Professor wins Top Paper Award for communication convention

Zac Johnson, assistant business professor, recently discovered the importance of peer confirmation and its relation to classroom success.

Johnson, along with collaborator Sara LaBelle, will receive the Top Paper Award on his work “Student-to-Student Confirmation in the College Classroom: An initial Investigation of the Dimensions and Outcomes of Students’ Confirming Messages.”

The award will be given at the National Communication Association Convention in Chicago in November.

Johnson worked with LaBelle, a professor of humanities at Chapman University, to survey students on how they give and receive confirmation to one another.

Johnson said there has been research done with understanding how teachers communicate with students. Researchers have tried quantitatively measuring how teachers reveal their personalities and personal information with their students.

Researchers then tried to apply the same method to students with some success.

“But that doesn’t work for all teaching behaviors because something like confirmation is displayed by teachers in ways that aren’t applicable to students,” Johnson said.

Johnson described “confirmation” as a process in which someone is made to feel endorsed, valuable and significant.

Johnson’s goal was to understand how students made each other feel significant within a classroom setting.

He discovered many students were not afraid to offer praise, but were afraid to aid another student. Students feared offering help because they may be misunderstood.

“They don’t like offering help because they don’t want to offend anyone,” Johnson said. “You know how people are. They read too much into something. They think they’ll be misunderstood, that people will say ‘Why do you think I need help? Do you think I’m stupid?’”

In reality, Johnson said students can create a more efficient educational experience by helping one another.

Johnson said students should not be afraid to offer help to a classmate who is struggling with a subject in which they excel. Just by making themselves available to help, students create a closer bond with classmates.

“It helps reinforce and teach,” Johnson said. “I’m still available, but it allows students to learn themselves instead of me just fixing everything.”


Story by Amanda Grau, Staff writer