Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Bethany Flora

Committee Members

Ginger Christian, Bill Flora, Virginia Foley


A qualitative investigation was conducted to explore the phenomenon of communication apprehension among a purposeful sample of five community college students with high levels of communication apprehension. The phenomenon of Communication Apprehension (CA) is “an individual’s level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons” (Beatty, McCroskey, & Heisel, 1998, p. 197; McCroskey, 1970, p. 269). All individuals experience some level of CA, and between 30% and 40% of individuals are estimated to experience high levels of CA. For the community college student with high levels of CA, the introductory communication course can be difficult, causing significant emotional and physical distress. For the high CA student, the experienced anxiety has academic, social, and emotional implications. A phenomenological qualitative methodology was selected to give voice to the high CA student and to understand the lived experience of high CA during the introductory communication course. This study provides a rich, thick description of the lived experience of the high CA community college student.

A purposeful sample of five high CA community college students enrolled in the introductory communication course was selected. Participants were identified as high CA using the Personal Report of Public Speaking Apprehension (PRPSA) (McCroskey, 2017). Study participants were selected as follows: those with high levels of CA as determined by the PRPSA instrument, and who were willing to offer insight into the lived experience of high CA. Data were gathered in two 50-minute interviews with each participant and from participatory action research (PAR) personal diaries created by study participants. Data were also gathered from field observations by the primary investigator.

The lived experience of high CA is comprised of seven themes: (1) ongoing and pervasive difficulty, (2) ongoing curricular and co-curricular difficulty, (3) no division exists between real and imagined CA, (4) high CA students frequently avoid anxiety-inducing scenarios, and (5) high CA students have not been effectively equipped with mitigating techniques and in turn, use self-developed mitigation. The study is significant because it contributes to the body of knowledge related to CA for the high CA community college student.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.