Barriers to Communication in the Classroom

Communication barriers can lead to apathy.
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Communication barriers in the classroom make it difficult for students to get the most out of their education. Some teachers fail to create engaging lessons and struggle to connect to their students on a one-to-one basis. Students with unaddressed language or speech difficulties often have trouble communicating with their teachers and classmates. Personality differences and peer pressure add to the mix, making some classroom interactions feel awkward or forced.

1 Speech and Language Difficulties

Students with unaddressed learning or speech difficulties often struggle to communicate in classroom settings. Some might have trouble comprehending lessons and organizing their thoughts, and others might rely on hand gestures rather than words, says speech-language pathologist Deanna Swallow at North Shore Pediatric Therapy in Chicago. Students often shut down, isolating themselves out of fear or embarrassment. This communication barrier can often be overcome by developing individual education plans for struggling students and consulting with special education teachers, parents and counselors.

2 Boring Classroom Lessons

Classroom communication breaks down when students are bored, unmotivated or disinterested in their schoolwork. Students don't need to be entertained all day, but teachers should work hard to develop engaging lessons with interesting, relevant activities. Thought-provoking assignments, technology-enhanced lectures and creative projects spur classroom communication and interaction. Outdated, routine assignments and busywork create communication barriers -- students don't want to interact with their teachers and just want class to be over. Teachers who put energy, enthusiasm and creativity into their lesson plans don't usually have to deal with this communication barrier.

3 Personality Differences

Some communication problems stem from personality differences between students and teachers. For example, students who don't want to connect on a personal level with their teachers often avoid communicating with them, says James McCroskey, author and educator in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Alabama. This personality dynamic frustrates teachers who attempt to bond with each student, only to find their efforts unsuccessful. Students who crave closeness and acceptance often strive to be the teacher's pet. Teachers and classmates might get irritated with students who brown nose for attention. Personality differences lead to frustration, unhappiness and a lack of communication between students and teachers. Teachers must recognize and understand these personality differences and strive to find a healthy balance, without showing partiality or favoritism.

4 Peer Pressure

Peer pressure creates communication problems in the classroom when students respond to teachers by acting funny, cool or disengaged. Students might refuse to build relationships with their teachers in order to maintain their not-so-interested-in-school reputations. Peer pressure can influence classrooms as early as first grade, says Brett Laursen, professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University, according to the American Psychological Association. The best way to combat communication difficulties resulting from peer pressure is to reward positive behavior. For example, you might give students an extra 10 minutes of free time after you've had a successful classroom discussion. Or, you might incorporate pop culture -- movies, music, TV shows, celebrities, social media or video games -- into your curriculum to open doors of communication.

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.