Masters Thesis

Politics in the classroom: A qualitative view of student perceptions of instructors who express political attitudes

Politics in the classroom is a hot topic for debate in today’s political climate yet is a subject that yields limited research. By applying a qualitative lens, participants had the opportunity to discuss their perceptions of their instructors, the classroom climate, and their own political ideologies following exposure to their instructor’s ideologies. Through coding of interviews with participants, it becomes clear that when discussing politics in the classroom, the instructor’s competency play a major role in determining whether the student liked their instructor or not. These findings are consistent for both students who perceived similar political ideologies and students who perceived differing political ideologies. Further, students who perceived differing political ideologies may be less attuned to immediacy behaviors and affinity-seeking strategies that would increase student liking of their instructor. Increased liking along with feelings of safety in the classroom may play a role in perceived student attitude change. Finally, four categories of perceived effects were identified by participants; positive effects in which the participants had more positive feelings toward the ideology their instructor presented, no effect, negative effects in which the instructor’s discussion of their political ideologies had a boomerang effect, and most importantly a researching effect. These discussions of political ideologies in the classroom led to an increase in student civic engagement. Therefore, instructors should not shy away from political discussions, but rather display competency and immediacy behaviors to mitigate negative effects felt by students.