The instructor asks the members of the class to suggest reasons why communication breaks down between teacher and student. Or between any two or more people, in the classroom or elsewhere. As the reasons are given the teacher writes them down for all to see, making little or no comment. Instructor may suggest some if not given. Then instructor comments on the validity of these reasons and suggests that no one could have any mind at any given time all the precautions to be taken to ensure communication. Usually no one mentions the LACK OF FEEDBACK as the principal cause for miscommunication. Then proceeds to demonstrate two different kinds of classes, one with feedback (two-way communication) and one without feedback (one-way communication.
In the first demonstration (one-way communication) a volunteer teacher stood behind a screen, and could not be seen by the class, thereby effectively preventing any feedback using hand or head gestures or facial expressions. The volunteer teacher then was given the task of describing six rectangles, each touching at least one other at various points (see Figure 1). The time taken to complete the task of "teaching the lesson" was recorded by the instructor.
In the second demonstration (two-way communication), the volunteer teacher, still remaining behind the screen, could ask questions or ask for help from any member of the class, and members of the class could interrupt and ask questions or make observations. The volunteer teacher then was given the task of describing a different set of six rectangles, each touching at least one other at various points (see Figure 1). The time taken to complete the task of "teaching the lesson" was recorded.
Discussion of Results.
What usually happens is that very few people complete the task succesfully with no feedback (one-way communication). Some "teachers" may get 10 or 20 percent success. In the two-way communication exercise (with feedback), the success may range from 60 to 100 percent. The instructor may then ask the class which is the more effective teaching strategy. After some discussion, the class will usually conclude that there are trade-offs with each strategy. More students may get the lesson "right" in the two-way communication, but then it may take longer.
One-way communication in the classroom is typical of the "lecture". Two-way communication in teaching is usually called the "interrupted lecture." Research tends to favor the interrupted lecture for many reasons. Ask the class to suggest some.
Classroom Discussion Items.
You may arrange the class in small groups to discuss the following:
1. List at least five differences between one-way and two-way communication.
2. List some advantages of one-way communication (the lecture).
3. List some disadvantages of one-way communication (the lecture).
4. List some advantages of two-way communication (the interrupted lecture).
5. List some disadvantages of two-way communication (the interrupted lecture).
6. Generate some ideas about what the teacher could do to encourage and generate feedback. What attitudes in the class (teacher's or students') are likely to encourage feedback, inhibit feedback.
Answers to some of the above questions may centre around such features as:
time required to cover the material
percentage of success in communication (getting the material right
locus of control (who is in control)
amount of energy required (one more enervating than the other?)