The following post was written by Lucas Vogt and Devon Hillary, two of the Adams Center’s Student Fellows. The post is a summary of the session they facilitated.

Some of the Adams Center Student Fellows spoke with faculty and staff about the importance of clear communication in the classroom, and how confusing or conflicting messages often lead students to turn in poor work. These confusing messages can also hurt their motivation to even attempt assignments or tasks in the first place. 

We talked about clear communication as it relates to the syllabus, reading quizzes, and structured projects. The truth is that students want to turn in quality work, but students are also less likely to even try the work if the instructions leave them guessing. Part of this clear communication comes in setting up the standard for where the final answer to questions will be found. For example, you could tell students:

  • If I ever give instructions that contradict the syllabus, always follow the syllabus.
  • My syllabus is for general class information, the final authority for instructions on class assignments is Canvas.
  • In this class, what I say in class regarding assignments trumps anything in Canvas or the syllabus. (If this is your preference, I might encourage you to have it in email form as well. This prevents students who may have missed class from having incorrect information.) 

Our last point in this presentation is that clear communication should include expectations on both sides of the teacher/student relationship. For example, if you expect that students turn their work in on time then communicating an approximate timeline for grading is a way of creating trust and respect between you and students. The Adams Center Fellows were clear that just as many professors have grace with deadlines, students will extend that same courtesy with grading. It is less about knowing the exact date a grade will be released, and knowing the professor has not forgotten and is working to complete these tasks.