Communication is fundamental to effective classroom management and student motivation
It’s not what you say or do, but rather, how you say or do it.
Within this reflective piece I will examine the use of communication in the classroom and how it is essential for effective classroom management and student motivation. I will discuss the different forms of communication used in the classroom environment, including verbal, non-verbal, written, visual and how I use these tools to ensure effective classroom management, as well as student motivation.
I will also directly reflect on my own experiences from within the classroom, both from an observational point of view and as the teacher and how communication has shaped my teaching philosophy at this early stage of my teaching journey.
It is my belief that at the heart of teaching lies relationships. From what I have learned, I feel that teachers cannot and will not succeed in educating their students unless they have an effective relationship with them. Within these relationships I believe communication is the key ingredient and so my overall outlook and what I will be focussing on in this paper is that no matter what learning theories or methodologies are being used, they will only be successful if there is clear and effective communication between the students and teacher.
Johnson stated “Effective teaching depends on successful communication” (Johnson, 1999) and this indorses by thoughts that communication is fundamental to effective classroom management and student motivation.
When looking at my own classroom experiences the main form of communication that has been present throughout is verbal communication. This form of communication can be seen frequently through questioning. Questioning comes from both the students and the teacher and is very applicable for pedagogy and classroom management. “If used appropriately, teachers’ questions can engage students in the vicinity of instructional objectives, help move instructional objects to the forefront of students’ attention and promote student translation and processing of instructional objectives” (Campell, 2008). I try and use questioning as a method of keeping students engaged with the topic and to allow them to demonstrate the information and knowledge they already have learned. I use this method as I observed how it was effectively used by one of my co-operating teachers. (APENDIX 1)
Questions allow for a type of communication where students can receive instant feedback and so motivate them to continue to give the “correct” answer or if not continue to learn and how they might look to get closer to the desired response. Ivan Hannel states how asking questions to those students who do not want to volunteer keeps the class alert and encourages students to look for the answer (Hannel, 2003). This is something I observed and have implemented myself in the classroom and I feel it has been very effective. This method not only works for keeping students motivated and engaged in the topic, but it also works well for classroom management and positive behaviour from the students. Students realise that they may be asked a question at any stage and so must be alert and listening to what is being said by myself and their peers.
The philosopher Socrates used the method of questioning to bring forward the knowledge from his students. He believed that knowledge was already present in the learner, within their soul and that the process of education was to help them to recall this knowledge (Chambliss, 1990). I agree with this outlook and would base some aspects of my teaching style on this. I believe that teachers should be there to facilitate the learning in the classroom, not to dictate it or enforce it. Teachers should be able to help and guide the students to learn and understand the topic without using a didactic approach. (APPENDIX 2).
Questioning also allows me to use another important verbal communication tool, positive reinforcement. I use positive reinforcement frequently in the classroom and with questioning it allows me to give an instant response and so keep the students motivated. It allows me the opportunity to keep them engaged by praising them for the effort and for answering the question no matter if the response is right or wrong.
In terms of non-verbal communication this method is extremely important when it comes to classroom management. Studies suggest that as much as 75% of a teacher’s classroom management direction (intentional or otherwise) is nonverbal (Balzer, 1969).
“Non-verbal behaviours are used to support or modify verbal behaviours” (Johnson, 1999, p. 4) Non-verbal communication can range from everything from eye contact, to hand gestures, to the posture a teacher may adopt when conducting a class. In my classroom I try ensuring that I use positive, but even more importantly effective non-verbal techniques. To do this I make a point of walking the room quite regularly to demonstrate a presence of authority and that I am in control of the classroom. It can be very effective in keeping talkative students at bay.
I have also used non-verbal communication for effective classroom management. This can be done in a number of ways including areas I have already touched upon, eye contact and the demeanour of the teacher. I had to deal with a class that was being overly talkative and generally just over excited. I used a skill that I observed from my cooperating teacher in order to regain control of the class. I was able to regain total control of the class using a non-verbal technique that depended on my depended on my body language (APPENDIX 3).
From a more practical approach I also use a seating plan in my classroom which can be considered a form of non-verbal communication. When it comes to seating plans, Robert Sommer’s suggestion is to choose something that works for the teacher and their students, in context, at each particular point in time. (Sommer, 1977). Agreeing with Sommer, using a seating plan allows me to place students strategically around the classroom which will ultimately allow for better class management which leads to better learning (APPENDIX 4).
I also believe that a seating plan orchestrated in the correct manner can lead to an increase in student motivation. With that, I would argue that seating certain “stronger” students next to the “weaker” ones helps to bridge the gap in the learning. The students learn from each other and so the “stronger” students can help to bring along the “weaker” students. With some students they find it difficult to ask questions openly in class so this way they can ask their peers and learn from each other. This leads back to my original thoughts on how the teacher should be there to facilitate the learning in the room but ultimately that it should, when possible come from the students themselves.
From a classroom management standpoint, a seating plan is also useful in keeping talkative or disruptive students apart. I will threaten to separate students if they don’t stop talking or don’t do what is being asked of them. I find it works very well in most cases and I also saw this approach being used effectively by a co-operating teacher of mine. (APPENDIX 5)
When it comes to written and visual communication, I believe that these two forms work in conjunction with each other. When utilizing visual communication, it is important to remember the target audience, i.e. the class ability and level they are at and are aspiring to be at. For example, I use power points quite regularly in class as I believe that they are very beneficial when teaching (APPENDIX 6). Not only do they give the class a constant visual aid to view and enforce their learning throughout the class, but they also allow me to face the class a lot more than if I had to use the white board to write up information. However, upon listening to my tutor feedback post visit I realised that I was using too many words and not enough images within my power point. (APPENDIX 7) My tutor pointed out that the style of my power point was slightly too advanced for the class. I then understood how visual communication was so important but that it needed to be applied in the appropriate way.
With written communication I have used exit slips to help me assess the learning that is taking place within my classroom. (APPENDIX 8) This allows me to engage directly with the students without them having to feel judged of under pressure from class mates. The exit slips are just one example of written communication which I use, and feel are beneficial to help the students learn, but ultimately students will need to be proficient with their own written communication skills as this is what they will be marked on at exam time, their ability to communicate in written form the knowledge they have gained over the course of their academic journeys. T
As the title of my paper states, ccommunication is fundamental to effective classroom management and student motivation. However, it must be considered that with all forms of communication, it is equally important to know not just how communication should take place, but also where, when and why it needs to take place.
“Educators and administrators must fully commit to understanding what students ultimately want and need; then, they must give it to them.” (Sirota, 2005)
Balzer, A., 1969. Nonverbal and verbal behaviors of biology. s.l.:s.n.
Campell, T. E. a. I., 2008. Teacher Questioning and Interaction Patterns in Classrooms Facilitated with Differing Levels of Constructivist Teaching Practices. International Journal of Science Education, pp. 1891-1914.
Chambliss, J. J., 1990. The Influence of Plato and Aristotle on John Dewey’s Philosophy. s.l.:The Edwin Mellen Press.
Hannel, I., 2003. Highly Effective Questioning (Developing the Seven Steps of Critical Thinking). Hannel; 3rd edition edition ed. s.l.:s.n.
Johnson, M. B., 1999. Communication in the Classroom, U.S: U.S Department of Education.
Sirota, D., Mischkind, L. and Meltzer, M. 2005. Assumptions that kill morale. Leader to Leader, 38: 24–27.
Sommer, R., 1977. Classroom layout. Theory into Practice16(3), 174-175..