Teaching is an exercise in effective communication. “Connect” and the universe unfolds, as it should. “Disconnect” and the “Ghost Rider” haunts you. That’s a bit of psychic entertainment but the loss of learning is much greater than the fire, brimstone, and mayhem.
For our purpose, let’s move beyond the cliché knowledge of ‘message’, ‘sender’, and ‘receiver’. In a classroom setting, the process of communicating clearly is chock-full of interference and misunderstanding. The problem is the meeting of objectives with intended outcomes in an environment bursting with explicit and unwritten assumptions held dearly by an audience of varied experiences and education. In our classrooms, the situation is exacerbated by language – the need to grasp real estate jargon.
Thankfully, instructors have a bevy of tools and techniques that can be deployed to make themselves strong, effective communicators. Asking questions is the supreme skill. We’ll save discussion of this goody for our climatic conclusion.
When it comes to quality communication, more is better. Look at the following inventory of instructional techniques:
- Draw flowcharts
- Use multiple colours
- Use analogies
- Use key words and mnemonics to trigger memory
- Outline key concepts
- State the objectives and underlying issues
- Explain and review
- Ask for examples
- Apply to real-life situations
- Provide structured and unstructured learning activities
- Appeal to all learning styles
- Encourage a relaxed, informal but contained atmosphere
- Reorganize content creatively
- Simplify concepts and build to complexity
- Role play
- Story tell
- Group work and mix the groups
- Vary the pace
- Facilitate, not lecture
- Use lesson plans that incorporate reviews and summaries
All these methods, and more, promote prompt responses and positive feedback in an open, transparent, and personal environment conducive to participatory learning.
The most contribution and value springs from the use of questions, whether positioned person-to-person or applied by all participants in a group setting. There are closed questions that solicit short comebacks:
- What is meant by second mortgage?
- When should you qualify the purchaser?
There are open questions that implore broad feedback:
- How do you protect a vendor’s interest in a situation of multiple offers?
- Why is disclosure such a critical characteristic in a fiduciary relationship?
For instructional excellence, take questioning to the next level, or more precisely, apply questions in compliance with a taxonomy of educational objectives. Ask knowledge questions to describe surface information. Afterwards, in an increasing scale of deeper comprehension and experience, ask comprehension questions, application questions, analysis questions, synthesis questions, and evaluation questions.
Of course, to communicate effectively, engage learners, and explain clearly. You, as the instructor and leader of the group, need to understand the content and your own personal instructional style. Yes, the education burden is predominantly on you.