Your Study Guides and Strategies starts here!

I delight in learning so that I might teach
Annaeus Lucius Seneca
4 BCE - 65 AD
Roman statesman/philosopher

Classroom learning series

Influencing teachers

Improving your classroom communication skills

Good communication skills affect how well you do in the classroom, with your teacher, and in your studies! Teachers will evaluate you on your participation and demonstrated interest in, and accomplishment with, the coursework.


Impressing teachers is simply a matter of asking good questions,
and responding with good answers.
Being an "interested" student will determine how you influence your teacher.

The following are some strategies to demonstrate your interest and curiosity:

  1. Don't criticize, condemn, or complain to the teacher about his or her performance rather: focus on, and discuss, the material and your understanding of it.
  2. Let the teacher know what you appreciate about the course
  3. Be pleasant. A smile goes a long way.
  4. Know and use the teacher's name
  5. Listen to what the teacher has to say about himself or herself
  6. Talk in terms of what the teacher is interested in
  7. Let the teacher know that you think he or she is important
  8. Avoid arguing
  9. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically
  10. Ask questions rather than give orders
  11. Try honestly to see the teacher's point of view
  12. Let the teacher know that you sincerely want to do well in the course
  13. Always have the course textbook in your hand whenever you see the instructor
  14. Hand in all assignments on time throughout the semester

Text from the exercise:

How will you influence your teacher?
The following situations present options that reflect how you can communicate:

1. Your teacher reviews yesterday's assignment in class.
What should you do?

  1. Complain about it
  2. Join the discussion: what you understood, what you question, and where you are challenged
  3. Avoid eye contact because you aren't interested

(2) Best communication:
Complaints should be a last resort for an assignment. First understand where problems are in the discussion. The difficulties or complaints will emerge soon enough.

2. Your course is a requirement, and not your choice. Privately your teacher wants to know what you think about it. What do you say?

  1. Tell your instructor that the course is useless. Post your thoughts on Facebook.
  2. Avoid her and walk away
  3. Let her know why you have signed up. Explain your program, and ask how the content will fit into it.

(3) Best communication:
Here you first explain your situation, leaving open her explanation on what benefit you can achieve. Remember: she is asking for your opinion, and your situation will help her understand not only you, but others!

3. In the hallway, your teacher just said hello. How do you respond?

  1. Establish eye contact and say "hi"
  2. Ignore her and text your friends that the teacher likes you.
  3. Give your teacher an awkward facial expression

(1) Best communication:
A simple "hi" is all that is required.
Basic friendliness is also part of the educational experience.
Be glad that your teacher recognizes you among all the other students.

4. In class, your teacher starts talking about her career. What do you do?

  1. Look on Craigslist for a new guitar.
  2. Ask what this has to do with the course.
  3. Listen, and try to understand how this relates to the course.

(3) Best communication:
A teacher's background qualifies him/her to teach a subject.
If the teacher speaks about his/her relation to the subject,
he/she is validating why they are even in your classroom.
In any situation, a career reflects expertise, whether teaching, banking, plumbing, etc.

5. Your teacher invites you to talk to about your coursework after class.
You are busy then. What do you do?

  1. Explain why you are busy, and say you would rather not.
  2. Explain why you are busy, and arrange for a convenient time.
  3. Ask if she has a problem.

(2) Best communication:
Notice the teacher is expressing interest in you.
If there are problems, even that you do not see, this is the first step to resolving them.
You did well by first explaining that you have an appointment or sport or job, etc. and being open to setting up a good time for both of you.

6. Your teacher just helped you out with some homework problems that you were having trouble with. What do you do?

  1. Express appreciation, and ask for suggestions for the future.
  2. Pretend that you really knew what you were doing all along.
  3. Try not to let her know you are having trouble.

(1) Best communication:
Well done that you thanked the teacher for help;
better yet to ask for recommendations on the future.
This demonstrates that you both appreciate the help, and are interested in succeeding!

7. In class your teacher just said something that you don't agree with. What do you do?

  1. Argue with her
  2. After class, mention that you didn't agree with that statement, but ask for more information.
  3. Text your friends that the teacher was wrong.

(2) Best communication:
Saving your objection for after class demonstrates that you respect the teacher, and are not out to embarrass either her or yourself. A private conversation is always a good first strategy to resolve differences and avoid confrontation, even with friends! Never publicize disagreements without first understanding the opposing view.

8. You start to argue in class, then realize you are wrong. What do you do?

  1. Admit it, and explain where you misunderstood.
  2. Admit it, and tell her it was her fault for not explaining it better.
  3. Tell her that there are different opinions on this.

(1) Best communication:
We have all been here. We start arguing, only to discover that we either agree with the other person, and/or find that we are wrong. In a classroom or in education, we are present to learn.
If you find that you now understand, or change your mind, say so! It demonstrates that you can keep an open, critical mind. However, it is best to be careful about arguing that it be kept on a civil level, and not be "personalized." Attacking a person is a distraction from arguing an idea.
c.f. Ad hominem attack in Wikipedia.

9. Your teacher missed giving you a handout in class. What do you do?

  1. Don't ask for one because you think you won't be responsible.
  2. Look at your friend and show him you've been missed.
  3. Raise your hand and ask for one.

(3) Best communication:
Often the best communication is the simplest.

10. Your daily assignments are too much for you to do. What should you do?

  1. Have good excuses when you turn them in late.
  2. When you realize the problem, make an appointment with your teacher to explain your situation and find a solution.
  3. Get someone to do your homework for you

(2) Best communication:
Demonstrating interest is often a case of trusting someone to help.
As soon as you realize a problem, seek help.


Classroom learning series

Preparing for the classroom | Class "prep"/paying attention |
Classroom discussions | Taking notes in lectures | Influencing teachers |
Interviewing for class projects | Consent form for interviews |
Problem based learning | Using guided notes

Flash exercise contributed by Gus Holtz; Dr. Brad Hokanson, Interactive Media (DHA 4384) School of Design, University of Minnesota; edited/refinements by Joe Landsberger.
See also! How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, New York:
Simon and Schuster Inc., 1936.