Instructor-student rapport in Taiwan ESL classrooms


  • Nathan G. Webb Belmont University
  • Laura Obrycki Barrett University of Kansas



affective learning model, English as Second Language, ESL, rapport, cultural barriers


Positive relationships between instructors and students are critical to effective learning in the classroom. Rooted in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), and centered at the crossroads of interpersonal communication and instructional communication (Affective Learning Model), this study examines how instructors in a Taiwan ESL school build relationships with Taiwanese students. Instructors were interviewed regarding the behaviors they use to build rapport with their students. Results show that instructors build rapport with their students using several specific techniques: uncommonly attentive behaviors, common grounding behaviors, courteous behaviors, connecting behavior, information sharing behavior, a balancing of connection and authority, adaptation of rapport to student level, and provision of a respite to norms. The findings provide specific examples of how instructors can build rapport in intercultural classrooms.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Nathan G. Webb, Belmont University

Nathan G. Webb is Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Belmont University (USA).

Laura Obrycki Barrett, University of Kansas

Laura Obrycki Barrett is a Graduate Teaching Assistant in Communication Studies at the University of Kansas (USA).


Brown, D.H. (1994). Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents.

Catt, S., Miller, D., & Schallenkamp, K. (2007). You are the key: Communicate for learning effectiveness. Education, 127, 369-377.

Chesebro, J. L., & McCroskey, J. C. (1998). The relationship between teacher clarity and immediacy and students’ experiences of state receiver apprehension when listening to teachers. Communication Quarterly, 46, 446–455.

Chen, H. (2005). The rationale for critical pedagogy in facilitating cultural identity development. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 7, 11–22.

Clarke, I., Flaherty, T. B., & Mottner, S. (2001). Student perceptions of educational tools. Journal of Marketing Education, 23, 169-177.

Coupland, J. (2003). Small talk: Social functions. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 36, 1-6. doi:10.1207/S15327973RLSI3601_1

Dillon, R.K. (2008). How alumni narratives of intercultural competence can inform the scholarship of teaching and learning of intercultural communication. Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 8, 36-49.

Dobransky, N., & Frymier, A. (2004). Developing teacher-student relationships through out of class communication. Communication Quarterly, 52, 211-223.

Ellis, K. (2004). The impact of perceived teacher confirmation on receiver apprehension, motivation, and learning. Communication Education, 53, 1-20.

Faranda, W. T., & Clarke, I. (2004). Student observation of outstanding teaching: Implications for marketing educators. Journal of Marketing Education, 26, 271-281.

Fereday, J., & Muir-Cochrane, E. (2006). Demonstrating rigor using thematic analysis: A hybrid approach of inductive and deductive coding and theme development. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5, 1-11.

Frisby, B.N., Berger, E., Burchett, M., Herovic, E., & Strawser, M.G. (2014). Participation apprehensive students: The influence of face support and instructor-student rapport on classroom participation. Communication Education, 63, 105-103.

Frisby, B.N., & Martin, M. (2010). Instructor-Student and Student-Student Rapport in the Classroom. Communication Education, 59, 146-164.

Frisby, B. N., & Myers, S. A. (2008). The relationships among perceived instructor rapport, student participation, and student learning outcomes. Texas Speech Communication Journal, 33, 27-34.

Frymier, A. B., & Houser, M. L. (2000). The teacher-student relationship as an interpersonal relationship. Communication Education, 49, 207-219.

George, D. (2007). Market overreach: The student as customer. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 36, 965-977. doi:10.1016/j.socec.2007.01.025

Gorham, J., & Christophel, D. M. (1990). The relationship of teachers’ use of humor in the classroom to immediacy and student learning. Communication Education, 39, 46-62.

Gremler, D. D., & Gwinner, K. P. (2000). Customer-employee rapport in service relationships. Journal of Service Research, 3, 82-104. doi:10.1177/109467050031006

Gremler, D. D., & Gwinner, K. P. (2008), Rapport-building behaviors used by retail employees. Journal of Retailing, 84, 308-324. doi:10.1016/j.jretai.2008.07.001

Gudykunst, W. B., & Ting-Toomey, S. (1988). Culture and interpersonal communication. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Hall, E. T. (1976). Beyond culture. Garden City, NJ: Anchor.

Hammond, J. (2008). Intellectual challenge and ESL students: Implications of quality teaching initiatives. Australian Journal of Language & Literacy, 31, 128-154.

Hill, M. E., & Herche, J. (2001). Teaching and effectiveness: Another look. Marketing Education Review, 11,19-24.

Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s consequences: International differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Jorge, E. (2011). Assessing the value of a community-based approach to language and cultural learning: A longitudinal study. Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 11, 33-52.

Lindlof, T.R. & Taylor, B. C. (2011). Qualitative communication research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Lu, H.S. & Soares, L. (2014). US elementary preservice teachers’ experiences while teaching students in Taiwan. Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 14, 59-72.

McKinney, K. (2007). Enhancing learning through the scholarship of teaching and learning. Bolton, MA: Anker.

Nadler, J. (2007). Build rapport—and a better deal. Negotiation, 3, 9-11.

Owen, W. F. (1984). Interpretive themes in relational communication. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70, 274-287. doi:10.1080/00335638409383697

Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Porto, M. (2010). Culturally responsive L2 education: An awareness-raising proposal. ELT Journal: English Language Teachers Journal, 64, 45-53. doi:10.1093/elt/ccp021

Roach, K. D., Cornett-DeVito, M. M., & DeVito, R. (2005). A cross-cultural comparison of instructor communication in American and French classrooms. Communication Quarterly, 53, 87-107. doi:10.1080/01463370500056127

Rodriguez, J. I., Plax, T. G., & Kearney, P. (1996). Clarifying the relationship between teacher nonverbal immediacy and student cognitive learning: Affective learning as the central causal mediator. Communication Education, 45, 293-305.

Schrodt, P., & Witt, P. (2006). Students’ attributions of instructor credibility as a function of students’ expectations of instructional technology use and nonverbal immediacy. Communication Education, 55, 1-20.

Shearman, S. M., & Dumlao, R. (2008). A cross-cultural comparison of family communication patterns and conflict between young adults and parents. Journal of Family Communication, 8, 186-211. doi:10.1080/15267430802182456

Teven, J. J., & McCroskey, J. C. (1997). The relationship of perceived teacher caring with student learning and teacher evaluation. Communication Education, 46, 1-9.

Tsui, A. (1996) Reticence and anxiety in second language learning. In Bailey, D. Nunan and M. Swan (Eds.), Voices From the Language Classroom: Qualitative Research in Second Language Education (pp. 145–167). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Van Maanen, J. (1988). Tales of the field: On writing ethnography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Webb, N.G. & Barrett, L.O. (in press). Student views of instructor-student rapport in the college classroom. Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

Worley, D., Titsworth, S., Worley, D., W. & Cornett-DeVito, M. (2007). Instructional communication competence: Lessons learned from award-winning teachers. Communication Studies, 58, 207-222. doi:10.1080/10510970701341170

Yam, E. (2009). Young Americans going abroad to teach. Retrieved from

Yu, H. (2010). Bring workplace assessment into business communication classrooms: A proposal to better prepare students for professional workplaces. Business Communication Quarterly, 73, 21-39.




How to Cite

Webb, Nathan G., and Laura Obrycki Barrett. 2014. “Instructor-Student Rapport in Taiwan ESL Classrooms”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 2 (2):9-23.