Misunderstandings can happen in every situation, not just in education; you can say one thing, and someone will hear another. So how do you make sure you are communicating in a way that will engage your pupils in a positive manner?
Effective Communication is a set of techniques that can be adapted to any situation, environment and conversation. It focuses on your tone of voice, body language, how you talk to someone and how you respond.
Within education, it can be used in conjunction with intervention programmes, such as Motivational Interviewing, to help ensure you build a healthy relationship based on respect that can help you reduce the pupil’s potential resistance to any given subject.
The four steps to Effective Communication
Effective Communication focuses on the idea of an ‘even playing field’ where no one appears to have the power or control in a situation, and where both sides appreciate and respect the other and their opinions.
To do this, you should follow the O.A.R.S. process:
Encourage further elaboration and consideration of your pupil’s issues through questions that require more of an answer than a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Open-ended questions can provide significant structure that helps to centre the conversation towards a positive outcome.
Make sure to recognise your pupil’s strengths and acknowledge their behaviour when it begins to show a positive change. This can be done through statements or gestures to show approval, but it must be genuine. Show interest in your pupil’s behaviour changes, no matter how big or small they may be, it all helps to raise self-esteem and confidence.
Listen to your pupil’s ideas and opinions, then offer the idea back to them to confirm you are listening and understand what they are saying. Over emphasising your reflections can also help challenge short-sighted/narrow minded opinions and thoughts and help them question why they believe or behave in that way. This is a key strategy for Effective Communication and is a necessary stage to help build the bond between teaching staff and pupils. To reflect effectively, you must take an interest in what your pupil is saying and respect their knowledge. Common phrases to use in reflective listening can be “It’s sound like you…” and “So you feel…”.
Summaries are an extension of reflective listening and help confirm the way forward. They are often used at the end of each section of a conversation, such as when a pupil recounts a personal experience. It proves that you are listening and paying attention to what the pupil has said, which helps them feel respected and reduce anxiety.