There are many factors that influence the effectiveness of the communication process between teachers and students. This essay will discuss the factor of power and status. It will first discuss the elements of; power, communication and the relationship of teacher and student. Then it will explain the impact power has upon the communication process. Lastly, this essay will identify and explain three guiding principles that will assist teachers to provide quality communication. The setting for this essay will be the classroom.
The word power has many meanings, “...rich in both political and personal associations.” [ (Manke, 1997, p. 3) ] Wrong (1995) claims where you are in the social order (your status) will influence your understanding of power. Geelan (2001) writes about Michel Foucault, one of the most influential thinkers about power of our time. He uses an analogy that a central argument of Foucault’s was that power is like mass energy in physics; it can “... be neither created nor destroyed, but only transformed and transferred.” (p.6) While there may not be a common understanding of what power is, Fadon (1985 cited in Manke, 1997) states that power can never really be seen, when some people are doing what others want, despite their own wishes, he said that power is at work.
“Communication is a very broad and complex concept...” [ (Tyler, Ryan, & Kossen, 2002, p. 32) ] Basically, it is a process where a message is sent from one person (sender) to another (receiver). The message is interpreted by the receiver and then transmitted back to the sender. Along the way, many variables affect the message that is sent, received and interpreted. [ (Groundwater-Smith, Ewing, & Le Cornu, 2003) ] A more advanced view of communication that includes the relationship between the participants of the message is the transactional model. It involves the idea that the meaning of the message is negotiated between the people in the relationship. Each person will bring to the negotiation their own perceptions based on their background and how they view their current status in the relationship. [ (Tyler, Ryan, & Kossen, 2002) ]
The relationship between teachers and students is forever changing. The generational challenge faced by teachers is to accommodate differing learning styles. Teachers need to know how to construct effective relationships with their students. [ (Otero, Chambers-Otero, Sparks, & Sparks, 2001) ] A current view of student learning is the social constructivist approach. An approach made popular by theorist Lev Vygotsky, it “...emphasises the importance of shared interaction, collaboration and negotiated meanings.” [ (Groundwater-Smith, Ewing, & Le Cornu, 2003, p. 79) ] The teacher is seen as the facilitator to learning instead of a transmitter of information. [ (Groundwater-Smith, Ewing, & Le Cornu, 2003) ] Manke (2003, p.2) claims that teachers are not the “...sole owners of classroom power.” This idea correlates with the social constructivist view that learning is shared interaction. Manke’s view is different from the more traditional view of classroom power, described by Waller (1965, cited in Manke, 1997) in which teachers have power over the students. If the students were to have any power it would be a sign of “...weakness and incompetence of the teacher”. [ (Manke, 1997, p. 147) ] Grambs (1957, cited in Manke, 1997) believes that the teachers have the power because they have the knowledge and all the resources. They also control the time and what activities are carried out. Sizer (1984, cited in Manke, 1997) explains his idea of the relationship between teacher and student as an unspoken agreement. The teachers will make the rules and the students will keep the peace. In classrooms where teachers view power in this way, the main type of communication that takes place is transmission, where information moves in a linear way. The teacher sends the information and the...
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