The effect of Twitter posts on students’ perceptions of instructor credibility

Johnson, K. A. (2011). The effect of Twitter posts on students’ perceptions of instructor credibility. Learning, Media and Technology, Vol 36(1): 21-38.

Alecs Krotoski posts on this paper here

The paper locates the basic premise amidst research indicating that teacher credibility is enhanced by, amongst other thing personal sharing, of family life, opinions, mundane details etc.

This sharing must be done carefully, oversharing is to be avoided, and in part the functions of it, as described by teachers are to “appear human, extend course content, get students’ attention, and to provide examples”

This advice is interesting in the context of the ECAR report, indicating that students don;t want to share social media with their lectirers and institutions. Several reasons are put forward, ECAR mentions the privacy issue – students do not want to find out innappropriate things about their tutors, or have them find out innapropriate things about them. Also on the table are fears about levying institutional criticisms.

Teacher credibility can

“impact a number of factors, including, but not limited to: student learning outcomes (McCroskey, Valencic, and Richmond 2004; Schrodt et al. 2009), tudent motivation to learn (Frymier and Thompson 1992; Martin, Mottet, and Chesebro 1997), and communication between the teacher and student”

“According to Myers and Bryant (2004), instructor caring, an important
factor in credibility, is conveyed through responsiveness, accommodation,
and accessibility.”

The power of social media are that they allow us to extend and enrich this type of interaction outside of class hours. I can post a photo from a Texas Rangers game and ask my students to create a math problem based on it (for example- see twitter resource, by me, in dev).

Interestingly, students were fairly evenly split on whether they felt it was a good or bad idea for a teacher to have a twitter account. It may, or may not be the case that this preference is defining – preferences can change with experience, with the context, and with time. But it’s still interesting to note.

An additional proviso, is, that students preferences are not always the best indicators of best practice. Still, this is social media, and there is no way preferences can or should be ignored.

The authors stress that it is particularly important that educators only share appropriately, as, apart from obvious reasons, student anxiety about potential inappropriate shares, and a decrease in credibility as a consequence were likely.

It seems that social tweets increased credibility, perhaps as they demonstrated caring attitudes, and scholarly tweets had no impact here ( though it appears few students clicked on links, and the study does not mention if these were the scholarly tweets).

The study also notes younger students were more likely to spend time on twitter, and more likely to conceive of twitter as a good idea for educators – making them, possibly, the core market for this type of interaction.

On a personal note, I wonder if this could be addressed by modelling, tech support, and utility demonstration…?

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