Communication as Our Fundamental Right

 


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It goes without saying that communication is a fundamental human right and is the way through which we organize our being, build friendship, put up relationships, become independent, make choices and is the way we learn. Therefore, communication is extremely important in all aspects of life, but especially within the teaching and learning environment. Reece and Walker cited that Communication is essentially about one person who sends a message which is received by a second person; however some form of channel, or means of communication is needed.

The manner in which a teacher portrays him or herself to students and how students perceive that teacher is critical in developing a healthy atmosphere of learning. We as teachers all want to communicate in a style, which our student’s will feel beneficial, but how do we identify the “good” and “bad” aspects of our role as communicators?

The style of communication, body language and the language used in our teaching is a significant and powerful factor in setting a positive and purposeful climate in the classroom. Therefore, effective learning requires that the communication is a two way process, but this is no easy matter in practice as a number of barriers present themselves which prevent or inhibit effective communication.

An effective learning environment

In the best of all possible worlds, an effective classroom environment should be visually stimulating, motivate students to learn more, empower and support learner’s to take some responsibility for their own learning, encourage self-learning and autonomy, enable all learners’ to have an equal opportunity to make progress, support differentiation to meet the needs of individual learners, is workable and realistic and is one in which the learning activities intended are manageable and realistic and within your current professional capabilities.

There can be many different barriers to adult learning, largely relating to the individual's own circumstances, background and personality. It has already been asserted that barriers can be located within the learner, within the centre of learning, within the education system and within the broader social, economic and political context. However, these barriers manifest themselves in different ways and only become obvious when learning breakdown occurs, when learners “drop out” of the system or when the excluded become visible.

When communicating to students it is important to use vocabulary appropriate to the group. We need to communicate to our students in order to teach them and for them to learn from us. Therefore, learning can be made much easier for the student by using relevant language, comparisons, actions, acronyms and speaking to them with the correct rhythm, tone, pitch and volume.

It has often been recognized that communication in the classroom takes place on a non-verbal level. This is where the teacher and student convey their messages via their body language. We as teachers use body language in our every day practice, without even realizing it. However, little do we recognize the consequences that the way portray ourselves, has on our students; whether positive or negative! The old saying picture tells a thousand words is very true, as the way we look, stand, touch & dress can have a profound effect upon a learner’s interpretation of what is being said, than any spoken word alone.

The spoken word is just made up of empty letters and meanings, unless it is conveyed with feeling, meaning & tone, since the interpretation can be quite different to each individual learner. During my teaching sessions I have sometimes been misinterpreted and my language misconstrued, because of the way that something was said, which was not the intended meaning. In face-to-face communication, we use different tones and intonations of the voice, we use different humor to lighten a moment, therefore, tone and emotions are important to convey the intended essence of the meaning that it is intended, as quite often communication can break down very easily and the learner’s concentration levels can waiver very easily.

There are non-verbal barriers to communication too. A teacher needs to have the right physical appearance. For myself, as a cognitive co-learner, I prefer a more informal dress style that does not portray the image of a typical classroom teacher, but still maintaining a professional image.

During the contact with my learner’s there is a culmination of non-verbal characteristics that is evident with my learner’s. For instance, I often smile to encourage, show pleasure, praise, show enthusiasm and interest. However, on occasions to portray disbelief, disappointment or disapproval, I frown, raise my eyebrows and change ego states from an adult to a parent. My voice also has a different meaning with what I am conveying. For instance when my pitch & tone of voice is raised, this indicates that I am angry and annoyed, however it may also mean that I am excited and exuberant.

A teacher who mumbles to the board, who swallows words, who speaks in a monotone manner, who says unexplained technical and specialist terms, who does not repeat points and speaks too quickly, is a very ineffective and negative way of delivering teaching sessions

Personal issues, attitudes, feelings

Effective learning is directly related to and dependent on the social and emotional well being of the learner. Therefore, it is important to

Recognize that particular conditions may arise within the social, economic and political environment in which the learner lives, which impact negatively on the learner’s social and emotional well-being, thus placing the learner at risk of learning breakdown. This is very much the case within my particular learning environment, as the programme is focused towards those, who have an array of social, emotional and educational learning needs.

