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Barriers to Effective Communication in the Classroom

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

It can be difficult to run a classroom when the communication between students and teachers is less than ideal. This lesson identifies potential classroom communication barriers and offers tips and advice on how these impediments can be overcome.

Communication Barriers

Regardless of the subject you teach, barriers to effective communication can easily affect any classroom environment. There are a variety of factors that can have a negative impact on communication, but there are simple and effective ways to mitigate these concerns. The first step is to identify these barriers and then to determine whether they exist in your classroom.

It's important to note that different populations of students may be more susceptible to certain types of communication barriers. For instance, young students may have more difficulty paying attention than older students. Also, young learners may be less adept at picking up on social, visual, and body language cues from the teacher. For instance, young learners may not understand that when the teacher stops talking mid-sentence, he or she may be expressing an unspoken desire for students to quiet down and pay attention.

Even though students of different levels and ages are likely to encounter communication barriers, there are several things you, as the teacher, can do to eliminate, or at least lessen the negative affects of these barriers.

Communication Barriers - Causes and Solutions

Before eliminating communication barriers, you must first understand where they are coming from. The following list details both communication issues and provides suggested fixes. As you work through this list, be sure to adapt the information to meet both your needs and the needs of your learners.

Student cliques

  • When students only work with and communicate with friends in class, their exposure to new ideas and communication types is severely limited. This type of consistency, while it may be comforting due to the familiarity students have with each other, doesn't allow individuals to be exposed to different communication styles. This outcome can cause students to become somewhat lazy and can prevent them from expanding their communication options and abilities.
    • Practice Tip:Whenever you use activities that require group work such as study groups, discussions, or presentations, try to randomize how group members are selected.
    • Practice Tip:In addition, be sure to change groups up frequently. If possible, try to have different seating arrangements based on days of the week. You can also be a bit more creative by having students who are wearing the same color shirts sit together for a day or grouping students by hair length. If you use one of these creative approaches, students may be more willing to work with unfamiliar classmates.
  • While it may not be obvious, working with the same individuals again and again can be a significant barrier to effective communication in the classroom. By changing up group members or the classroom seating arrangement on a regular basis, you can ensure that students are learning how to adapt their communication styles in order to effectively communicate with all classmates, and not just the individuals who are their friends.

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