Building on Monday’s resource about how best to approach your first teaching class of the year, we interviewed LSE academic developer Dr Claire Gordon about building and sustaining rapport in the classroom
How would you define rapport in the university classroom context?
Rapport involves developing and maintaining a positive, supportive and respectful working relationship between the teacher and her/his students as well as among the students in a class. Given our diverse student body at LSE, with students from all over the world, it is critical that all students irrespective of their educational and cultural backgrounds are made to feel part of the learning community. With this in mind the process of building rapport with and among our students needs to start from the moment we enter the classroom for the first time, if not before.
What is the pedagogic case for building rapport?
There is a growing body of pedagogical evidence (Frisby and Myers, 2008; Webb and Barrett, 2014) which suggests that students learn more effectively when then they are in a positive supportive learning environment; in other words the nature of the relations among the teacher and the students is critical for their learning. Students are likely to be more motivated to learn, participate more actively in the classroom, feel at ease to express their views and perform better in their assessments. Recent research has begun to explore which specific teacher behaviours are likely to contribute to building rapport with students. For example, Frisby and Martin (2010) have highlighted the importance of interpersonal communication (attentive behaviours, connecting behaviours, information sharing behaviours, courteous behaviours and common grounding behaviours) in building rapport in the classroom.
Can you share any examples of good rapport building practice happening at LSE?
There are several I know about, in various departments – interesting ‘ice breaker’ activities in the Department of Anthropology, pre-class welcome emails in the Department of Management, and ‘research sharing’ conversations in the Department of Geography and Environment, to name a few. [We'll be featuring these in more detail next week - Ed.]
Finally, what would your ‘5 top tips’ for building rapport be?
1. Take time to get to know your students in the first class. As a warm-up activity and a way of gauging their knowledge ask them which key issue/question they are interested in exploring as well as something they like to do in addition to their studies. Share something about yourself with your students too.
2. Make it clear to your students that you are pleased to be in the classroom teaching them and try to communicate passion and enthusiasm where appropriate about the material you are teaching.
3. When you ask questions and engage your students in activities listen carefully to what they are saying and respond positively to their contributions.
4. Make eye contact with your students and use the full space of the classroom. Don’t lurk behind the console!
5. Think about how you want to arrange your classroom (where possible) to foster an active collaborative interaction between yourself and your students. Don’t underestimate the importance of the layout of the room.
Frisby, Brandi N. and Myers, S.A. (2008), The relationships among perceived instructor rapport, student participation, and student learning outcomes (link is to the allacademic.com site, from where the article can be downloaded)
Frisby, Brandi N. and Martin, Matthew M. (2010), Instructor-Student and Student-Student Rapport in the Classroom, Communication Education, vol. 59, no. 2, pp.146-164
Webb, Nathan G. and Barrett, Laura O. (2014), Student views of instructor-student rapport in the college classroom, Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, vol. 14, no. 2, pp.15-28.
Dr Claire Gordon is a member of LSE’s Academic Development Unit, which works with teachers and departments across the School on any teaching or learning related matter. See the Teaching and Learning Centre’s departmental advisers page for more information.