Teacher With College Students chatting in classroom January 10

Communication Strategies to Engage Students and Encourage Learning

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When I first began working with teachers who represented different disciplines, I learned that a lot of college professors are very stuck on their own content. And they believe that it, along with the pedagogy that they use for presenting it to students, is what causes learning to occur. It is absolutely true that credible, effective teachers are—first and foremost—subject-matter experts. Years of education and experience have helped us build this knowledge base that we use as the foundation for our teaching. Then we work hard at developing unique, innovative, in-class pedagogy and assignments for our students.

But why is it that, despite our expertise and all this effort, we still struggle to get our students engaged, motivated, performing well, and understanding what it is we want for them as students? Years of research suggests that the secret sauce, so to speak, is communication. More specifically, the teacher’s communication plays a powerful role as the source of all kinds of messages in and around the college classroom.

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professor in front of class May 9, 2016

Untangling the Web of Student-Teacher Communication

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When I tell people that I study the role of communication in teaching and learning, the most common response is: “Isn’t communication just common sense? I’m an expert in what I teach; why do I need to worry about how I communicate?” In reality, communication is a learned verbal and nonverbal skill that all of us must continually refine. When we interact with our students purposefully, we maximize the chances that our content expertise will make a positive difference in terms of their learning.


October 12, 2012

Do Students Like Your Communication Style?

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Should instructors care whether or not students find their exchanges satisfying? They should, because as this research (and previous studies) document, those levels of satisfaction correlate positively and significantly with something these researchers call “affective learning.” Affective learning involves student feelings and emotions toward the subject matter and the teacher.


July 11, 2012

A Failure to Communicate

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At my house, we’re deep into a host of summer projects and are having our usual communication difficulties. Yesterday my brother Charles and I were trying to help my husband Michael tie sheets of plywood to a cart so they could be transported to a work site. “Put the rope under the board. No, not all the way under. Put it under and over the top.” My mentally challenged brother is confused and frustrated as he tries to put the rope where Michael wants it. “No, loop it over.” I’m eager to help but I haven’t a clue where the rope is supposed to go.