Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation proposed and operationalized a theoretically meaningful and practically useful conceptualization of change for three well known communication constructs, namely willingness to communicate (WTC), self-perceived communication competence (SPCC), and communication apprehension (CA). Specifically, this research found that students' WTC and SPCC scores increased linearly during the semester and their CA scores decreased linearly. In addition, results from this dissertation indicated that for all three constructs considerable differences among students existed with respect to both initial levels and subsequent change in levels. These results are important and can advance the theoretical communication research centered around these constructs. In particular, knowledge that the hypothesis of linear change in the constructs received support from empirical data and that variations in students' trajectories of change were recorded, can prompt communication scholars to search for novel theoretical frameworks that can explicate these change processes. Moreover, the findings of this research are also salient for classroom instruction. Specifically, teachers of introductory communication classes can use the results of this study as broad benchmarks that can inform realistic expectations with respect to students' improvement in WTC, SPCC, and/or CA. In addition, this dissertation presented the benefits derived from properly conceptualizing and studying change by means of latent growth modeling, a powerful and versatile data analytic technique. Specifically, employing this methodology offered the opportunity to get detailed information about how changes in one construct are related to changes in the other two constructs and to gain a more in-depth knowledge of the intricate ways in which interlinkages among the constructs change across time. The benefits of this dynamic way to study WTC, SPCC, and CA are readily apparent as it facilitates teachers access to information that can be used to tailoring their activity for a more targeted, efficient, and beneficial instruction.
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