is no institution devised by man which the power of speech has not helped
to establish." (Norlin)
The process of communication
is the essence of education. Teaching and learning occur via the process
of communication. It is in the interactions between teachers and students
as well as in the interactions amongst students facilitated by the instructor
where education takes place. It is not simply the ability to communicate,
but the ability to communicate effectively that is essential in the process
of education. To be an effective educator one must be an effective communicator.
This module provides values-based skills that, when applied, inherently
increase effectiveness in communication. Effective communication enhances
"Communication is an intangible
process that can be verbal, nonverbal, or a combination of both, and always
involves the transaction of meaning between persons" (Scileppi Krivanek,
2000). Effective communication is defined as accuracy in encoding (creating)
and decoding (interpreting) of a message between people. In other words,
the meaning attached to a message that is sent is similar to the meaning
attached to the message that is received. Effective communication occurs
when a message that is received by the listener is closely aligned with
the message that was sent by the speaker. Misunderstandings often occur
either when the sender of a message is not clear or when the listener
misinterprets a message. Effective communication is achieved through communicating
mindfully (Langer, 1989) and practicing rhetorical sensitivity (Spano
& Zimmerman, 1995) in our interactions with others.
Civility and Respect
Civility and respect are the
cornerstones of society (Krivanek, 2000). Civility and respect are achieved
through mindfulness and rhetorical sensitivity.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is an approach to communicating. It involves
a sense of awareness of one's behaviors (verbal and non-verbal) in the
process of communicating. Being mindful is being consciously aware of
the communication process as it is occurring. To be truly mindful one
must be open to new information, create new categories and realize there
is more than one perspective. Mindfulness in our communications with others
involves the ability to bring our own communication to a level of awareness.
Rather than communicating on automatic pilot (learned, scripted, responses),
the mindful communicator begins to monitor the communication process.
S/he learns to tailor his/her message based upon the receiver of the message.
This infers that one aspect of the role of the instructor is to not only
know his/her subject matter, but to be very in tune with the students
as individuals. In understanding the students as individuals, messages
will be adapted for particular classes, and/or particular students in
Besides bringing one's communication
to a level of awareness, mindfulness in communication incorporates these
1) openness to new information,
2) creation of new categories (cognitive complexity), and
3) realizing there is more than one perspective.
Practicing rhetorical sensitivity involves incorporating these five elements
in our interactions with others:
1) accept personal complexity
2) avoid rigidity in our interactions
3) realize that an idea can be expressed in many ways
4) balance self-interest with interest of others
These five elements aid in
encoding and decoding messages more accurately. Each human being is very
complex. The more clearly we can see these complexities (via mindfulness),
the more flexible and adaptable we become in our interactions with others
(via rhetorical sensitivity). These complexities coupled with flexibility
and adaptability leads us to realize that any idea can be expressed in
many ways. Knowing these will help instructors to be more open minded.
If we don't accept personal complexity and are rigid in our interactions,
we may be short-changing a student and not balancing our own interests
as educators with the interests of the students. Yet, as instructors,
we must also maintain our own self-interest. Appropriateness, in how/where/when
a message is communicated, is essential in maintaining civility and respect
in the education process.
Impersonal communication occurs
when we communicate from our roles.
is an encounter between two persons in which roles and rules are transcended
and at times abandoned and the honest and natural flow of life is allowed
to regulate the interaction" (Krivanek, 2000, p. 27).
Even though we must interact
with others based on the context of the relationship, we must not limit
all of our interactions to be simply impersonal. It is through interpersonal
interactions that we grow as individuals. "People are human beings,
not human doings" (Krivanek, 2000, p.295). Our students are not only
students; they are also human beings. We must not limit their growth by
refusing to interact with them on an interpersonal level.
It is important to communicate
with students both impersonally and interpersonally. Often times, as instructors,
we focus on communicating with our students merely from the role as instructor.
However, students' affinity towards instructors can increase through appropriate
self-disclosure and allowing students to see their instructors as real
people. As such, it is essential to communicate with students both impersonally
(from our role of instructor) and interpersonally (outside of our role).
The Transactional Model
of Communication in the Classroom
The transactional model of
communication occurs in the classroom setting (Figure 2.3, pp. 30 &
31). Even though the classroom setting might initially appear to be communication
from one to many, it is still the transactional model because the sending
(encoding) and receiving (decoding) of messages is occurring simultaneously.
Even if one particular lesson is primarily lecture, the students are still
sending messages non-verbally. The instructor is interpreting these messages.
