Communication is an essential element of teaching, every interaction between lecturer and student involves communication of some kind. “The most basic model of communication involves a sender passing some kind of information or message to a receiver.” (Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014) An example of this is students sitting in a lecture and listening without the opportunity to ask questions, as a result this “one-way communication can lead to frustration on the part of the receiver”. (Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 137) This frustration can result in a barrier to communication, as the student may become lost and struggle to catch up. “Communication between two people normally proceeds in a two-way manner, with the roles of sender and receiver interchanging between the participants.” (Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 138) This form of communication allows students to ask and answer questions throughout the lecture, this provides the benefit of being able to check learning through the use of questioning. “As well as using words (verbal), communication can also be achieved through non-verbal means.” (Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 138) It is important to consider what your body language is saying to your students while you are talking, as (Mehrabian, 1972) says that 55% of the message is through the use of body language.
Effective communication can be challenging, especially as students will prefer different communication methods. It is important that teachers are “able to formulate a clear and unambiguous message” (Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 138) and bear in mind that “interpreting non-verbal communication is not an exact science” (Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 140) and could be misinterpreted, especially when considering students with challenges such as Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. There are many communication models and theories available that aim to improve communication; I will be focusing on Berne’s Ego States of Communication, The Shannon-Weaver Model and Johari Window Model.
Berne’s Ego States of Communication
Eric Berne proposed the transactional analysis theory in 1957, Berne states that there are 3 ego states within forms of communication. The parent ego state is the state in which the communicator is responsible, consistent, logical and rational, this state benefits from the most effective and logical communication. The child ego state is irrational, lacks ownership, is unlikely to care and is likely to answer back during communication. Communicating with a student exhibiting a child ego state may be challenging and efforts should be made to shift them to an adult ego state so that adult to adult communication can begin that will be more rational and logical. The final ego state is the parent state, where the communicator is controlling or nurturing, this can also be in the form of being dominant and angry or motherly and loving. None of these attributes are suitable for communicating with someone with an adult ego state. “Crossed transactions can, occasionally, be beneficial”, (Machin, Hindmarch, Murray, & Richardson, 2016, p. 110) an example of this is the parent ego state communicating with a child ego state.
Understanding what my current ego state is and what my students or colleague’s ego states are is important during communication. This is particularly important when controlling the behaviour of students. Currently I teach adult students, generally they exhibit an adult ego state, however, there are occasions when they revert to a child ego state. This fluctuation between child and adult ego states needs to be managed from their first day and with care. Adult learners will resent being treated like children, as a result adopting a parent ego state while communicating will be less effective than when teaching younger students who may be more familiar with the parent to child ego state.
The Shannon-Weaver Model
The Shannon-Weaver model was created by Claude Elwood Shannon and Warren Weaver in 1948 and is considered the “mother of all models” in communication. The model has 6 factors that are included in all forms of communication. The first stage of the model is the sender, the sender is the person that produces the message, this message is then converted into signals, which could be binary data, sound waves or ink on a page. The next stage is the medium used to transfer the message, which could be cabling for binary data or the atmosphere in the case of sound waves. The message is then received by the next stage which is the decoder; the decoder converts the signals back into an understandable message for the receiver, which is the final stage of the model. The decoder could be the receiver’s ear that will convert the sound waves into nerve impulses which are sent to the auditory cortex of the brain where they are converted into meaningful sound.
The Shannon-Weaver model highlights several issues with communication; the first is that noise will occur on the medium used for the communication. “Noise can take a wide range of forms including visual or auditory distractions, disabilities or learning difficulties and languages or jargon.” (Machin, Hindmarch, Murray, & Richardson, 2016, p. 106) When you are not receiving the desired response when communicating, it could be due to a noise element within the communication, in which case selecting a different form of communication that utilises a different communication medium could be more effective.
Some examples of noise could be other students within the class room, this could be if they are loud but also just other students being present can prevent students from receiving the message correctly due to embarrassment. Other examples include road noise, construction noise, neighbouring class rooms, mobile phones, etc. Another example is emotional noise that is causing the student to become distracted and preventing them from receiving the signal you are attempting to send.
Another factor to consider when communicating is whether the decoder will be able to convert the signals into a meaningful message, failure to convert could be due to a disability such as the receiver suffering from hearing loss but it could also be that the receiver didn’t understand the signal sufficiently to be able to convert it into a meaningful message. For example, if the sender makes use of jargon or acronyms that the receiver doesn’t understand, the receiver will not receive a meaningful message. Elon Musk says “don’t use acronyms or nonsense words … anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function”. (Musk, 2018)
Johari Window Model
Knowledge about a person has multiple perspectives; some things people will know about themselves but would never share, whereas other attributes of a person may not be known by either that person or others. The Johari Window Model aims to increase self-awareness and personal development by documenting the different perspectives involved by plotting the perspectives on a grid of 4 squares; these squares represent knowledge held by yourself, others or both. The top left square is open knowledge; this area includes factors that you know about yourself but also factors that other people know. This square would include knowledge such as your previous experience, particular skills, personality, and feelings, this is an area you are happy to discuss with others. The next square represents a blind area; this area focuses on things that you don’t know about yourself but others do know, this highlights the different perspectives between how we see ourselves versus how others see us. There are many reasons why people may not want to provide knowledge they hold about us, if the knowledge is negative they may not wish to offend us, we may assume that they are wrong and don’t listen to the knowledge they hold or they may utilise the knowledge in competition against us or in the form of currency, with knowledge being powerful in many settings.
The next square is positioned bottom left and is things that we know about ourselves but would never share with others; this square is the hidden area. The knowledge that we share with others in this square will vary depending on the person and the level of trust in the relationship. The final square is positioned bottom right and is called the unknown area, this square represents knowledge that neither yourself nor others possess. This could include a natural talent or skill that you have yet to discover and, as a result, others also do not know.
In order to maximise the Johari Window Model’s self-awareness and personal development aspect you should focus on telling others things that reside within the hidden area whilst asking others about knowledge that resides in the blind area. This process will increase the size of the open area and reduce the size of all 3 other squares, as more knowledge is known by both yourself and others.
I recently experienced a student who started in the unknown area when creating 3d design, they had never experienced 3d design before and, as a result, had no idea they had a natural talent. Once given a task to create a 3d design he quickly moved into the blind area as he was able to comfortably complete the task. After I discussed what had been created with the student and the excellent work they had produced they moved into the open area as both the student and I knew. It was particularly interesting how, in another lesson where he could leverage his newly discovered skills, he didn’t tell anyone and didn’t want others to know, as a result the knowledge now moved into the hidden square.
Gould, J., & Roffey-Barentsen, J. (2014). Achieving your diploma in education and training (1st ed.). London: Sage Publications Ltd.
Machin, L., Hindmarch, D., Murray, S., & Richardson, T. (2016). A Complete Guide to the Level 5 Diploma in Education & Training (Second Edition ed.). St Albans: Critical Publishing.
Mehrabian, A. (1972). Silent MessagesL Implicit Communication of Emotions and Attitudes. Belmont: Wadsworth.
Musk, E. (2018, April 19). Elon Musk emailed Tesla employees tips on how to be more productive. Retrieved 11 27, 2018, from Business Insider: