Communication is a basic process in the life of any community. It is especially important in a learning community because teachers and students sharing information is one of the main education strategies used to enhance the learning process. So what does really mean to communicate? The majority of us understand it as a process of transmitting the correct information, which is done by objectively describing, articulating and delivering as precisely as possible both the substance and the content of the message. Despite the importance of transmitting information, this is a unilateral and reductive view of communication that we could call message-centric. In order to communicate clearly with our students, we need to understand all aspects of communication, so let’s expand our definition of communication by looking at three other important elements: the means of communication, the non-verbal aspects of communication and the process of communication.
Means of Communication
The means of communication, sometimes called the medium, is important because it affects both the sender and the receiver. M. McLuhan famously said, “the medium is the message.” He argued that the means of communication themselves should be the focus of study because it is the means, not the content, that produce the major effects of communication. The characteristics and nature of the medium itself not only radically change the message, but also produce huge transformations in the sender and the receiver.
As J. L. Austin noted, language is not only about communication, but also about performance. According to his Speech Act Theory, almost any verbal communication is accompanied by non-verbal elements. Every speech act is really the performance of several acts at once, distinguished by different aspects of the speaker’s intention, including the act of saying something (locutionary), what one does in saying it, such as requesting or promising (illocutionary), and how one is trying to affect one’s audience (perlocutionary). In other words, non-verbal language has an effect beyond the effect created by the words themselves.
Process of Communication
Claude Shannon, Warren Weaver, Roman Jakobson, among others, have pointed out that communication is not a singular homogeneous event, but a complex heterogeneous process. Jakobson for instance, describes six elements: sender, message, receiver, context, channel, and code. Those wanting to communicate effectively, therefore, do not limit themselves to the words in the message, but also consider the other elements involved in communicating it to the receiver clearly and pay attention to the effect of the communication on themselves and on the receiver.
Communication has the power to transform the classroom, in part because it is a bi-directional process. If communication goes well, it goes from the teacher to the students and from the students to the teachers and creates an educational alliance where everyone involved emerges transformed and enriched. By understand the impact of the means of communication, non-verbal aspects of communication, and process of communication, we can strengthen our communication skills and build an ever-stronger alliance with our students.