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  1. Teaching in Labs
  2.  » Listening & Communicating

Listen and communicate effectively

Effective lab teachers have a clear vision of what is to be done in the lab, but are also alert to ways to help students.

A key skill is listening carefully to what students ask. This requires active listening, not only hearing the words spoken but observing the body language of the speaker.

Paraphrasing student questions is also active: “Is the problem… focusing the microscope on the higher magnification?” The student can then respond with a “yes”, or give clarification of the problem. This may be particularly important with students for whom English is a second language.

Enable learning through a student-centered approach. Don’t assume you know what the problem is – get the student to explain. Try to get the student to talk and offer solutions. Back this up with an analysis of options.

Check for understanding at intervals. Don’t speak too quickly. Keep explanations brief, and beware of jargon and technical words.


Responding to questions

How you respond to questions from students is really important, because the tone of your voice and the choice of language can either engage students or demotivate them. Respond positively and without pre-judgement. Avoid obvious criticisms such as “Didn’t you listen to the introduction?”


Ask questions to facilitate learning

Good questioning techniques prompt critical thinking and encourage autonomous learning, which promotes students’ self-confidence in the lab.


Advice from senior teaching staff

Training to answer questions
Chris Smaill (Senior Tutor, Engineering)

Same issues, different disciplines
Ian Brailsford (Lecturer, Academic Practice)

Lab Teachers say:


Language issues

Any labful of tertiary students will have a range of educational backgrounds, and as a result, diverse needs. Accommodating these is a particular challenge for Lab Teachers. See the page “Student-centered learning” for more detail & related video clips about teaching strategies.