Communicating Expectations

Posted on January 18, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

One of the “best practices” for teaching and presentations is communicating clear expectations. Learning objectives for classes and presentations need to give the attendee a solid understanding of what they will be taking away from the experience. These objectives need to be discussed and if possible expanded or narrowed depending on the needs, wants and time limitations of the attendees and instructor/presenter.

In the classroom, it is essential to provide clear expectations for what students must do to succeed. It is important for instructors to make their expectations as transparent as possible and discuss them in order to ensure that students understand them and why they are in existence. I believe that in many cases the rationale for an expectation is more important than the expectation itself. If a professor explains why they have the standards they have for a particular assignment or why they believe so strongly in the academic dishonesty policy then students will see the time and energy that went into creating the expectations and therefore be more likely to adhere to them. The same theory holds for presentations, if the presenter can communicate the overall necessity of the presentation they are giving it is going to hold more value for those in attendance.

Grading scales and scoring rubrics are not only a great way to helps students break down assignment expectations and monitor their progress, but also help immensely in the grading process. They create a level of objectivity in otherwise subjective situations. They also create a contract of sorts between instructor and student and therefore create a format in which to have discussions about grading issues. It is far easier to indicate specifically where a student missed points and how they can improve in that area.

Clearly communicating behavioral expectations and consequences for not following them not only helps to prevent distractions (cell phones going off, eating in class, side-conversations) it also helps to create a learning environment that everyone can feel comfortable within. Clear expectations will also help to reduce the likelihood of injury in potentially dangerous learning environments (science labs, in-the field trainings, etc.). Once again instructors and presenters must be willing to discuss why particular behaviors are not acceptable within their classrooms in order to gain increased buy-in from attendees.

Ultimately communicating expectations early on, explaining the reasoning behind them and repeating them as often as needed will not only provide a more conducive learning environment, it will also lessen the likelihood of conflicts arising due to grade disputes and classroom distractions (and in severe cases, it may also prevent against claims of negligence).

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