4 Top Communication Skills for Educators


w:The National Institute on Drug Abuse Author	Research Report Series: Therapeutic Community

Using effective communication skills in our learning environments will promote student voice, equity, balance, literacy skills, and academic success!

I am currently Instructing a College Course in Psychology that promotes key counselling skills via Desire2Learn LMS.  I am able to work with a cohort of amazing candidates who are not in the education profession. I have to say that it is refreshing and their key insights are able to provide me with new perspectives in my role as an educator. It truly amazes me how many people outside of the education system demonstrate humility, openness and willingness to learn new skills. What a wonderful thing to be humble in the face of working with other people to help them get through times of crisis and stress. A true representation of a ‘Growth Mindset‘. Isn’t this what many students, parents, and families bring to us each and every day? We do not know each situation, nor can we make assumptions.

Yet, I also cannot help to reflect on some of the differences between working with people from the teaching profession, and working with people from other professions.

My experiences as a parent and a teacher have demonstrated that in certain instances, due to many factors, educators can come across, and even come to believe that we always have to have all of the answers, and that we understand everything. This is a position of power that can be abused when we are working with parents. These attitudes can also be experienced as ongoing colonization and forcing students of different cultural backgrounds to assimilate to our own particular beliefs about what education should ‘look’ like.

4 key skills from the Counselling profession that I believe need to be reinforced in education include:

1. Attending behaviours, active listening, eye contact & body language, compassion.

  • This sounds like a cliché, but the families in our communities come from a range of backgrounds, experiences and knowledge bases. To assume that as an educator, we have all of the answers can be condescending and paternalizing. We must be open to working with parents and families as equals in the process. This naturally does not mean that we allow ourselves to be disrespected or victimized. However, we as educators need to be the ones who recognize that all families and situations are different, and that parents can, and should be able to share important knowledge about their children to help in their education. This includes cultural information, including integrating FNMI knowledge and practices into education, special educational needs, and sharing of supports and knowledge in the classroom. Our doors and minds need to be open.

2. Reframing statements.

  • Negative feelings and thoughts about education don’t need to be met with resistance. Using attending skills, and questioning skills we can help parents, (and be open ourselves) to reframing situations in more positive ways for the sake of the students, and our children!

3. Setting boundaries to balance personal lives and work.

  • Part of setting good boundaries, also includes being open and honest with ourselves about our biases, weaknesses, insecurities, and even being honest about what we know and don’t know. We simply do not know all that needs to be known. We have a knowledge base that we bring to education. It is the student voice, parents, families and communities that are necessary to build upon our knowledge bases to help us build meaningful programs. If we are stuck in our ways and stuck in our ideas that we alone have the answers and the ideas that work, this will only serve to alienate and reinforce a position of power over other parents.

4. Always educating ourselves.

  • Not because we are released for PD, but because we have a genuine interest in understanding our communities and the cultures and voices in our classrooms and learning environments. We have a genuine interest in learning how to improve our programs. We are open to what others are doing, and want the best for all learners.

In closing, we do not need to be the expert on all types of situations and scenarios. Nor do we have to be experts on curriculum. We engage in the kinds of behaviours and attending skills that demonstrate respect and a genuine willingness to work with children, parents, families alike.

We are confident in our flexible pedagogies that allow for changes in the 21st century, and that include other voices, knowledge, culture, and expertise. 


Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Reflections on Mindsets & the Psychology of Success


Image courtesy of  ddpavumba/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Teachers expectations of students abilities in the classroom play significant roles in learner success. Likewise, learner mindsets have strong impacts in education.

The best way to realize the potential within ourselves and the potential within others, especially our learners is, to set and identify reasonable goals – not as ultimate boundaries to where you can go – but as markers of success like success criteria and learning goals; for instance to help others via sharing and collaborating.

For decades, educators have worked hard to cultivate student success within learning environments. One of the ways that this has been accomplished is with open and flexible mindsets.

There is a real call for promoting the kinds of mindsets that will help everyone to confront the new challenges that schools are facing in the 21st century. Among these challenges include staying abreast of advances in advertising, social media, and other internet-based technologies that warrant effective instruction of mathematics and the application of critical thinking skills to protect the mindsets of our youth.

