If you’re seeking to create an engaging, dynamic classroom environment, you no doubt want to ensure that you communicate in a manner that reflects this desire. Likewise, you probably seek out new ways of connecting and building rapport with your students, and work consistently at developing and honing your skills.
In their book The Challenge of Effective Speaking in a Digital Age, Sixteenth Edition, Rudolph F. Verderber, Deanna D. Sellnow, and Kathleen S. Verderber provide several suggestions for building credibility with your listeners. By establishing your credibility, you’ll establish a climate in which students are more inclined to listen, participate, and engage with you. We’ve summarized the authors’ ideas below, and included some tips that you can apply within the classroom.
1. Make them aware of your knowledge and expertise.
By virtue of your position as instructor, most students will assume that you have the qualifications needed to teach the course. Nevertheless, students do appreciate knowing exactly how your knowledge and skills relate to the course in general, as well as the specific topics you address during class sessions.
If you’re hoping to establish your expertise in the classroom, consider using these tactics:
- Take a bit of time to describe your experience and credentials. It may make the most sense to do this during the first class sessions, when students are still becoming familiar with you and the course.
- Illustrate your key points with relevant and engaging examples that enable students to better understand the topic you’re addressing.
- Support your material with data, research, and statistics that reinforce the meaning, validity, and value of your course content.
2. Demonstrate your reliability and trustworthiness.
Though trustworthiness obviously depends upon truthfulness, other character traits such as honesty, dependability, and authenticity factor into students’ willingness to develop a trusting relationship with you, their instructor.
You can further build students’ trust and enhance your credibility by taking these steps:
- Give credit to your sources. When you quote research, show a video clip, or read an excerpt of a book or article during a lecture, be sure to mention its source. This shows your intellectual honesty and models proper behavior for students as well. Furthermore, if students want to learn more about that source, they’ll have the information that allows them to seek it out for themselves.
- Show that you’re there for them. If students believe that you’re on their side, and that you want them to learn and succeed, you’ll be more likely to motivate them towards achievement in your course. Your enthusiasm for the subject and your passion for the class lend credence to your authenticity as well.
- Consider how else you might demonstrate reliability. After all, if you keep your word, students will learn that they can trust you.
3. Relate to your listeners.
“Relating to your class” doesn’t mean that you have to wear the trendiest fashions, play clips of the latest music, or pepper your lectures with slang. (In fact… that appears a bit inauthentic if it’s not natural to you.) However, you should do all you can to understand your students’ needs and frame your communication in a manner that has relevance and meaning to them.
These simple suggestions can help you maintain an approachable and welcoming mien:
- Be sure to smile! By appearing confident and welcoming, students will warm to you.
- Maintain eye contact with students throughout the room, and acknowledge their attention with simple gestures, such as a head nod.
- Inject a bit of appropriate humor from time to time; laughing together helps an audience build a connection with the speaker. (Verderber, 84-87)
Reference: Verderber, Rudolph F., Deanna D. Sellnow, and Kathleen S. Verderber. 2015. The Challenge of Effective Speaking in a Digital Age, 16th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
What are your tips for building rapport with students? Share them in the comments.