The skill of questioning

Following a Situated Communication workshop, I have been given an independent task to read a chapter from ‘Finding out about others: the skill of questioning’ (Hargie, 2011). Chapter 5 of this book discusses the various types of questions which can … Continue reading

Following a Situated Communication workshop, I have been given an independent task to read a chapter from ‘Finding out about others: the skill of questioning’ (Hargie, 2011).

Chapter 5 of this book discusses the various types of questions which can be used to shape or influence the given answer.  The function of certain questioning techniques is highlighted, with examples of ‘affective’ and ‘leading’ questions being suggested as techniques which can manipulate answers, with the effects on individuals by varying questioning techniques also explained.   

There were several theories mentioned within the chapter, and I found these to be very thought provoking, particularly the ‘minimisation’ theory.  This strategy is found to be used within courtrooms to lead subjects into believing that they may be treated more leniently when questions are put to them in a more understanding manner. I also was intrigued by the ‘acquiescence’ effect of individuals anticipating an answer to a question without fully understanding the question being asked.  Psychology appears throughout the chapter, and is found in the example of ‘subtle leads’ which highlights how answers can be influenced by the use of particular words.  Harris (1973) provided evidence of ‘subtle leads’ when asking the question “how long was the movie?”.  Answers  of 130 minutes were given, compared to those who answered 100 minutes when asked “how short was the movie?”.  

Although I agree with most of what is written in the chapter, I do not agree with the use of ‘leading questions’ when questioning children, as seen in the Orkney satanic abuse inquiry. It has been demonstrated through research by Hardie and van Leeuwen (2004), that children aged between three and five and a half years of age were more susceptible to be led by this style of questioning, although this particular inquiry contravenes this research as the child in the excerpt could not be influenced.

Reference

Hargie, O. (2011) Skilled Interpersonal Communication: Research, Theory and Practice. 5th ed. London: Routledge.

 

Communicating Outdoors

Today I explored my communication skills in an outside environment, and was given the task of building a den with members of a team. Group and leadership Within my particular team I did not feel that there was a specific … Continue reading

Today I explored my communication skills in an outside environment, and was given the task of building a den with members of a team.

Group and leadership

Within my particular team I did not feel that there was a specific group leader, although there were a few team members who were perhaps more vocal than others at suggesting ideas.  We worked well together and managed to agree on individual suggestions relatively quickly. I feel that all team members were able to voice their ideas and everyone listened to one another respectfully. We all had a clear idea of the design of the den and a similar vision of what it should ultimately look like. As the den took shape, we were enthusiastic and this made it feel fun, we had plenty of laughs along the way. I didn’t feel any resentment within the team and we encouraged each other to get involved as much as possible. The most challenging part was communicating with the team members I didn’t know very well. I found it far easier to communicate with team members I already knew as I had an idea of what their strengths would be in this task.

Explaining

The group who were explaining their task did so very well.  I think this was due to one specific member being chosen to talk, instead of different members trying to communicate at the one time.  This kept their communication clear and concise and meant that all aspects of the task were communicated in a logical manner. A number of people did state that planning could have been better, that most members rushed into making the den, and that planning  happened as the den evolved.

Environment

Being outdoors is a wonderful setting for learning as it keeps things relaxed, informal, and provides a change of environment for learners who may not ordinarily perform well in a classroom situation. I felt that students in this task came to life and were perhaps more outspoken than usual.  Being outdoors also provided an opportunity for everyone to communicate as freely and loudly as they wanted. Communicating outdoors is more challenging than indoors due to natural noises and distractions. Our group appeared to be distracted by the team members working close by and also by birds and dogs making the odd appearance.  We chose to build our den within a group of trees, which was nicely sheltered from wind and did make it easier to hear each other talking, although we were talking far more loudly than we normally would indoors.  

Negotiation

Negotiations were unsuccessful and I think this was because the teams felt like a tight unit who had all contributed to the den building, and were therefore not willing to compromise on anything which was their own hard work.  There were plenty of offers made for various parts of our den which were declined, and we had all agreed early on that we were not willing to trade anything because we were all so pleased with our end result. I found it challenging to continually decline offers when other members were communicating well and in such a friendly manner.

Reflections on Placement

For the last two weeks I have been on placement in a local Primary School. During this placement I had the pleasure of observing a Primary 3/4 class, I really enjoyed this experience as it gave me a feel for … Continue reading

For the last two weeks I have been on placement in a local Primary School. During this placement I had the pleasure of observing a Primary 3/4 class, I really enjoyed this experience as it gave me a feel for what it will be like being a Primary School teacher, it also allowed me to reflect on my skills and also consider aspects of my communication I need to work on.

