July 1983 // Volume 21 // Number 4 // Research in Brief

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Teacher Effectiveness/Communicator Style


Robert Reisbeck

"Teacher Effectiveness as a Function of Communicator Style." Robert W. Norton. In Communication Yearbook I, Brent D. Reuben, ed. (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Books, Rutgers University, 1977), pp. 525-41.

Norton attacks the problem of determining behaviors most associated with teacher effectiveness by working through a communication frame of reference. He says the communication act entails two components: (1) what is said and (2) the way it's said. In this study, he focuses on teacher effectiveness as a function of the way one communicates.

A communicator style consisting of 12 variables was developed. The variables included precise, contentious, relaxed, impression leaving, voice, dominant, dramatic, open, attentive, animated, friendly, and communicator image. Then 65 professors and 596 students at Michigan State University gave their perception of the relationship of the variables to effective teaching.

The communicator style variables that respondents identified as being most related to effective teaching included:

  1. Good communicator image. Seen as being a good communicator in most situations, and finding it easy to communicate on a one-to-one basis.
  2. Attentive. Suggesting that the person is empathetic, tolerant, caring, and other-oriented.
  3. Impression leaving. Centering around the way in which the teacher presents what he/she has selected to present to influence the students to remember the content or the teacher.
  4. Relaxed. Perceived as being without annoying nervous mannerisms, relaxed, and comfortable.
  5. Not dominant. Characterized as not being dominant nor coming on too strong.
  6. Precise. Perceived as eliminating ambiguity in subject matter, and eliminating confusion about work expected.

The research provides strong evidence that perceived teaching effectiveness is related to these six identified communication behaviors of the teacher, Furthermore, teaching effectiveness can be improved by improving specific communication behaviors related to the communicator style variables.

Although this study was done with university students and faculty, communicator style and its relationship to quality of teaching is just as important in adult education or in other areas of informal education.