For example, some students make a lot of eye contact and nod as if they
are following the lecture. Others might look bored, confused, tired, etc.
It is important to remember that we rely heavily on non-verbal cues even
though they can be very ambiguous and, therefore, highly inaccurate.
One of the most important features
of this model is to recognize the central focus of intrapersonal communication.
This is also known as internal monologue, or the things that one is saying
to oneself. Intrapersonal communication, in turn, drives the communication
process. As instructors, it is very important to manage our own intrapersonal
communication functionally and to aid our students in doing so also (See,
for example, Lesson 6: Improving Student Resilience.) Whether we are communicating
with our student impersonally or interpersonally, the transactional model
Values-Based Skills: Assertiveness,
Listening, Giving Feedback & Responding to Feedback
There are four additional skills
that can be incorporated into an instructor's behavioral repertoire that
can enhance student learning and teaching effectiveness. Although the
following values-based skills are presented as behaviors that are effective
in the classroom, they are also skills that teachers can model so that
their students will also learn to integrate these into their lives. These
four skills are:
1) Assertive non-violent
2) Assertive listening (listening with an open mind and heart)
3) Giving Feedback
4) Responding to Feedback
Assertiveness/Non Assertiveness/Verbal Aggression
"The assertive communicator is able to directly state and declare
his or her thoughts and feelings without offending, abusing, or manipulating
the other person." The assertive communicator has a win-win attitude
towards interactions with others. Assertive communication is "self-enhancing
because it shows a positive firmness." In order to more fully understand
an assertive style of communication, it can be compared to the non-assertive
and aggressive styles of communication. The non-assertive communicator
is "too politely restrained, tactful, diplomatic, modest, and self
denying." The aggressive communicator "demands and makes comments
to achieve his or her own goals at the expense of others. Assertive communication
is inherently linked to rhetorical sensitivity. The assertive communicator
balances one's self-interest with others' interests. (Insert Table 2.1,
I. Assertiveness: involves
communicating in a way that indicates that we are standing up for our
own rights, but at the same time respecting the rights of others. (Gudykunst,
Ting-Toomey, Sudweeks, Stewart, 1995)
A. Assertive communication
enables you to act in your own best interest without denying or infringing
upon the rights of others.
B. Express your thoughts/opinions/feelings without hurting others in
C. Assertiveness is a way of communicating to others that you have a
high sense of self-regard & a high sense of regard for others.
D. Our culture values assertiveness.
E. Important to note that assertive individuals are capable of acting
assertive when they want to be,
but can also be non-assertive if the situation seems to call for it.
A. When a person is non-assertive,
how does he/she behave?
1. timid, reserved, unable to assert their rights
regardless of the situation
2. deny own feelings/opinions
3. allows others to make decisions for them
B. Are there any situations in which being non-assertive may be appropriate/acceptable?
1. Any situation, when you do not care what
happens - or perhaps if you are assertive and someone's feelings may
be hurt, or cultural differences.
2. Specific examples: assertiveness in many
Asian and Hispanic cultures is viewed as insulting/disrespectful.
3. So non-assertiveness can be, at times, the
appropriate communicative style.
III. Verbal Aggressiveness:
is the tendency to attack the self-concepts of individuals instead of,
or in addition to, their positions on topics of communication (Infante,
1987 - cited in Gudykunst, Ting-Toomey, Sudweeks, Stewart, 1995).
A. How do aggressive people
1. examples: hostile, arrogant, pushy
2. verbally they attack people's character,
competence, self-worth, etc.
3. non-verbally what do they do? Gesture, facial
B. Generally, aggressive people appear to think little of the opinions,
values or beliefs of others, yet are extremely sensitive to criticism
of their own behavior.
1. So if these verbally aggressive messages
attack people - what are these messages doing?
2. Think of another name for aggressive messages
- HURTFUL MESSAGES & PUT DOWNS.
Assertive listening (MODEL p. 72) is essential to understand for effectively
communicating in the educational process. "The personhood of the
listener is an important part of the listening process" (Krivanek,
2000). As such, instructors must be in tune with their own internal monologue
as well as understanding the personhood of their students. We begin to
understand others through listening to not only verbal messages, but also
to non-verbal cues.
Listening is a learned skill. As instructors, we can also aid our students
to be better listeners by asking them to pay attention to their own listening
processes and reminding them to choose to listen! We can also aid students
by previewing and reviewing each lesson. Additionally, applying a variety
of teaching strategies aids students in their own listening processes.
