Volume 15, Issue 2        Editorial-1:
Student Perceptions, Beliefs, or Attitudes    Hot Topics: Increasing Cognitive Learning Outcomes
One objective of higher education is for students to increase cognitive learning of self and others. “Hot topics” or divisive social discussions and assignments have an increasingly significant place in college classrooms. These faculty and student led discussions allow students opportunities to develop their understanding of others who are different from them while affirming people of diverse backgrounds. Students’ perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes about divisive issues are directly related influenced by faculty’s willingness to engage in authentic discourse.
We stand in front of the classroom and engage students around multiple topics. If the course content is not socially divisive, these divisive issues are embodied in students themselves. The challenges of dealing with hot topics are twofold: 1) to manage ourselves so as to make those times meaningful, and 2) to grab the teaching moment to help students learn in and from the generative process.
This issue of Academic Exchange Quarterly features articles that explore these challenges using evidence-based data. The articles present a range of faculty and students sharing their personal narratives in a manner that thrives on hot topics guiding learning in the classroom. Each article shares a slice of experiential learning embedded in authentic dialog and discourse in the classroom.
Robert L. Ballard starts the classroom conversation with a glimpse into how communication ethics and tardiness is described. The conversation is an example of achieving authentic discourse when valuing self and others in the classroom.
It is a brief journey from communication ethics to faculty self-disclosure that Erica J. Gannon presents in “Instructor Self-Disclosure in the Classroom.” Faculty can struggle when they self- disclose their own experiences and beliefs, especially when discussing hot topics or different issues in the classroom. Therapist self-disclosure in clinical settings is compared with instructor self-disclosure that results in guidelines for instructors.
Seong-Jae Min integrates civic education into the conversation. Instructors can apply democracy theories and practices in an effort to help manage the discussion of divisive topics in the classroom.
Maran Subramain, Chad Edwards, and Autumn Edwards experimentally tested the influence of relational maintenance on student perceptions of instructor credibility. They found that students rated instructors more credible when instructors sent emails that used positive relational maintenance tools than emails that contained no relational maintenance tools.
Finally, Bouwma-Gearhart argues that educators who are perceived to be heterosexual are well positioned to counter students’ intolerance towards different sexualities. Not only are they well positioned but that they have an obligation to do so.
With this issue, we address the significance of maintaining engagement and at the same time addressing these issues with an ethical and honest approach. These teaching opportunities help faculty and students think productively about issues raised and can advance learning in ways that other subject matter cannot. These hot topics can be remarkable teaching moments. Towards this end, I am pleased to announce that Academic Exchange Quarterly will again feature the divisive topics titled Student Perceptions, Beliefs, or Attitudes in its Summer 2012 issue. I encourage you to consider submitting your own work, and to share the call for papers with colleagues. Submissions are welcome from anyone who is actively involved in the area of teaching innovation. Please identify your submission with the keyword STUDENT-9 , and feel free to contact me with any questions about submission guidelines. I look forward to seeing how faculty and students approach hot topics in the classroom.
Vickie L. Harvey, Ph.D. Feature Editor
Professor, Communication Studies Department
California State University, Stanislaus
One University Way, Turlock, CA 95382