TEFL Establishing rapport in the classroom

The rapport between a teacher and their students plays a very important role in determining if the class will be successful and enjoyable. Students are often very hesitant to speak out in class for a variety of reasons. Questions go unasked and unanswered; students remain silent because they are afraid to lose their self- esteem by being put down in front of their classmates and peers. Rapport is a tricky subject to understand and this is probably the reason that the majority of literature on teaching ignores it. ?Rapport has been avoided in favour of other variables, such as teaching, modes of testing, and techniques of assessing teaching effectiveness, which can be more readily conceptualised and manipulated? (W.Buskist and B.K Saville). Tickle-Degnen and Rosenthal (1990) identified three components in the structure of report. The first, mutual attentiveness relates to the ?feeling as one? and implies shifting the focus away from self and towards others. The second, being positive, is described as a sense of ?mutual friendliness and caring?. The third, co-ordination, is the predictability and balance in the relationship.

However, the importance of each component varies over time. As individuals get to know each other and feel more comfortable, the importance of positivity decreases as the communication tends to become more open and honest. Oppositely the importance of co- ordination increases as the relationship progresses. This can be shown in the example of a football team as the assumption is made that the more the team practice together the co-ordination between players will improve as the individuals on the team interact with each other. The only constant through the relationship is mutual attentiveness as this supports the development of co-ordination and reduces the importance of positivity. This can be shown by the following diagram.

An increase in the level of rapport leads to a multidirectional flow of ideas as students are encouraged to voice their opinions and derive meaning from the information they share (Howard-Hamilton, 2000). Basically, rapport provides the base from which learning can take place. One of the problems with building rapport is that the process can be time consuming. A way to combat this can be in the simple form of a questionnaire handed out at the beginning of term or at first contact. This can be a very effective way for a teacher, who has very little extra time to spend getting to know a student on a personal level, to be able to make a connection with the student by knowing their interests and dislikes. There have been many studies undertaken which ask students to describe the key qualities in a teacher that help to build report and hence make a huge contribution to the effectiveness of the teacher. I have examined these and found the attributes, characteristics and practices that appear time and time again.


Qualities important to building rapport between the teacher and student.

?Listen to what students say without comment. Use eye contact, non-verbal cues such as a nod, and a facial expression to indicate interest. ?If you are not sure what a student is asking, ask some questions to help clarify. Don?t say, ?I don?t understand what you mean.? ?If you can?t answer a question, be honest with the class. Ask for help; maybe one of the students can give an example to help out. ?Learn to call the students by name. ?Learn something about the students? interests, hobbies and aspirations. ?Create and use personally relevant class examples. ?Arrive to class early and stay late and chat with the students. ?Interact more, lecture less. ?Reward student comments and questions with verbal praise. ?Be respectful. ?Lighten up and crack a joke now and then. ?But, never ridicule or joke about incorrect responses. ?Don?t give the students all the answers, make them use their brains!

Author: Neil Farquhar

Date of post: 2006-07-21