What is communication

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What is communication

    Simon Smith

    City and Guilds 7407 2003 / 2004

    Assignment 113 Communication

    Assignment 113 Communication


    „Successful classroom learning and teaching relies on communication between the teacher and the students.‟ Littlejohn (2004). The issue of communication is at the heart of the learning process. Without communication the process of learning becomes extremely limited, perhaps impossible. During this essay I hope to cover some of the main issues involved in communicating within the classroom.


My class consists of 12 women between the ages of 21 84 who are of wide ranging backgrounds. They

    are studying with a view to passing the European Computer Driving License or are just trying to improve their knowledge regarding using a computer and office applications. I have been teaching the class for two and a half terms and we have come to know one another quite well. Relationships have developed between us all over this period and we now find ourselves in a position where we know how to approach each other in a manner defined by these relationships. In other words we have got an idea how each of us likes to be dealt with.

    While I consider my communication skills to be good, I do accept that there are plenty of areas that can be improved upon and every lesson tends to be just as much a learning experience for my self as much, hopefully, as it is for my students.

    Page 1 of 10

    Simon Smith

    City and Guilds 7407 2003 / 2004

    Assignment 113 Communication

    What is communication?

    The Online Cambridge English Dictionary defines communication as „to share information with others by

     „to talk about your thoughts and feelings, speaking, writing, moving your body or using other signals‟ or

    and help other people to understand them‟. Effective communication is not merely about transmitting a

    message; it is also about receiving the message, understanding this and then giving feedback.

    Fig. 1 conveys the complexity of the communication process. With so many stages in the communication process it is understandable that things can easily go wrong. Careful attention to the possible pitfalls may aide better communication, however because of the ambiguous nature of language it‟s not possible to have a fool proof system.

    Possible breakdowns in communication can occur at any stage in the communication chain. The main variables are the person transmitting the message, the means of transmission, the person receiving the message or with their perception of the message. Other disruptions may be physical factors such as speech problems, poor cognition, poor sight or deafness; emotional factors such as perception, prejudice and fear; environmental factors such as classroom layout, the distance between the main participants and noise pollution.

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    Simon Smith

    City and Guilds 7407 2003 / 2004

    Assignment 113 Communication

    Communication can take place via a number of different means including but generally come in the form of two main categories one is aural and includes verbal, recorded sounds and physically made sounds such as making a banging sound to get someone‟s attention. Then there‟s visual means which includes

    appearance, body language, eye contact, written and pictorial.

Communicating with others also takes place subconsciously, which by definition is something that‟s

    difficult to be aware of at the time, however one can attempt be aware of what our body language may be conveying as well as what might be bering said between the lines.

For effective learning to take place both teacher and student need to exchange ideas. It is vital that the

    teacher understands the students‟ perception and that the students understand the teacher‟s perception. For this to happen, communication must be possible.” Littlejohn (2004) To fully understand another‟s

    perception, if that‟s at all possible in reality, effective communication skills must be fostered in the

    classroom. „Teachers are, on the whole, very effective communicators‟. „Raising and lowering the voice, positioning the class to suit the task and environment, a judicious use of questioning techniques and a tendency toward the dramatic all assist in delivering information‟. Rice (2004)

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    Simon Smith

    City and Guilds 7407 2003 / 2004

    Assignment 113 Communication


A teacher‟s mere appearance and deportment can communicate. Wearing an appropriate attire for

    particular courses needs to be considered. I have an interesting personal dilemma regarding this matter. I have a very visual disability and on first meeting many of my students are shocked by it. In time thewy get used to it and it falls from the fore ground as our relationships develop. My point is that there is only so much a tutor can do to fit in with this theory. I can not grow arms, a tall person can not become short easily, a fat person may not be able to slim. The trouble is humans are programmed to weigh up a lot about someone by how they look and while a tutor maybe able to change how they look a bit, or to even discuss this issue with their students ultimately there is a limit to what they can do. Hence Reece and Walker (2000 p.290) state that the „teacher may not be perceived as being credible and hence not taken



    A teacher‟s position within the classroom is also worth considering. Working in class rooms that have been designed for computer usage I have come to realise that in many ways they hinder communication. Often computer rooms are designed with the PCs facing the wall or are in rows one behind the other. A more appropriate system would be a wall with a screen on it, in front of which the tutor might have a desk, or at least a seat and a console. The students would be arranged so that they were facing the tutor and the screen. This would allow the tutor to be seen when speaking to the class while students could also watch the screen when the tutor was demonstrating something without having to twist around or look around or over other students.

