Establishing Credibility

When it comes to establishing credibility in the classroom and with faculty members, we felt that the best advice would come straight from your professors.  We asked two Kent State University professors what credibility means to them, and to offer advice for establishing credibility in the classroom and with faculty.  The first faculty member featured included a general statement on credibility, while the second faculty member responded to interview questions.

College of the Arts Professor

“As a faculty member, credibility starts with me in my classes and theatre productions (which are also academic courses) that I direct. If I model what I teach, then students will ‘get it.’ This includes my mantra that no one is ever treated as a ‘lesser person’ (to borrow the phrase from Amnesty International). Everyone is treated with courtesy and respect, and has a voice (which all should listen to, in accordance with the proper manners of a learning environment). How we treat each other is the first principle I cover when introducing students to our courses and productions. I let them know that we strive to have empowered students, and create a community of learners (which includes myself).

Thus, respectful behavior in the classroom and rehearsal space creates a learning environment where students feel comfortable to listen and respond without fear and intimidation. I have been teaching and directing for many years, and I know these principles work, resulting in positive student development. Part of this is creating a non-competitive and non-judgmental learning environment, which I insist upon.

It is quite rare when a student does not adhere to the above, but when it happened, I quickly spoke with the student in a private conversation to let them know their error and encourage them to look at the problem. For instance, I once had a student in one of my Improvisation classes make a disparaging comment about another student. After dealing with this matter, the student turned things around and we had no more such problems.

Almost all the time, students I work with gain credibility by embracing these principles, and they clearly have positive learning and creative experiences. This is the foundation of what I expect of my students. Other things, like keeping up with course requirements, are clearly outlined at the beginning of my classes. I strongly encourage them to come to me for assistance, as needed. If I see a student having difficulty, I try to intervene early.” 

College of Education, Health, and Human Services Professor

1. What does the term “credibility” mean to you?

“Credibility means being seen as someone who is honest, can be trusted, and who is knowledgeable about a topic. Someone whose actions match their expressed values.”

2. When you hear the phrase, “credibility in the classroom,” what comes to mind?

“Similar to my answer above, being seen as an instructor who has students best interests at heart, who is honest, trustworthy, ethical in their approach to teaching, and willing to address conflict, sensitive topics, and misunderstandings in class. I expect the same behavior from the students in my class as they expect from me in terms of credibility.”

3. Why should establishing credibility with faculty be important to college students?

“Students need to understand that the classroom is a two-way street. Although faculty have knowledge and experience to share, students also bring experiences and insights to the setting. Therefore, students need to show they are engaged in the educational process, be honest, etc. (as noted above). When students establish credibility with faculty, they can begin to co-construct the learning that occurs. And in the longer term, this credibility can lead to a stronger relationship with a faculty and establishment of a relationship that can benefit the student when faculty are willing to write letters of recommendation, help them find internships, or provide opportunities for networking to help the students with career decision making.” 

4. Give an example of behavior that helped a student to gain credibility with you.

“This past spring I had a student who clearly had not completed an assignment by the deadline (given that they incorporated class discussion into their paper). When I challenged them, the student was honest about not having the assignment completed and accepted, without me saying, that this would have an impact on their final grade.”

5. Give an example of a behavior that has caused a student to lose credibility with you.

“Having a student who comes into a class believing that they know everything about a topic, who is not willing to learn new things or be challenged in their thinking/knowledge, and who (intentionally or not) is disrespectful of others' insights. “

6. What is your biggest expectation of students?

“Honesty is top of my list, followed by willingness to be open to others' ideas and insights as well as being willing to have their views challenged and knowledge expanded.”