Student–faculty interactions can be crucial in developing students’ academic self-concept and enhancing their motivation and achievement. Colleges and universities that actively foster close and frequent contact between their students and faculty members are more likely to reap a host of benefits from such initiatives. Faculty members taking an interest in their students’ academic progress could potentially make significant contributions in increasing their intellectual and professional development (Anaya & Cole, 2001; Chickering, 1969; Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Cokley, 2000; Terenzini & Pascarella, 1980). There is evidence that students successful in knowing even one faculty member closely are likely to feel more satisfied with their college life and aspire to go further in their careers (Rosenthal et al., 2000). Although most interactions with faculty tend to occur within the formal classroom setting, students who experience informal interactions tend to be more motivated, engaged, and actively involved in the learning process (Thompson, 2001; Woodside, Wong, & Weist, 1999). Informal interaction between students and faculty has been identified as a primary agent of college culture, and has an important influence on the attitudes, interests, and values of college students (Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Lambert, Terinzini, & Lattuca, 2007; Pascarella, 1980b; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991, 2005; Thompson, 2001). However, although previous research has established that student–faculty interactions are important, we still need to identify which aspects of student–faculty interactions are helpful and how these could significantly influence students to stay in college, increase their desire to work hard, stimulate them to enjoy learning, and encourage them to strive toward high achievement standards (Bean, 1985). The current study addresses this gap in the literature by examining eight specific types of student–faculty interactions as predictors of academic self-concept and three types of academic motivation, as well as academic achievement in a sample of college students from a medium-sized, public university located in the Midwestern United States.
Types of Student–Faculty Interactions
In examining why some students might interact more with faculty members and why some faculty may seem more approachable to students, it is important to acknowledge that a need for belonging, for frequent positive interactions, and to feel cared for by others is a fundamental human need (Baumeister & Leary, 1995 [End Page 332] ). Interactions between students and faculty members are inevitable and personal connections that emerge through advisement and mentoring are highly valued (Light, 2001). In responding to several implicit, unspoken, and nonverbal cues, students are more likely to interact with faculty members perceived to be sociable, intelligent, showing leadership, supportive, and objective (Babad, Avni-Babad, & Rosenthal, 2003; Furnham & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2005). Faculty members allowing students to use their first names are perceived as higher in warmth, approachability, and respect in comparison to faculty members who are addressed by formal titles (McDowell & Westman, 2005).
Student–faculty interactions can be formal or informal, occurring either inside or outside instructional settings, with both playing an important role in determining students’ academic success (Jacobi, 1991). The most frequent type of contact that students have with faculty members typically include situations in which they are asking for information about a course or visiting after class (Kuh & Hu, 2001). Faculty–student interactions could take on a more intense flavor in a tutorial-style classroom, where a faculty member may meet with two students at a time for an hour, eventually interacting closely with about five such pairs of students per week (Smallwood, 2002). Such close, intense, interaction seems to enhance student learning and intellectual stimulation, with both students and faculty valuing the opportunity to know each other at an informal and personal level. Cox and Orehovec (2007) identified four major types of student–faculty interactions with the most important, “functional interaction,” referring to academic-related interactions outside the classroom. The other three types include personal interactions about some personal issues unrelated to academics, incidental contact maintained by occasional greetings, and finally disengagement, where there is minimal interaction with the faculty member inside the classroom and little or no interpersonal exchange.
However, all types of student–faculty interactions are not equally beneficial for the student (Ei & Bowen...