Helping Your Students to be Good Communicators

Image of two headsInterpersonal interactions are important in today’s learning environments (Farley-Lucas & Sargent, 2012), yet getting students to properly communicate with you can sometimes be a challenge. Farley-Lucas and Sargent remind us that “in-class communication sets the stage for out-of-class communication” (2012, para. 1). The actions and interactions instructors’ exhibit in the classroom can act as examples and models students can adapt to help them to communicate better with you and others in and out of the classroom.

The following strategies cover some of the more common situations in which you communicate with your students. In turn, these strategies can easily be adapted by students as they communicate with you. The content below has been excerpted from Enhancing Out-of-Class Communication: Students Top 10 Suggestions, Bonnie Farley-Lucas and Margaret Sargent (2012) and Influencing Teachers: Improving Your Classroom Communication Skills, Joe Landsberger (n.d.).

  1. Establish ground rules for communication and be open to feedback. Include in your course syllabus some basic ground rules for effective communication such as how you would like to be addressed, how you wish to interact outside the classroom (through email or discussion board, and expected writing conventions such as no texting language), when you will respond to email (for example, within 24 hours, not on weekends), and be open to suggestions from students.
  2. Arrive early and stay after class to encourage students to easily communicate with you about class-related issues.
  3. Meet with your students at the beginning of the semester, individually or in small groups, during an arranged time, to become better acquainted with them. This one-on-one or small group interaction allows students to become familiar with your communication style which can help them to communicate effectively with you.
  4. Share something about yourself with your students to encourage them to do the same when they might need assistance.
  5. Interact with students outside the classroom. Recognizing your students by name or through a welcoming hello can reduce barriers to communication. This interaction tells students that you are caring and feel comfortable relating to them which may motivate them to do the same.
  6. Schedule midterm conferences with students to review progress and provide assistance with remaining work. This meeting shows students that you care about their progress and can encourage them to seek assistance at other times in the semester.
  7. Thank students for their participation in, and contribution to, class discussions. This type of affirmation will encourage students to communicate openly in the classroom and come away with positive feelings about the experience.
  8. Actively listen to what students are saying in class. In other words, be an empathic listener where you listen with your entire body – with your eyes, your facial features, your hands, and your ears, as well as asking good questions. Modeling this behavior will teach students the art of listening which is a key component of quality communication.
  9. Assure students that you will get back to them and follow through when posed with a question or issue you cannot answer or address in class. This modeling can help students to think before speaking and to be responsible for their actions.
  10. Avoid arguing with students, no matter the situation. If you find yourself in an argument with a student (and perhaps find out that you were wrong), admit it and explain the misunderstanding. This helps to show students that you too can make mistakes and strive to resolve the situation. This can also help students to avoid similar situations in public and to resolve issues privately.
  11. Demonstrate timely communication and feedback by returning exams and course work in a timely manner. If you find that you will need more time to return work or have forgotten to hand back a student’s exam or assignment, admit the error and promise to return the work as soon as possible. Doing so illustrates to students that 1) you can make mistakes, and 2) that you are willing to resolve the situation as soon as possible.
  12. Provide examples of expected writing  styles. Show in class or post online examples of good email messages, memos, letters, reports, or other forms of correspondences you expect of your students. Explain how and why the examples are effective.

Summary

How you teach and how you act in your classroom can have a profound impact on your students, especially in the way they communicate. By observing, practicing and adapting some of the strategies listed in this article, students can more efficiently communicate with you and their peers, both in and out of the classroom. Students can then better communicate with others beyond the classroom setting.

References

Farley-Lucas, B. and Sargent, M. (2012). Enhancing Out-of-Class Communication: Students Top 10 Suggestions. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/philosophy-of-teaching/enhancing-out-of-class-communication-students-top-10-suggestions)

Landsberger, J. (n.d.). Influencing Teachers: Improving Your Classroom Communication Skills. http://www.studygs.net/attmot2.htm

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