School of Communication and the Arts


Doctor of Philosophy in Communication (PhD)


Carol Hepburn

Primary Subject Area

Speech Communication


immediacy, nonverbal communication, college student, relationships, teacher


Communication | Higher Education


This quantitative research study focuses on the relationship between college teachers’ nonverbal communication behaviors and the influence that those behaviors have on college students’ perception of immediacy. Understanding the factors of immediacy, or trust and rapport with another, is imperative for educators as the current literature suggests that how students feel toward their instructors plays a role in the retention or attrition of students. Although nonverbal communication is only one part of a complex set of variables that go into the equation of student retention, it is an important aspect of the equation to study because nonverbal communication is constantly happening in every lecture and every student-instructor interaction. By gathering Likert scale data from over 1,800 college students across the nation, this study found that the most highly correlated nonverbal categories (haptics and proxemics) were the two that required individualized interactions with students. The findings from this study suggest a correlation between student-instructor immediacy and educators who go out of their way to connect with students on an individual and personal basis. This study has theoretical implications within the nonverbal immediacy field and practical implications for educators and higher education. Keywords: immediacy, nonverbal communication, college student, relationships