Faculty Development & Learning Assessment

Principles of Effective Instructor-Student Interaction


Wanting some quick suggestions on having improved communication with your students? Take a moment to review this short list of suggestions.

1. Be clear about your role as an instructor in the course. What characteristics best define you in the teaching role? What are the boundaries of your responsibility?
2. Be explicit in your expectations of students early in the course. What learning outcomes are you attempting to achieve? How do you expect students to interact with you?
3. Be clear and careful in your instructions for assignments. Use learning outcomes in the design of assignments. Explicate the skills students must demonstrate Be consistent in your application of grading criteria.
4. Attempt to listen carefully before you respond or judge. Use paraphrasing to clarify the other’s comments. Check to see whether you’ve been accurate. Use questions to probe for further information.
5. Be aware of opportunities to establish goals with students. Have students participate in establishing goals for their own development. Live up to your own commitments and expect them to do the same.
6. Look for opportunities to give positive or constructive feedback. Go ahead and show your appreciation when it’s appropriate. Give credit for what’s right at the same time that you correct what’s wrong. Show respect in your response to student comments. Indicate that you expect good performance from all students.
7. Be aware of the context for communication. Choose a time and setting appropriate for the topic. Delay or “buy time” when necessary.
8. Be prepared to manage conflict situations. Determine what the conflict is about (substantive, personal, procedural) Try to channel it to an appropriate expression that serves your objectives in the course (productive conflict). Use a problem solving (win-win) orientation. Handle some conflict situations outside of class if possible. Request assistance if necessary.
9. Be prepared to assist troubled students. Know the limits of your own skill or responsibility. Be aware of department and university resources.

Tip References

Adapted from the Center for Instructional Development and Research, University of Washington. Contributed by Tasha Souza.