Too Anxious to Talk: Social Anxiety, Communication, and Academic Experiences in Higher Education

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Archbell, Kristen




The first overarching goal of this doctoral dissertation was to develop and measure a new construct termed academic communication. Accordingly, Study 1 focussed on item development, pilot testing, and examining the psychometric properties of the newly developed Academic Communication Inventory (ACI). Undergraduate students (N = 642, Mage = 19.5) completed the ACI (assessing general communicative behaviours) along with other measures to investigate external validity. Results demonstrated that the best fitting structure of the ACI was a two-factor solution, consisting of the subscales: (1) communication with instructors; and (2) communication with peers. Study 2 assessed measure invariance across educational context (i.e., blended courses, online courses, offline courses), as well as gender differences in communication. Participants were undergraduate students (N = 1074, Mage = 20.3) who completed the ACI (assessing course-specific communicative behaviours), with 21% subset completing follow-up questionnaires (participants from Study 2 were also used in Studies 3 and 4 for different research purposes). Multi-group factor analyses suggested that the ACI could be used as both a general and course-specific measure of academic communication (i.e., the ACI was invariant across course contexts). Moreover, females and males reported different communication levels with instructors and peers. Study 3 focused on the utility of the ACI, by examining the links between social anxiety, communication, academic experiences (i.e., engagement, classroom connectedness, student satisfaction). Among the results, academic communication accounted for significant variance in the links between social anxiety and academic experiences. Moreover, social anxiety was negatively related to academic experiences, and there was at least some evidence that academic experiences explained part of the association between social anxiety and wellbeing. Study 4 supplemented the previous studies by asking students who they ask course related questions to and why. Emerging themes aligned with the subscales of the ACI (i.e., communication with peers, instructors, peers and instructors, and no one). Social anxiety scores in the theme of no one and peers were significantly higher than instructors and peers and instructors. Results from each study are discussed in the context of contemporary higher education and potential implications for educational practice.


Psychology - Developmental
Educational Psychology
Education - Higher




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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