Embedding communication teaching in the classroom

Year after year, communication consistently appears among the top skills requested by employers. In fact, LinkedIn just published its 2024 report of the most in-demand job skills. Is anyone surprised to see communication in the number one position? Clearly, teaching learners this crucial skill has never been more important.

In a recent CERTIFIED Academy: Business webinar, we learned all about teaching communication skills. Wake Technical Community College educators, Chad McKenzie and Brittany Hochstaetter, and Certiport’s own Certiport Success Manager, Jennifer Stubblefield, combined their years of experience to present practical and simple tips you can use to embed communication teaching in the classroom.

Understand your learners and their needs

Before you can teach and impart skills, you first need to understand your learners. Knowing more about their background, needs, and learning styles empowers you with the knowledge to customize your approach for those in your classroom.

“I’m more of an extrovert, and sometimes my approach early in my teaching career catered more to that personality type. As I’ve matured as a teacher, I’ve realized the importance of customizing my teaching approach based on my students’ personalities,” said Brittany. “Obviously, we can’t alter all our curriculum, but when you can, make small, tailored adjustments to suit different personalities. When we take the time to make these adjustments, we’ll have greater success.”

Model it

Once you know your students’ backgrounds and personalities, you’ve established a connection to facilitate learning. This connection likely means that your learners are paying attention to how you communicate with them. Help them learn by example by modeling communication skills in your interactions with them.

Chad emphasized this point, saying, “The number one thing educators can do to teach proper communication skills is to model it. It’s important that we consider how our communication is setting an example and standard that our learners will follow.”

He also highlighted a few key touchpoints you can polish. “Reflect on how you present yourself in class, how you engage online and in-person, how you communicate via email or Microsoft Teams. I also recommend educators review their syllabus, because it’s the first impression they set with their learners.”

Use your student organizations

You know your students. You’re modeling the skills. But how can you get them to practice on their own? Jennifer has some creative ideas, and they won’t require you to take on additional work.

“I’m a dedicated supporter of student organizations. When I was in the classroom, Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) was a focus for me and my students. I used FBLA as an opportunity to embed communication teaching moments into my curriculum,” said Jennifer. “For example, so many of the FBLA competitive events require an element of public speaking. The event may focus on entrepreneurship or problem solving, but they have to be on their feet communicating. What better opportunity is there for them to practice their skills than something they’re already invested in?”

Weave it into your existing assignments

If you’re like Jennifer, you’re already balancing teaching and extracurricular activities. Rather than complicate your life, why not embed communication moments into your existing coursework? Both Chad and Jennifer have taught non-communication classes, but still found ways to emphasize communication techniques within them. “When I have a written assignment, I make sure to show learners things like standard capitalization, punctuation, and spelling,” said Jennifer. “Helping them master written communication means that we need to build a strong foundation.”

You can also weave additional communication skills into your assignments. “I love using what I call on-the-ground surveys with my students. It’s a fantastic assignment and you can cover any topic you’re teaching. Students write up with two or three questions and have to walk around campus and ask the questions to those they see,” said Brittany. “It’s great practice for group collaboration, verbal communication, and even presentation skills when they share their results with the rest of the class.”

What’s next?

Remember, communication encompasses multiple skills, including written skills, verbal communication, listening, collaboration, and more. Use your own creativity to teach students the skills they need. Looking for additional resources to help your students practice and certify their communication skills? Dive into the Communication Skills for Business certification program here.