Communicating Effectively with Your Students

It’s as true in teaching as it is in marketing, political, or religious speech: The most effective communication goes beyond simply imparting new information.


Communicating with students means delivering content in ways that are clear but also engage—even inspire—them to learn and retain information and critical thinking skills. Here are a few ideas that might help freshen and refine your communication with students:


Use the syllabus to establish the course climate


The syllabus is often students’ first introduction to you and your course. The tone of the syllabus can help you establish a positive and supportive course climate, engage students with the material, and communicate your learning goals for the students.



Syllabus strategies that can help you communicate with students in an approachable and welcoming way include:


  • describing your course in an engaging way, for example, by designing a “creative syllabus,”
  • inviting students to collaborate with you to create parts of the curriculum,
  • addressing students directly through personal and friendly language,
  • providing the rationale for your course policies and how they will benefit student learning,
  • engaging students in a process of establishing guidelines for classroom interaction.  


Communicate the purpose of learning activities and assignments.


Explaining the purpose and value of course activities and assignments helps motivate students to perform the task.


Questions to consider when communicating the purpose of a course task include:


  • How do you present activities and assignments to your students?
  • Do your students understand what skills they will practice and what knowledge they will gain from the assignment?


Communicating the purpose of the task ahead of time might help encourage your students to put more time and effort into their academic work.     


Solicit student feedback.


Feedback from students about their learning can help you identify common challenges, and adjust your teaching strategies to support student success. Asking students for their feedback conveys care and concern for their learning, and shows that you treat them as partners in the educational journey.


Students often appreciate being able to voice their suggestions about classroom activities and assignments, and their feedback can help you improve the student experience in your course. 


Get to know your students.


A positive faculty-student relationship can motivate students, increase attendance and participation, and encourage persistence. The following strategies can help reduce anonymity in your classes and help you get to know your students:


  • Invite students to your office hours, for example, by requiring that they pick up a course pack, a syllabus, or an assignment in person,


To learn more about transparent assignments, register for our workshop “Designing Transparent Assignments,” Friday, September 8, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm, UCC 2070E.