After reading the research article Twitter Use and its Effects on Student Perception of Instructor Credibility, I found myself pondering why technology allows us members of society to observe different social practices and expectations depending on the medium of social interaction. It is not the first time I have thought about it either. In fact, the topic comes up quite often with my grade eight students in relation to cyber-bullying, relationships, and overall etiquette. It is interesting to consider how the average account for this from one of my students is simply that one is not as “on-stage” compared to in person interaction, so one can do (or not do) different things.

The article was focused mainly on the social platform Twitter and it’s use by post-secondary instructors. The study researched the perceived credibility of instructors dependent on the professional or social nature of their tweets. Three accounts were made, one entirely professional, one entirely social, and one blended. The results of the study showed the professional tweeting instructor was found to be the most credible by surveyed students. However, the surveyed students also felt that some social disclosure by the instructor humanized the instructor.

Some respondents pointed out that a twitter account for an instructor which was social would be inappropriate. There are many reasons, but some were:

  • “The reputation of the professor becomes more like a student instead of a college professor.”
  • “We should not know our professor’s life outside the classroom.”

These two, in particular, are silly to me. In front of my grade eights, my reputation, professionalism, personality, and sincerity is on display all the time. Where have I developed all these thing? My life experience. Of course I will reveal things about myself which are not related to the subject matter if it helps me build relationships or credibility with my students. In the classroom, or should I say in person, my genuine self is revealed in front of all. Since the students perceive me as a complete whole in person, they do not categorize what I say as social or professional.

As I wrote earlier, online is where the social dynamic changes. Suddenly, being able to categorize the aspects of a person since they are using a stage with less overall exposure of themselves changes the rules. Now, we can judge someone on only one piece of their whole…and use that to build our overall view of them. Just writing that seems backwards to me. Why do we in the information generation make this jump so readily?

The article concludes with a recommendation that if an instructor wants to use twitter, they should make it an optional tool for their students, and that their online and offline persona should be consistent. I agree with the first point. But I have a problem with the second. The term persona suggest that an instructor is a playing a different part depending on the stage. Personally, my credibility as a teacher is built upon who I am, period. If I’m anytime ‘acting’ in front of my students, It is because I’m feigning anger to teach a social skill after a student has crossed a line.

Perhaps it is different from post secondary instructors. Their employer may require an air of decorum and academic pomp which passively increases their academic reputation as well as the institution. Perhaps they simply believe they must do so without any prompt. Funny though, that the students of these instructors have seemingly bought in to, let alone require this act to take place.

Link to article:

Twitter Use and its Effects on Student Perception of Instructor Credibility Jocelyn M. DeGroot, Valerie J. Young & Sarah H. VanSlette