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Effective Internal & External Communication with Students

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Communication is a vital link in school environments. This lesson defines internal and external communications and gives examples at how to do both effectively.

Why Communicate?

Have you ever thought about how much goes on in a school environment? Teachers and guidance counselors work together to make sure students succeed. Each of these team members communicates with students about their academic progress and other areas of school life. Why is this important?

By talking to students about learning, progress, and their future plans, school personnel can clearly identify each student's specific needs. Classroom teachers communicate about academic performance, expectations, and other topics related to learning, while guidance counselors communicate about such topics as future plans, stress, or balancing extracurricular activities.

So, what does this look like in a school setting?

Communication at School

Communication isn't something that just happens in schools. Most people communicate with others on a daily basis. Did you know that all types of communication can be broken down into two sub-categories? The two categories of communication are internal and external. Though these communication types are used broadly, like in the corporate setting, they can also be applied to school situations.

Internal communication includes those types of communication that occur inside an organization, in our case, a school. These types of communication happen throughout the day on a large scale, say between the administrator and teachers, and in other ways more specific to the student, like when a teacher speaks to a student about test scores.

Sometimes communication happens between school personnel and those outside the school. This is called external communication. Teachers may send notes home to parents; guidance counselors may register a student for a test; and administration may post a notice of school closure due to weather. Both internal and external communication are important to student success.

Communication with the Teacher

Students of all ages, from preschool to college, benefit from effective communication with their teachers. Remember, communication is a two-way street -- teachers need to communicate information to students and count on them to listen and remember, but teachers also need to make sure students are comfortable and confident about sharing their thoughts. So, how can teachers make sure they're encouraging effective exchanges of communication?

Both internally and externally, teachers can be effective communicators with students by doing the following:

  • Making themselves available to answer and meet student needs. For younger students this can mean simply starting conversations. Being available after school and via e-mail is a good way to be there for older students.

  • Being clear about policies, procedures, and acceptable practices. Teachers need to make sure their expectations are clearly stated, sometimes in both word and print. This way, students aren't confused about what the teacher wants.

  • Being open to all questions and feedback. Sometimes students need more clarification on a topic or want to share feelings that a teacher might find uncomfortable. For example, if a student feels he or she received an unfair grade, the teacher should be open to communication from the student. Students need to feel they can approach the teacher with problems and concerns.

  • Being respectful and proactive with student communication. Teachers who are effective communicators want students to feel comfortable asking questions and giving feedback. When a student shares thoughts, the teacher should model respectful listening and show students how to answer questions and concerns in a positive way.

  • Using constructive feedback. When communicating with students about their work, the teacher's bottom line is to help improve learning. Saying things like 'This isn't your best' or 'We already went over the directions' doesn't really give students a clear understanding of what expectation wasn't met. Instead, teachers can say, 'The rubric stated X, and your work is Y.'

Can you see examples of internal and external communication? Teachers use both often.

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