Study: ‘Authentic’ Teachers Better at Engaging Students

Teachers who have an authentic teaching style are more positively received by students, according to research published in the National Communication Association’s journal, Communication Education.

To achieve a more authentic style, teachers should use time before and after class to converse with students, allow opportunity to share experiences, and view teaching as an opportunity for dialogue.

However, to be truly authentic, teachers should enact such behaviors only so far as their personality and demeanor naturally allow, say study authors Professor Zac Johnson of California State University and Professor Sara LaBelle of Chapman University.

About 300 college students were questioned about their perceptions of authentic and inauthentic teacher behavior and communication. Responses indicated that authentic teachers were seen as approachable, passionate, attentive, capable, and knowledgeable, while inauthentic teachers were viewed as unapproachable, lacking passion, inattentive, incapable, and disrespectful.

Authentic teachers showed a willingness to share details of their life, and displayed elements of humanity by telling stories, making jokes, and admitting mistakes. They also demonstrated care and compassion by recognizing students as individuals and attending to their needs academically and personally, for example, by emailing those absent from class due to illness.

Students report higher levels of learning and deeper understanding in experiences described as authentic. More importantly, at-risk students are positively affected by teachers they perceive as authentic in communication. By teaching authentically, teachers may create more meaningful experiences and deeper learning for all students in a variety of settings and across disciplines.

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