Communication apprehension and college retention: a focus group study



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Texas Tech University


Student retention has long been of interest to college and university administrators and instructors as indicated by the number of studies given to the subject (see Pantages & Creedon, 1978; Tinto, 1975). These studies have shown that personality variables play a significant role in the decisions of students to stay in school. Anxiety is one personality variable that may be the common denominator for low self-esteem, poor communication skills, and low educationed achievement (Witherspoon, Long, & Nickel, 1991). Witherspoon et al. (1991) state that discomfort and anxiety are factors in students' inability to use or learn adequate communication skills which contribute to a lack of success in classroom situations.

Communication apprehension (CA) seems to encompass the fears or anxieties exhibited by high school seniors to avoid higher education opportunities (Monroe & Borzi, 1988). Defined as "an individual's level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons" (McCroskey, 1977a, p. 78), one can understand that an individual with a high level of CA would have a difficult time with the college environment. The general impression is that students with high apprehension find the amount of interaction required in college threatening and are less likely to benefit from their experience than are students with low apprehension (Monroe & Borzi, 1988).

Highly apprehensive individuals would need to learn more skills and communication techniques to help them continue and graduate from college. With this thought in mind, the aim of this project is to look at the coping skills of high CA college students. It is hoped that strategies and suggestions can be found that will help others that experience high CA to continue their plans to attend and finish college. A comparison of coping skills and personal outlooks of high CAs and low CAs will be made. All in all, it is hoped through this project to determine what can be done to not only keep high CA students in college, but to help them finish and move on to a more productive life after college.