In the News

Manchester communication findings featured at national conference

Manchester University faculty members and students were featured in sessions of the 106th annual convention of the National Communication Association this month.

mary-lahmanProfessor Mary Lahman and Associate Professor Tim McKenna-Buchanan presented their findings on research that included student stories from the 2019-20 academic year. Current MU students Kate Barrow and Megan Hite also participated in the panel recording.

With associates from Denison University in Ohio and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Lahman and McKenna-Buchanan collected stories about how students interpret the value of their learning and development over time. The researchers found evidence that personal goal-setting and group reflection can be transformative. 

At Manchester, communication studies faculty enctim-mckenna-buchananourage students to reflect on their learning experience throughout the semester. Students set their own learning goals, such as paying attention and asking questions, and they reflect on the goals at midterm to see what is going well. Students note how well they understand their listening habits, ask questions, and paraphrase to take control of their learning. Lahman says this often translates into students working on assignments earlier and better understanding expectations for those assignments.

“We found that when students take control of their learning, they build ‘growth’ mindsets, a belief that they can learn any subject,” Lahman said. “Contrast this attitude with a ‘fixed’ mindset that they either ‘have it or they don't’ when it comes to learning certain subjects.”

She said that students leave the Foundations of Human Communication course at Manchester with both new understanding and confidence. Lahman said they can start a conversation with someone they have never met before; are more comfortable in the college setting; know how to be empathetic; and they gain understanding that they will have less miscommunication in their lives if they pay attention and use techniques that help them learn what other people mean.

In a second panel, Lahman also presented findings with associates from Christopher Newport University in Virginia, Indiana University East, Purdue University Fort Wayne (PFW) and the University of Nevada, Reno.

She collaborated with Assistant Professor Sarah LeBlanc from PFW to introduce faculty across institutions to be more intentional with their teaching reflections. For example, individual faculty members collect student stories throughout the semester, in addition to colleagues’ stories about the student learning during classroom and online observations.

“Those faculty members found a complex set of crossroads where students and teachers meet and negotiate learning rather than viewing learning as a single path,” she said.

The all-virtual convention from Nov. 18 to 22 provided opportunities to examine and discuss future directions for research, teaching and the communication discipline itself.

For the media
Mary Lahman, 260-982-5351
Tim McKenna-Buchanan

Manchester University, with campuses in North Manchester and Fort Wayne, Ind., provides vibrant and transformative student experiences. Learn more at

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Manchester University respects the infinite worth of every individual and graduates persons of ability and conviction who draw upon their education and faith to lead principled, productive, and compassionate lives that improve the human condition.

November 2020