Why do students communicate (or not!) with you, their instructor?
There are five motivations that have been discovered for why students communicate with their professors: relational, functional, excuse-making, participation, and sycophancy.
This blog post will discuss the first of those motives, the relational motive. As you can imagine, this is when students are trying to develop a personal relationship with you, their professor. Perhaps they perceive you as someone they could be friends with, and they come to discuss local sports, movies, or campus activities. They will be looking to see what they have in common with you during these conversations. So why would students do this? Perhaps they honestly think they can be your friend. Perhaps they just want to get to know you better. Perhaps they “realize the benefit” of having a nice relationship with their professors, not because they are trying to take advantage, but because they “recognize the potential benefit of having instructors who know them and enjoy talking to them about their interests” (Martin, Myers, & Mottet, 2002, p. 37). This type of interaction will most likely occur outside of class. Martin, Myers and Mottet (2002) note that if this happened often during class, it would be considered inappropriate, a “teacher misbehavior.” Of course, this can happen when students are trying to get professors to talk about something fun and not do work.
The next blog post on students’ motivation to communicate with their professors will focus on the second reason, functional purposes.
Martin, M.M., Myers, S.A., & Mottet, T.P. (2002). Students’ Motives for Communicating with Their Instructors. In Communication for Teachers, J.L. Chesebro and J.C. McCroskey (Eds.) Boston: Allyn and Bacon.