Chapter Summary

Because communication in classrooms is more complex and unpredictable than in many other situations, it is important for teachers to understand its unique features and functions. It is helpful to think of classroom communication as serving a mixture of three purposes at once: content talk, procedural talk, and behavior control talk. It is also helpful to recognize that classroom communication has elements that are not only verbal, but also nonverbal and unintended.

To be effective in using verbal communication, teachers need to use appropriate instructional strategies related to content, such as using advance organizers, relating new information to prior knowledge, and organizing new information on behalf of students. It includes strategies that assist students to communicate, such as inquiry learning and cooperative learning. To communicate well about procedures and about the behaviors expected of students, teachers need a variety of management techniques. To be effective in using nonverbal communication, teachers need to use appropriate eye contact, allow ample wait time between speaking turns, and be aware of the effects of social distance on students.

Structures of participation influence communication by facilitating particular patterns of speaking and listening, while at the same time making other patterns less convenient or disapproved. Four common participation structures are lectures, questions-and-answers, classroom discussions, and group work.

Further Resources

  • This Center for Faculty Development site from Union University offers tips for enhancing classroom communication. It is organized around ten basic topics (e.g. “Organizing Effective Discussions”) and focuses primarily on verbal communication. It is part of the more general website for Union University of Jackson, Tennessee.
  • The Responsive Classroom contains many resources, among which are articles about classroom management and communication, including nonverbal communication. It is intended strictly for public school teachers. Once you get to the homepage, click on their “Newsletter” for the articles.
  • Although this page is about social relationships in general, it contains several activities related to communication in particular. See especially the activities called “Social distance and its effect on communication,” “An experiment in classroom democracy,” and “Getting along with a difficult parent.”

Additional References

DePaulo, B., Lindsay, J., Malone, B., Muhlenbruck, L., Charlton, K., & Cooper, H. (2003). Cues to deception. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 74–118.

Global Deception Research Team. (2006). A world of lies. Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology, 37(6), 60–74.

McCarthy, A., Lee, K., Itakura, S., & Muir, D. (2006). Cultural display rules drive eye gaze during thinking. Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology, 37(6), 717–722.