediacy as a concept in human relations was described as early as the 1960s (Mehrabian, 1969, 1971), and has provided a useful framework for thinking about interactions in classrooms between students and teachers (Witt & Wheeless, 2001). Teacher immediacy encompasses both verbal and nonverbal behaviors that serve to generate perceptions of closeness with students (Andersen, 1979). Specific behaviors in a face-to-face environment include “consistent eye contact, movement, vocal variety, gestures, humor, and personalized examples during class” (Andersen, 1986, p. 115). Decades of research have consistently shown the positive benefits of teacher immediacy, which include increased cognitive and affective learning (Richmond, Gorham, & McCroskey, 1987), higher levels of motivation (Christophel, 1990), and more frequent and deeper class participation (Roberts & Friedman, 2013). The most positive benefits of teacher immediateness in a face-to-face environment seem to result from students’ heightened feelings of satisfaction with their teachers and classes (Richmond & McCroskey, 2000). The combination of studies demonstrating higher student satisfaction in classes with greater levels of teacher immediacy and increased cognitive benefits indicates that satisfied students work harder and immerse themselves deeper in the content, leading to the improved cognitive outcomes mentioned above.

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