I. Difference between Hearing
(Gudykunst, Ting-Toomey, Sudweeks, Stewart, 1995)
A. Hearing: physiological
process - it is the physical process of taking in auditory sensations
without deliberate thoughtful attention.
mental process - involves paying close attention to and making sense
of what the message being sent, verbally and/or non-verbally.
C. Listening is a choice!
D. Most people are poor listeners, and that is why we need to make a
conscious effort to become Assertive Listeners.
II. Assertive Listening:
is a mindful process in which we focus on the meanings of other peoples'
and nonverbal messages, and we clearly indicate to them that we are paying
A. Assertive Listening does
take time and energy, however it is necessary.
1. It helps us to comprehend the content and
the relational meanings of other people's messages.
2. It is critical when we want to understand
B. 6 Guidelines to
keep in mind when trying to be an Assertive Listener
- Be ready and willing
- give them your undivided attention
- we have to mindfully choose to be ready and willing to listen.
- "Be" with that person, clear your mind
- Use all elements ears (eyes, face, voice, body ,mind, and our heart)
to listen in a nondistracting environment.
- Remain silent to allow
the other person to speak:
- It allows others time to collect their thoughts and to decide what
they want to say
- Everyone has different orientations toward silence - some high/low
- Because most of us have a low tolerance for silence, we must mindfully
choose to be quiet and allow other people to talk.
- We don't want to try to solve problems and give lots of advice,
unless it is requested and we have gathered enough information to
- interrupt and trying to solve others problem when it is not requested
only decreases the
information the other person will choose to share.
- Verbally and Nonverbally
show you are paying attention:
- eye contact: signals we are following what the other person
is saying. Appropriate eye contact indicates we are interested in
other people and their messages. The appropriate length of time to
hold eye contact depends on our relationship with other people and
our cultural background.
- body posture / leaning: leaning back with our arms crossed
= not interested;
leaning forward facing the person = interested
**When we listen responsively, we move our bodies while avoiding motions
that distract the speaker. If we are totally still, we may signal
we are not listening. If we remain still, we may appear cold.
- verbal cues and short phrases serve to signal other people that
we are following the conversation. cues such as "um-hmm"
and "uh-huh" serve as encouraging signals for other
people to continue to express their ideas and feelings.
Short phrases: "I see," "I hear you," "That
is very interesting," "Tell me some more," "Go
on," "Really?" helps us stay alert and indicate
we are paying attention.
- Paraphrase verbal content
in your own words:
- the goal is to make sure we accurately understand the content of
- it involves verbally restating our interpretation of the content
meaning of other peoples' messages on our own words (ex. "in
other words, your saying that").
- it is not repeating what they said in their words.
- hold out on giving advice or judging until we are sure of the message.
- Reflecting your understanding
of the relational meaning:
- reflections reveal an act of empathy; they tell the other person
he or she has been heard. Imagine how the other person would feel.
- they do not involve analyzing a message. Rather they simply show
that meaning has been registered.
- do not restate what other person has said, rather clearly tell the
other person we understand what they said. ex. "oh my" "that
is so unfair"
- when we accurately reflect the feelings or meanings that lie behind
the questions (asking for advice), the speaker often forgets that
he or she even asked a question and usually plunges into a deeper
discussion of the matter and begins to grope towards a solution.
- if the speaker recognizes that their questions have not been answered,
listeners can help the speaker solve problem.
- Ask probing and clarifying
- probing involves open ended questions (who, what, when, where, how)
to look for an extension of the content of what is being said or the
relational meaning behind the message.
- clarifying questions such as, "I am not sure what you mean,
can you explain yourself further?" helps us gather more content
and data from the other person.
We should not use assertive
listening skills all of the time - it is too time consuming, use it when
it is important that we fully understand the other person. In addition
to assertive listening, some other important guidelines are discussed
by Krivanek (2000). She explains the guidelines for informational listening
and listening to help.
Informational Listening involves listening to understand or comprehensive
listening. This guidelines can both be used by instructors when interacting
with students and can be shared with students to aid them in their own
listening skills. The guidelines include the following:
- Listening readiness
Because listening is a choice, we must prepare ourselves mentally,
emotionally, and physically to listen.
- Talk Less
Talking less isn't limited to refraining on offering too much information
verbally. It also includes controlling our own internal monologue
and to speak with a purpose rather than talking aimlessly.
