Barriers to Effective Communication in Teaching

Updated November 21, 2016

Managing a classroom is a crucial teaching skill, and perhaps no better method for management exists than having effective communication skills with your students. Many issues can confound communication between teacher and pupils, and discovering how to minimise those potential problems will alleviate students' learning and behaviour difficulties in many instances.

Environmental Barriers

Before students can be effective listeners, they must be comfortable and physically able to concentrate. Barriers to listening for students are a noisy environment or a room with poor acoustics so that they cannot hear the teacher. Also, the room should be a comfortable temperature and well lit with desks appropriately sized and placed so that students will not be distracted. If it's getting close to lunch time, or the students have had long periods without a break, it will be difficult for instructors to maintain the attention of the class, no matter how skilled the communication techniques or how interesting the material they present.

Student Barriers

Various issues can create barriers to effective communication in the classroom, including issues with the students. For instance, if students are from a different cultural background than the teacher, the teacher must be certain to be culturally sensitive and avoid stereotyping. If the students have special learning or behavioural needs, the teacher needs to keep in mind the particular needs when trying to communicate. For instance, for ADHD students, it would be advisable to keep communication direct and simple and provide outlines of longer presentations. For those with visual or hearing impairments, teachers need to make proper accommodations to ensure good communication can take place, such as assistive technology or preferred seating placement.

Teacher's Barriers

Some teaching styles can have built-in barriers to effective communication. For example, a teacher who insists on dominating class time by lecturing continuously instead of allowing student participation will frustrate some learners until they shut out what the teacher reviews. Or, other students will become apprehensive about answering or asking questions in such a classroom environment. A teacher needs to be careful in communication to avoid certain types of language, such as overly formal or technical jargon, and too many colloquialisms to avoid confusing or confounding the listener. Also, a teacher should avoid monotone speaking or, at the other end of the spectrum, a too loud or too shrill voice. Move around, use gestures, facial expressions and physical displays to keep class interest high. Remember communication is not just one way, so be sure to be responsive. Don't ignore comments made by students, rather acknowledge and build on them. Don't interrupt a student unless it's imperative to do so. Remain flexible in your attitudes when communicating to a classroom; don't jump to conclusions or make assumptions. For effective communication, there has to be a fair exchange of ideas and thoughts that you allow students to express.

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About the Author

Katlyn Joy has been a freelance writer since 1982. She graduated from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville with a master's degree in writing. While in school she served as graduate assistant editor of "Drumvoices Revue" magazine.