Professor email signature on student perception of professor credibility, approachability, immediacy, and student level of respect for professor
Hildenbrand, Grace M.
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This is a quantitative study examining the influence of professor email signature on student perception of professor credibility, approachability, immediacy, and student level of respect for professor. The email signatures being studied include: "Dr.", "Professor", and first name. Participants will be undergraduate students enrolled in a basic communication course. They will fill out a quantitative online survey consisting of informed consent, stimuli, measurements of dependent variables, and demographic information. The results of this study will provide insight for professors to see how to create a positive learning environment for their students.
Professor Email Signature on Student Perception of Credibility, Approachability, Immediacy, and Respect for Professor Grace Hildenbrand - Communication Department Mentor: Dr. Sarah Ubel - Washburn University Literature Review • Male professors addressed by title were seen as having higher status and being more accessible than female professors addressed by title (Takiff et al., 2001). • Professors were viewed as having higher status if they were male and addressed by title versus first name (Stewart et al., 2003). • “Doctor” resulted in the best overall perception of professor based on the titles: doctor, Mr./Mrs., dean, professor, and last name only (Ellis & Travis, 2007). • Formal title resulted in greater perceived credibility for those formally dressed, while informal title resulted in greater perceived credibility for those informally dressed (Sebastian & Bristow, 2008). Study Purpose This study examined the effect that a professor’s email signature has on students’ perception of the professor regarding credibility, approachability, immediacy, and level of respect for professor. Hypotheses H1: Students’ perceptions of professor credibility will significantly differ depending on the type of email signature the professor uses. H2: Students’ perceptions of professor approachability will significantly differ depending on the type of email signature the professor uses. H3: Students’ perceptions of professor immediacy will significantly differ depending on the type of email signature the professor uses. H4: Students’ level of respect of professor will significantly differ depending on the type of email signature the professor uses. Variables Independent Variable Each participant read one set of three emails from • A male (John) or female (Lisa) professor • Signed as Dr. Jones, Professor Jones or John/Lisa Dependent Variables • McCroskey & Teven’s (1999) Measure of Ethos/Credibility • Porter et al.’s (2007) Approachability Scale • Rester & Edwards’ (2007) Excessive Use of Immediacy Scale • Martinez-Egger & Power’s (2007) Student Respect for Teacher Scale Results A factorial 3 x 2 (email signature x sex of professor) ANOVA revealed no interaction affect between the email signature and the sex of the professor on any of the dependent variables. None of the hypotheses were supported. The factorial ANOVA indicated a significant main effect for the sex of the professor with credibility: F(1, 110) = 6.26, p = .014 and approachability: F(1, 110) = 5.68, p = .019. The factorial ANOVA for male participants indicated an interaction effect for approachability: F(2, 41) = 3.75, p = .033. The factorial ANOVA for female participants indicated a significant main effect for the sex of the professor with credibility: F(1, 69) = 4.48, p = .038 and approachability: F(1, 69) = 4.59, p = .036 Discussion • Professor email signature does not have a significant impact on student perceptions of professor for any of the dependent variables. • Students may not care or pay attention to how professors sign their email. • Female participants rated the female professor as less credible and approachable than the male professor. • Women may evaluate female professors less favorably than male professors on credibility and approachability because they may have internalized gendered stereotypes more than men, resulting in different evaluations of the professors. Limitations Limitations for this study include: • small sample size N = 110 • disproportionate number of male and female participants male = 37.3% female = 62.7% • unequal distribution of stimuli ranging from 12.4%-23% Future Research Ideas for future research include: a similar qualitative study, a similar study analyzing additional email signatures, and a similar study in a corporate environment. References Ellis, V. S., & Travis, J. E. (2007). Professional titles in higher education: Do they matter to students? College Student Journal, 41(4), 1168-1183. Martinez-Egger, A. D., & Powers, W. G. (2007). Student respect for a teacher: Measurement and relationships to teacher credibility and classroom behavior perceptions. Human Communication, 10(2), 145-155. McCroskey, J. C., & Teven, J. J. (1999). Goodwill: A reexamination of the construct and its measurement. Communication Monographs, 66(1), 90-103. Porter, H.; Wrench, J. S.; & Hoskinson, C. (2007). The influence of supervisor temperament on subordinate job satisfaction and perceptions of supervisor sociocommunicative orientation and approachability. Communication Quarterly, 55(1), 129-153. Rester, C. H., & Edwards, R. (2007). Effects of sex and setting on students’ interpretation of teachers’ excessive use of immediacy. Communication Education, 56, 34-53. Sebastian, R. J., & Bristow, D. (2008). Formal or informal? The impact of style and dress and forms of address on business students’ perceptions of professors. Journal of Education for Business, 83(4), 196-202. Stewart, T. L., Berkvens, M., Engles, W. A. E. W., & Pass, J. A. (2003). Status and likability: Can the “mindful” woman have it all? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33(10), 2040-2059. Takiff, H.A, Sanchez, D.T., & Stewart, T.L. (2001). What’s in a name? The status implications of students’ terms of address for male and female professors. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 25(2), 134-144. Methods A convenience sample of 110 undergraduate students enrolled in basic communication courses at Washburn University completed the survey on the Surveymonkey website. After reading an IRB approved consent form, participants were presented with the experiment stimulus (a posttest-only experimental design). Participants then completed four scales for dependent variables and demographic questions. Results were analyzed using SPSS.