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The Principles of Establishing Rapport in the Classroom

The Principles of Establishing Rapport in the Classroom | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Individuals like nurses, doctors, therapists, and teachers who are employed in the helping professions build positive and trusting relationships with the people that they work with by establishing rapport. Rapport can be defined as a friendly and harmonious relationship characterized by mutual understanding or empathy making communication possible and easy (Merriam-Webster, 2019).

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Toni M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Reasons for Rapport Establishment

When rapport is built between two people, they can learn, teach, and influence each other because of the connection and relationship that has been created. Rapport, or a bond, should be established in the classroom because it makes it simpler and more comfortable for students and teachers to interact and understand one another. The presence of rapport in the classroom can improve communication between the students and teacher, create trusting relationships, and increase the comfortability.

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Theoretical Aspects

The “Managing Classes” section of the ITTT online course states that, While the classroom atmosphere is generally created by the students, the attitude of the teacher plays an important role in facilitating the learning environment. Building rapport is similar to building a relationship or a connection with someone and usually takes time to develop. Subsequently, rapport in regards to the teaching profession needs to be established for various reasons. The distinction in age or even difference in cultural backgrounds between the student and teacher are only two factors that can create issues for the student, making it difficult to interact or participate comfortably. For one, it takes time for students to feel welcomed and warm up to a new classroom. Not only are they being taught by a new teacher but they now will have to interact and open up to new students as well. The easiest way for a teacher to improve rapport in the classroom is simply by learning about the students. That is knowing their wants and needs and being able to tailor lessons around their interests.

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Breaking the Ice

“Pass the Ball”, a game mentioned in the “Troubleshooting” section of the ITTT online course, is just one resource that can be used to help build rapport between the student and the teacher. The game is played starting with the teacher tossing a softball to a random student in the class and asking them a question. That student then answers the question and then tosses the ball to another student following the same prompt. The point of the game is to get everyone to ask questions, share and to speak about their thought, feelings, and concerns about the classroom. Other techniques teachers use to build rapport can include eliciting involvement from the students, smiling, being positive, and having the right attitude.

While students might share different interests than the teacher, teachers must create a bond with their students because of the length of the term in which they will have to share. Typically, students spend over a hundred days together in the classroom, which is why rapport must not only be established between the students and teacher but between the students themselves. The “Managing Classes” section states, that the best way students can build rapport amongst themselves is by interacting and socializing with each other through group and pair work. Group work allows students to share the responsibilities of assignments and forces them to interact and get to know each other.

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Research in the Field

A study was done in 2009 by Granitz, Koenig, and Harich at the California State University exemplifies the cause and effect of rapport between faculty and students. Some overarching themes that were presented in light of teachers building rapport with their students are being approachable, having a charismatic personality, and also being relatable as a teacher. Faculty were encouraged to share their experiences both personal and professional with their students while also getting to understand their strengths and weaknesses. They were encouraged to express empathy and concern for their students and individualize each person by learning names and learning about their interests.

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The results of the study demonstrate that building a relationship with students can improve communication in the classroom and increase the confidence, comfort, and motivation of all participants. Researchers identified the effects of rapport as four big outcomes. These outcomes were student benefits, faculty benefits, faculty-student benefits, and benefits outside of the classroom. By the end of the study, there was an increase in loyalty and attendance from students resulting in faculty and teachers feeling more satisfied teaching and having higher teaching evaluations. Between faculty and students, trust and better relationships were created not only inside the classroom but outside of the classroom. Faculty were able to see a change in the value students were putting on their education inevitably creating long-lasting relationships with their students.

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Being able to understand, teach, and influence a body of students is a skill that takes time to acquire and is no easy task. Nonetheless, many techniques can make this simpler such as facilitating students, establishing rapport, and being respectable and relatable. Being a teacher not only involves educating students but understanding them as well, being a role model to them, showing them love, concern, and respect. When everyone can elicit a mutual openness and attentiveness for one another rapport is being established and achieved.

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