Many advertisers businesses know how to tap into our mindsets and make us believe that we will be better if we only believe something different or have their product. One of the goals of education is to protect learners against indoctrination. I believe that this fight against indoctrination will be one of the biggest plights of the 21st century and education.

Much like the business sector, the education sector essentially uses a variety of programs and strategies to add significant value to the lives of all learners.  Also,comprehensive frameworks that reinforce the ability to Aquire, Manipulate, Process and Share information effectively, is also of paramount importance.

In the learning environment the only true norm is a mindset that promotes continual growth and embraces change. We as educators provide the frameworks, yet cede control to empower learners and compel them to fulfill their potential.

The psychology behind open and flexible mindsets is also about identifying where teacher understanding meets the unique ranges of experiences brought forth by the students, and then striving to blend the various talents within the classroom. In short, it is the combined skills of the educators in conjunction with the skills and strengths of the learners that create new growth potential.

The development of a comprehensive framework that fits with your personal pedagogy, however requires critical thought. It is not effective to merely believe in the power of ‘positive’ thinking about our students.

It is about recognizing strengths and weaknesses, backgrounds, and histories, and deconstructing colonial practices built into our curriculum and teaching methods that inadvertently continue to privilege the dominant populations in society.

Learners need to have the freedom to ‘want’ and strive for the things that are right for them.

Mindset psychology is indeed very important behind promoting the success of our learners.


D. McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Thoughts on the Nature of Human Beings and the Learning Process



Throughout evolution, people have always needed to be able to take in relevant information from the surrounding environment, synthesize it and formulate a plan of action, or face possible death. While the threat of death has been a key part of our evolutionary past, it is certainly not something that we need to contend with in our learning institutions today. However, the processing of information is still a crucial element in our ability to Learn and be successful in the 21st Century.  Our human nature has evolved to perceive, interpret and assign meanings to events. As humans, we are always active agents in our own development, and are influenced tremendously by our thought processes.

How to help learners make the most of their abilities to perceive, interpret, assign meaning to information, and learn: 

In today’s age of ‘Information’ and 21st century technology, we are confronted with more information than we have ever had to deal with and process on a daily basis. Information-processing, is not necessarily a skill that we teach our students, because they already come to the table with their own personal responses to information. However, educators can teach students to notice new and more effective strategies for processing information.

As educators, a big part of our job is to help students understand just how they construct their own experiences. Through effective questioning, intervention and instructional techniques, we can help our students gain a full understanding of what something personally means to them. Then, we can help them to understand how their own personal experiences, cultures, and beliefs can determine how they take in relevant information, synthesize it, and formulate appropriate plans of action. This involves teaching the ‘whole’ student, and helping students to understand how they process the information they are presented with, and how to effectively manage it.

It is important to build relationships within the classroom, in order to build trust, safety, and foster increased cooperation with others. In turn, we also end up educating our students toward new ways of understanding and organizing the world. Our automatic thought processes and awareness of the world can be expanded upon, and our students can build upon their repertoire of appropriate knowledge and behaviours that can be accesses in new situations.

Deeper still, are the assumptions, values, and core beliefs that run at the most basic level of our humanity. Rigid thinking, and absolute judgments will bias our selection and integration of the information in our environment. Therefore, Educators need to implement strategies to build caring relationships, foster good character, and multicultural awareness in order to expand upon those basic assumptions and values that can stand in the way of effectively processing and learning about the world around us.

In any classroom, every student will fall somewhere on a continuum of adaptive strategies that enhance their ability to learn. For instance, for the student who may feel sad or depressed, their ability to effectively process information may be hindered by a sense of defeat. Or the student with anxiety may be more vulnerable to new information and may feel defensive or the need to escape. Teachers and educators can manage these responses to learning by teaching deliberate thinking skills, goal setting, problem solving skills, and long term planning. They are all strategies that can help students to continually evolve, and be active agents in their own learning and development!


Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012 – 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.