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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)



First Advisor

Estelle Lau

First Committee Member

Dennis C. Brennan

Second Committee Member

Randall J. Koper

Third Committee Member

Mari G. Irvin

Fourth Committee Member

Fred Hilpert


This study focused on instructional style in the college classroom to determine if apprehension levels of male and female students are influenced by instructor gender and instructor communication style. The foundations of the study are in the theoretical models of Tannen, Gilligan, and Lakoff. Tannen reasons that early socialization of boys in hierarchical play groups where language is used to put oneself forward may increase male comfort in the college classroom. She also sees the college classroom as generally debate-like which may be more conducive to the learning of males than females. Gilligan, through analysis of the way males and females face moral dilemmas, concludes that males and females structure relationships differently and may be comfortable in different learning environments--he in a hierarchy based on logic, she in an atmosphere of connection. Lakoff extends the argument with her analysis of the power of language. She concludes that females are at a disadvantage in the college classroom because they are the subordinate group in an environment in which the language style of the dominant group prevails. The research sample included 202 students (88 males and 110 females) enrolled in small communication classes with 6 male and 4 female instructors at medium-sized western universities. Analysis of variance of student responses to Neer's Class Apprehension Participation Scale (CAPS) and Norton's Communicator Style Measure (CSM) indicated that female students are more apprehensive than male students and both male and female students are less apprehensive when they perceive their instructor to be low in contentiousness rather than high in contentiousness. Recommendations to educators include training instructors to reduce student apprehension and to reduce differential treatment of male and female students, training students in the communication skills necessary for participation, and providing a combination of male and female instructors to meet the varied needs of students. Suggestions for future research include using a larger sample size and analyzing other class sizes, types of classes, departments, and levels in the curriculum, as well as analyzing age and ethnicity.



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