Negative and harmful attitudes towards difference in our society remain a critical barrier to learning and development. Discriminatory attitudes resulting from prejudice against people on the basis of race, class, gender, culture, disability, religion, ability, *** preference and other characteristics manifest themselves as barriers to learning when such attitudes are directed towards learners in the education system.

For the most part, negative attitudes toward different learners manifest themselves in the labeling of learners. This is a very prominent issue with my learner’s as they are often labeled for being a burden on society, as they are pregnant teenagers and people think that they are placed in a particular learning environment merely because they belong to a category of learners, for which a particular kind of educational placement exists.

Sometimes teacher’s, through inadequate training, use teaching styles which may not meet the needs of some of the learners. A teacher may teach at a pace, which only accommodates learners who learn very quickly. Alternatively, the pace and style of teaching may limit the initiative and involvement of learners with high levels of ability. However, the underpinning knowledge that I have gained from doing my 7407 course has enabled me to consider all learner’s abilities and therefore, when I plan my lessons, there will be attention to all of my learner’s needs. In recent weeks, the implementation and application of the lesson plans that I have devised, have been an effective tool in dictating the content, delivery and pace of what is hope to be achieved, as I have considered the differentiation of the group and adapted it accordingly to their individual needs, not merely what I want to deliver and the teaching methods that suit me best. It is also important to recognize that learning breakdown can perpetuate further breakdown, often manifesting itself in disruptive and self-destructive behavior by the learner, which also negatively affects other learners.

Positive strategies can enhance a learner’s self-esteem, therefore supporting them to recognize the effect of their behavior; being constructive with dealing with their behavior and providing motivational feedback can undoubtedly have an effective approach to controlling inappropriate behavior within the learning environment.

During the first six weeks of a learner being on the YMTB programme, an Initial Assessment is devised, to determine their learning aims, objectives and goals. The main items that are discussed with the learner are their achievements, qualifications, prior experience learning, education background and strengths and weaknesses, in order to devise a programme that is specific to their needs. At the same time, a review of progress is also carried out, where the learner will highlight and identify what their targets are, a timescale of how they want to achieve them and the level of support that is required from the tutor.

A further area of barriers arising from the curriculum, are those which learning takes place through a language, which is not their first language. This not only places these learners at a disadvantage, but it also leads to linguistic difficulties, which contribute to learning breakdown. Second language learners are often subjected to low expectations, discrimination and lack of cultural peers and teachers; furthermore often experience difficulties in developing appropriate support mechanisms for second language learners.

This issue has only arisen once in my current teaching role, as most of my learner’s have English as their first language. However, last year a learner who was French speaking presented with barely any understanding of English. I was faced with a dilemma with how to translate what I wanted to say in his or her own language, without the help of a LSA. Fortunately, the learner was able to quickly develop her English speaking and therefore this made it easier for both of us, but it was still a lot hard work, which often made the learner feel inadequate and frustrated.

By fostering an atmosphere of trust and by leading by example, I feel that we are encouraging our learners to communicate effectively and to act in a professional manner. I try to foster a safe environment where they know they will not be ridiculed if they answer a question incorrectly, but will be encouraged to try again. All learning materials are free from discrimination and bias, and can be made available in different formats if a particular learner has a particular learning need. This addresses all of the learning domains, and brings the learner into the classroom so that they feel included and part of the group. In this way, I feel that the learners benefit from being included, and several of their barriers to learning are removed and their motivation is kept high.

Motivation and reward are also important aspects of the communication process. It is important to keep them motivated remembering of course Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and to reward them when they do make a contribution, no matter how small. This reward may be a “well done”, a positive comment on their weekly activity plans or a certificate of achievement, which is put on the learner achievement board in the training room. Reece & Walker asserted, that re-enforcement should be positive and criticism constructive not negative.

This assignment has given me the insight into how and why I communicate with my learners on a daily basis. Throughout the last 6 weeks I have undertaken a lot of extensive reading into the dynamics of communication. The first session on Transactional Analysis first made me think, what is all this about- what is an ego state? What is the term TA everyone is using so freely within the group? Then it came to me- parent-child, adult-child relationships significantly affect the way our learners’ respond. Ever since that day this theory has inspired me to think about how I communicate with my learners, not just verbally, but non-verbally in so many ways that I have previously discussed. By researching and writing this assignment, my whole approach towards my learners’ has changed, so that I can effectively respond to their individual needs and provide them with an effective learning environment.

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