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Classroom dynamics

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In discussing the personal relationship between a teacher and students, insight into classroom dynamics can offer clues to how teachers can best create a positive, and therefore beneficial, learning environment since the ability to encourage significant student learning comes from student-teacher attitudinal qualities. 

Be yourself

The first key to building a strong student-teacher relationship is the need to be oneself and to evoke one's personality. While many teachers might want to try to hide their personalities in class, being impersonal, dispassionate and completely objective can often cause more harm than good when creating relationships.

In short, personable teachers interest students. Indeed, most successful and admired teachers are more likely to be noted for their congeniality, good humour and tolerance than for their harsh discipline and scowling looks.

Generating attention

Student attention also plays an important role in teaching because it brings student concentration to the material being learned and the teacher presenting it. This will often include the need to include the use of stories, questions and visual aids to encourage student attentiveness.

In addition, teachers need to include changes in presentation style, including vocal variety, the selected medium of instruction, the appearance of materials, the type of interaction and the activities used. Finally, not only in Thailand, but also in most classrooms, the use of humour plays an important part in presentation.

Another important tool is reviewing verbal immediacy behaviours, which include whether teachers use, for example, the present tense in lieu of the past tense, inclusive references, that is, "we" and not "I", and probability, the use of "will" in place of "may".

Communication skills

When teaching, five important ideas, all related to communication skills, need to be remembered. First, the teaching style must keep students interested. Second, the explanations need to be clear. Third, both material and the overall course need to remain challenging and stimulating. Fourth, teachers need to be enthusiastic, and they need to show their enthusiasm for teaching. Finally, the lectures and classes need to include the use of humour.

The overwhelming importance of clear communication has been continually supported in studies conducted over the past 25 years. They show that effective university teachers, in terms of student satisfaction and levels of learning, during that period were always precise and clear in their presentation, and were active and lively.

Among the conclusions arrived at were that clarity in presentation and warmth in manner contributed to teacher effectiveness in maintaining motivational levels throughout a short course, and that "clear and immediate teaching together should be considered qualities essential to effective teaching".

In discussions concerning effective teaching, many find it difficult to say precisely what makes teaching great. However, the theme of communication was found in virtually every discussion on effective teaching.

There is indeed a difference between knowing and teaching, and that difference is communication in the classroom.

Research on teacher effectiveness and the role played by communication skills has examined both non-verbal and verbal factors associated with teaching, and established moderate to significant relationships between non-verbal behaviours, for example, smiling and gesturing, and affective and cognitive learning.

Teaching involves a process of relational development and requires effective interpersonal communication skills to achieve satisfying outcomes.

While many authors have had difficulty describing the characteristics of an "effective teacher", most include the central role played by communication.

This should not come as a surprise as, regardless of the activities undertaken, communication between the trainer and participants almost always appears on the list.


Dr Timothy Cornwall has been teaching EFL for 30 years and is part of the Shinawatra University faculty. Co-founder of Thailand Educators Network, he can be reached through thaiednet.org , through his web site www.speechwork.co.th, at tim@speechwork.co.th, or on 081-834-8982.

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