    The physical space between a tutor and their students can become meaningful and varies between different cultures. Getting too close could be threatening and inhibiting, while standing too far away may make someone feel they are not liked or are being looked down at. Finding the right space needs some sensitivity or even at times direct questioning, also if one has to enter into someone‟s space then asking permission before hand will generally allow the other person to move to a distance they feel comfortable with.

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    Simon Smith

    City and Guilds 7407 2003 / 2004

    Assignment 113 Communication


    Touching students is a sensitive issue; on the whole I rarely do so. Sometimes however I am required to work very closely with a student, for example when I am showing them how to use the mouse, touching is then sometimes necessary.

Eye contact can often, excuse the pun, be seen as a form of touching. While it‟s useful in that it shows

    that you are interested in what they have to say, which is key in effective listening, it can also be perceived as intrusive or threatening by some people. By paying attention to a student‟s reaction to eye contact one can take care not to offend but also it can help you to measure a student‟s confidence in

    communication or understanding of something. Looking away can often be a sign of self doubt, or even avoidance of the truth. Eye contact is a very useful way of communicating with students, I can select a student, show approval of a good response or disapproval of disruption with just a look.

    I am aware of the importance of non-verbal communication in the classroom and while on the whole I try to pay attention to how I and my students are utilising these subtleties it‟s probably not possible to be

    fully aware of what might be going on. The process of teaching is a distraction in itself but even so having an awareness even if limited may be beneficial to everyone involved

    Page 5 of 10

    Simon Smith

    City and Guilds 7407 2003 / 2004

    Assignment 113 Communication


    The intricacies of verbal communication can only be touched on lightly here. Firstly there is the sound of one‟s voice and its perceived meaning, just like our physical appearance there may be little we can do

    about this. Some tutors have beautiful voices and students may be drawn in just by this factor, likewise a grating voice might be a turn off for many students. The sound of one‟s voice is made up of the tone our

    voice box creates, the volume at which we speak, the accent we have, the tonal undulation we use, and the words we choose to use, for instance using the same word can cause monotony, using a monotone voice may induce a hypnotic trance as too could words that have relaxing connotations.

    After the sound of one‟s voice there is the strategy of our speech. There is a decision about how long we shall speak for, whether it will be an interactive process or more of a monologue prose. Then there will be the method we choose to convey a subject. Will we use examples, metaphors, anecdotes, questions, comedy, stories, sayings, quotes and drama? All these factors can have a profound effect on how something is communicated.

    Another verbal communication issue is jargon. IT is renowned for jargon, which can be off-putting for even the most confident student. To this end if I am teaching a group over a long period I normally spend a few sessions on IT theory which incorporates some IT terminology. At first most students are resistant but in time understanding the importance of a common understanding of terms helps them to accept that jargon is actually an important element of communication

Asking questions

    Another good technique for improving communication within the classroom is to use questioning to keep the students involved with what‟s going on. There are of course problems associated with this such as some students ending up being left out whilst others dominate and agitate the rest of the class or students getting confused but generally it‟s a very useful communication technique

    „Question and answer is a good way to develop this interactional style of communication‟ Reece & Walker (2000 p.280)

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    Simon Smith

    City and Guilds 7407 2003 / 2004

    Assignment 113 Communication

    We have all gained knowledge, developed skills and formed attitudes with some prejudice” Reece &

    Walker (2000) This can all have an effect on our communication and we can be guilty of assuming that students are able to understand things in the same way that we do. Often more timid students do not have the confidence to ask questions. Therefore the teacher should ask the questions and observe student‟s participation in discussions to check understanding.

Peer to peer communication

    Not only is it important for the teacher to communicate verbally with the class, peer interaction is also vital. „Student-to-student communication promotes achievement. It can be effectively used to allow students to practice and extend language skills, share ideas, feel part of the classroom community, and think responsibly and independently.‟ To allow this to occur the teacher should allow time within the lesson, plan activities which encourage student interaction, such as group discussions and then allow the groups to feedback their findings to the rest of class.

