Invisible threads are the strongest ties Friedrich Nietzsche
Our scientific knowledge has accelerated so rapidly that we sometimes forget the importance of human connection to our well being.
Connect is defined as “to have or establish a rapport.” Rapport means “a friendly, harmonious relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy.”
The role of positive connection
What role does a positive connection between instructor and student play in successfully conveying knowledge?
Without a meaningful connection between instructor and student, transferring knowledge is more difficult and may not occur at all.
How can an instructor make a positive connection with students?
There are a number of suggestions to help enable connection with students. Here are a few.
Look directly at the person (or people) you are talking with. In person, this means looking people in the eye. On video, this means watch the video feed of your students, and look into the camera when you are talking with students.
Tip: This is one reason not to merely read your slides when teaching. You need to understand the material you are teaching well enough so you can look at students when you are conveying principles.
Call people by there first name, and be sure to pronounce their name correctly.
Tip: At the beginning of a class or meeting, create a one-page chart of the people in the room and their first names.
Go around the room and get to know your students, by asking where they are located, and what position they have.
Tip: Listen carefully to each student as they introduce themselves. Try to learn something special about each person.
Be interested in the progress of your students. From time to time, go around the room and ask them how they are doing. Ask they what they are learning.
Tip: Take the time after class or during break to inquire about any confusions you have seen, if they are not resolved during class time. Make it safe for each student to be completely candid about their progress, good or bad.
Smile, and be positive in your attitude.
Tip: Your attitude needs to be genuine. It is worth the effort to have a authentically positive attitude.
Take the time before class to learn what is important to students.
Tip: This can be done by surveys or by talking with your contacts. Make sure your teaching content fits into the application needs of the students, and that they feel it applies to them personally.
Share your passion for the subject, and students will be more likely to connect with you and the fundamentals you are teaching.
Tip: Before your class or meeting, take a minute to ask yourself what about the subject are your truly passionate about. Nothing communicates better than true passion and genuine interest.
Practice empathy in your teaching.
Empathy is described as the ability to take on another’s perspective, to understand, feel and possibly share and respond to their experience. As an instructor, if you can look at the learning process from the students point of view, it is easier to make a connection and help the student reach understanding.
Tip: For example, use empathy when encountering student confusion. You can say, “I understand this can be confusing; let me help to clarify the principle.”
Why is connection important?
Making a positive connection with students builds trust and increases the likelihood that they will listen to what you are teaching and share their misgivings and confusions, which is part of the learning process.
The next article in this series covers the subject of managing attention. I will share my experience and strategies on avoiding student distractions, and keeping the focus on learning.