- Avoid interrupting
Interrupting causes anxiety for the speaker and disrupts the communication
process. All interruptions cannot be avoided, so interrupt for questions
of clarification at the appropriate times.
- Listen for main ideas
Listening to Help
Listening to help involves listening to understand, and from that understanding
the notion of helping another. Again, these guidelines can both be used
by instructors when interacting with students and can be shared with students
to aid them in their own listening skills. The guidelines include the
- Listening readiness
- Listen with the whole
self, from personhood, interpersonally rather than only impersonally
- Keep an open mind
We can understand another's perspective (empathy) without having to
agree with their perspective.
- Develop sensitivity
for the unspoken message
Constructive criticism (giving
feedback) is a major function of a college instructor. As such, the ability
to give appropriate feedback is very crucial. These are not only important
in the role of instructor, but can also be discussed explicitly with the
students and help them to give feedback appropriately so that they can
be successful students.
A. Introduction to giving
- Feedback: information
we transmit to others in reaction to the verbal and nonverbal messages
we have received from them.
- Though we can give feedback
for a variety of reasons (to encourage, to give advice, to disagree
or agree, to show appreciation, to assert our point of view), most
people offer feedback only when something goes wrong.
B. To give effective feedback
we must be sensitive to others' needs & interests. We must
consider their character, and our relationship.
C. We must consider (9) General Guidelines: Need to adapt to specific
- Timing: Close
to occurrence of behavior.
ex. Don't talk to a student about coming into class late a week after
it happened. Make sure people are ready to hear. Do not give feedback
when someone is exhausted or upset.
ex. Don't talk to a student about their disruptive behavior (ex. passing
notes) in class when they have just told you that someone in their
family has just passed away, they are likely not to listen.
- Specificity: Need
to be clear, unambiguous, direct. Have examples. If giving feedback
in writing, say what exactly could be improved.
Don't be general or vague. Identify reason for your interpretations.
Separate person from problem/issue to avoid defensiveness.
ex. "I feel I can't get in a word with you" rather than
"You always interrupt me."
Avoid judging others
- Mutual Problem:
Saves interpersonal relationships.
ex. "What can we do to solve this?"
- Assertive Manner:
The use of "I" messages signals ownership of perceptions
ex. "This is how I interpret what happened."
ex. "I am disappointed because ."
Limit what you say to your own observations - NOT - what others have
told us. Avoid offensive, obscene language (aggressive) as well as
harsh manner of speaking (raising your voice or yelling). For feedback
to be assertive, there needs to be an opportunity for other people
to maintain their public images when we give them feedback.
- Fairness: Allow
people to maintain face (public image).
Neg. feedback in private is good.
Examples: outside the class or in your office.
- Balance: Positive
ex. "I like your use of examples in the paper, they're good;
let's work on the transitions."
- Here and Now:
Focus on the present.
If we drag up the past, we decrease the effectiveness of our feedback
and increase the possibility they will feel we are "dumping"
on them & not listen to the feedback.
- Concluding Feedback
Session: Should end with a clear statement of mutual understanding
of the situation and the statement of the specific actions that will
be taken in the future.
ex. "o.k. - so we have agreed that if your paper is not turned
in by Thursday, I will no longer accept it. Correct?"
Closure - allows both to know future expectations.
When we take into consideration
how to give effective feedback in our classrooms, we are more likely to
build a more positive learning environment for our students. We are likely
to achieve understanding and shared meanings; therefore, feedback is a
major resource we can use for effective communication with others. Giving
feedback effectively by following these guidelines increases the quality
of the rapport we build with our students. The more you practice - the
easier it becomes!
Responding to Critical Feedback
In addition to giving feedback
effectively, the ability to respond to feedback is also very crucial.
These are not only important in the role of instructor, but can also be
discussed explicitly with the students and help them to respond appropriately
to feedback so that they can be successful students. There are two typical
responses to receiving critical feedback, or constructive criticism: fight
or flight. These are other wise known as the "you're no good"
or "I'm no good" responses. The fight or "you're no good"
response puts blame on the person giving the critical feedback and results
in anger and lowered self-esteem. The flight or "I'm no good"
response puts self-blame on the person receiving the critical feedback
and results in heightened levels of anxiety, uncertainty, and lowered
self-esteem. Neither of these responses is either effective or functional.
The mindful choice is the self-esteem response. The person receiving the
critical feedback perceives the critical feedback as an opportunity for
learning. This results in higher levels of self-esteem and more effective
communication between instructor and student. More effective communication
results in more successful learning.