    The temptation of students to digress from the topic being focused on during class discussions can at times be useful but sometimes it is distracting and unfruitful, especially if a dominant student sees this as an opportunity to talk about themselves. In view of this I warn my students about this within my induction and do not hesitate to stop them in their tracks if they try to do this. In contrast some students find it difficult to contribute to class discussions. In such instances the teacher can support the student by the use of prompting or probing questions and by giving lots of praise to boost confidence and motivation. Pausing and silence may also help in these situations, Rogers (2001) suggests asking the class to pause to reflect when a less confident student has made a contribution enabling them to gather their thoughts and develop their argument. This can be useful to allow the slower thinkers to develop their ideas too.

    To encourage students in their learning, teachers should examine the way they give critical feedback. Firstly asking a student if they would like to receive any “suggestions for improvements” and then sandwiching any criticisms between compliments may help to keep a student motivated. I also communicate my approval of their work and continued efforts by giving clear praise.

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    Simon Smith

    City and Guilds 7407 2003 / 2004

    Assignment 113 Communication

    Meeting Individuals Needs

Assessment of my class‟s needs identified several significant areas where communication could be

    affected. I recently had a foreign student who told me he could not understand what I was saying it later came to pass that the reason wasn‟t a language issue but that he had a hearing impairment. The failure to

    identify this partly falls at the student‟s feet because within the application forms and the induction process there are opportunities for a student to make an impairment known. However some responsibility comes down to the institution and the tutor to look out for barriers to learning. The end result was the student dropped out feeling quite unhappy. In other classes where I have students with hearing impairments I try to position them near to me if they lip read, use the hearing induction loop if they use a hearing aide and if necessary, and where feasible, I try to arrange a sign interpreter to help. During the induction process a gap where the communication of facilities for the aurally impaired became apparent, for a foreign person whose English language skills were limited and who could not clearly hear or articulate their needs the communication was not adequate.

    The issue of disclosure of disabilities, special needs, or basic skills needs can be distressing for many people so the importance of allowing confidential communication to take place can not be underestimated. Likewise the recognition of when something is being said in confidence and being able to not repeat or refer to what‟s been said inappropriately is a very important communication skill.


    Within my work I often use resources from the internet, this may include third party web sites, web pages that I create and the use of email. These electronic communications devices are often seen as the new panacea for learning, however I have the opinion that these are devices that can be used to enhance learning and communication but are not replacements to more traditional methods.

    Another useful communication tool that I employ is the PowerPoint presentation. These presentations can help a tutor to organise a lesson, add an element of entertainment and aesthetic pleasure to a lesson. For my communication seminar I utilised a PowerPoint presentation which can be seen at:

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    Simon Smith

    City and Guilds 7407 2003 / 2004

    Assignment 113 Communication

Reviewing the learning process

„Students own interpretations and (mis)understanding are key to what gets learned, but more often than

    not these only become evident when it is too late failure, failing motivation, feelings of poor self esteem,

    etc.‟ Littlejohn (2004) To prevent failure we should regularly review communication and consider how it has affected the learning process. The Individual Learning Plans ILP for each student help me to structure the review process.


    This assignment has caused me to focus on the importance of communication within the classroom. It has shown me the value of fostering good communication skills both in myself but also trying to develop them in my students. I have also come to recognise the importance of getting feedback from students on my communication and teaching methods in order to be more effective. I have also discovered the vast differences in communication styles of people of other cultures. The main thing that I have come to pay more attention to is that I should not always assume that poor communication is the fault of the other

    person, it may often be of” my own creation!

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    Simon Smith

    City and Guilds 7407 2003 / 2004

    Assignment 113 Communication


    AWESOME LIBRARY Communication Patterns and Assumptions of Differing Cultural Groups in the United States

BARTON, J., HEILKER, P., RUTKOWSKI, D. Fostering Effective Classroom Discussions


HOGAN HAMM, P. Teaching and Persuasive Communication: Class Presentation Skills

LITTLEJOHN, DR. ANDREW (2004) Communication in the classroom

    ndPETTY, G. (1998) Teaching Today a Practical Guide 2 ed., Great Britain: Nelson Thornes

PROZESKY, D. Communication and Effective Teaching

REECE, I. WALKER, S. (2003) Teaching Training and Learning a Practical Guide

    th5 ed., Great Britain: Business Education Publishers Limited

    RICE, J. Good Communication in Teaching Part 1

    RIVERS, D. Seven Challenges of Communicating More Cooperatively

    thROGERS, J. (2001) Adult Learning 4 ed., Great Britain: Open University Press

    UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI Communication and Interaction

UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO (2002) Effective Communication: Barriers and Strategies

    WORSFOLD, A. Principles of Teaching and Effective Communication

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