STRENGTH

I believe one of my strengths to be how I demonstrated my active listening to the children through kneeling down, nodding my head and asking further questions to the statements they would give me. I believe this is a strength of mine as I had a peer observation where it was highlighted that a strength of mine was kneeling down to pupils when I spoke to them, the teacher I was with also complimented how I would always ask questions after a child told me something hence why I think my demonstration of active listening through forms of verbal and non-verbal communication is a key strength of mine. I took a group of Primary 3s for reading and I would always give them 5 minuets before we started to talk about what the book was about and I  would ensure I nodded my head when they were speaking so they knew I was listening to them, once they were done I’d encourage more of a discussion by asking more questions about what they just told me so they knew I’d listened and I’d get more responses.

AREA OF MOST PROGRESS

I would say I have progressed in the amount of times I say words such as ‘um’ and ‘eh’. Doing the story telling task I got helpful feedback from my peers that I would do this a lot and it came off as though I wasn’t as confident and it looked unprofessional. The feedback from that helped me when I was on placement as I noticed I did this a lot less, the first week on placement I was still saying those phrase regularly but the more I noticed it the more I stopped it and by the second week I had said them a lot less. I was reading to the Primary 3s again and I messed up a word, usually I would’ve been like “oh, eh I meant…” but I noticed this and just paused and re-read the word over correctly.

AREA REQUIRING PROGRESS

The area I need to work on the most is my volume. I would say I do talk at an adequate volume most of the time but I can get quiet. When the class volume starts to pick up I can’t match it or talk above it. My peer noticed this as well as I did, I had to take a group to another room to go on the computers and they began to get very noisy and I tried to tell them to quieten down but I didn’t raise my voice enough so they continued to talk, I did go  over and tell the nosier 3 pupils to lower the volume and then the class were able to hear me. Volume is a challenge for me as I don’t want to shout so I get too anxious to raise my voice slightly when I know it needs to be raised.

ACTION PLAN

I plan to develop my strength by ensuring I keep on doing this when I am able to. I also plan to read more things aloud to practice hearing my voice aloud and playing around with it so I can hear how loud I can go without shouting, reading things like books aloud will also help me to continue to progress in saying ‘uh’,’eh’ and ’em’ less often.

EXPECTATIONS

I did complete and get experience of everything I was expected to do. I managed to achieve these expectations pretty easily without many obstacles, one obstacle would perhaps be with regards to getting information for my sheets as we had 4 maths tasks to complete and due to show rehearsals and mass my class missed a lot of their maths time, I did observe some maths lessons and had enough information to complete them but it was a slight obstacle. Another obstacle for me was the staff room, I spoke to some teachers easily but others I found it harder to talk to, I would try to hold a conversation but a lot of the staff room conversations were about rooms and rehearsals and who is doing what so it was harder to be in the discussion as I didn’t work there and know those things, but generally I would find things to talk to the staff about, however by the second week it got easier as I was beginning to know how the school worked and the different classes. The class teacher I was with introduced me to staff which really helped me fulfill the expectation of talking to staff as more of them had an idea of who I was and why I was there and felt comfortable talking to me.

Placement experience

2 weeks ago, I nervously walked into school for my first teaching placement. Little did I know this would be the quickest and most valuable 2 weeks. I got to work with a lovely primary 3 class. Who helps me … Continue reading

2 weeks ago, I nervously walked into school for my first teaching placement. Little did I know this would be the quickest and most valuable 2 weeks. I got to work with a lovely primary 3 class. Who helps me learn and also gave me some lovely pieces of art to take home, who knew I had such a red face. Most of all through this placement I learnt areas of strength in my communication, some that I didn’t even realise and also made clear to me areas I can develop upon.

I got to work with groups closely and was able to identify key communication skills to interact with the children. But also the communication skills I could apply throughout with other teachers. This experience was valuable to me in the way I could see the teachers use their interactions to help benefit the children’s learning. As I observed and interacted I was able to realise the skills I needed to use to aid me in becoming a strong communicator within my teaching role.

Strengths

An area of strength I quickly became aware of my communication skills I used to interact with small groups, during a maths lesson. I was able to assist 2 groups at a time and have the ability to apply the appropriate amount of help to the children, looking at the different problems they required assistance with. I found I could use my initiative to go over to the groups and use effective and clear communication. I spoke at an adequate volume and used language that was appropriate for the stage of the children. Within this area, my body language was used in a positive stance and using eye contact to be able to also communicate my non-verbal communications to the children. During this maths time with the groups I found I could effectively use ‘thinking time’ to be able to help the children come to the answer themselves. I was there to support and make use of the strategies to lead them to an answer. I was able to apply this help through listening to the teachers exposition on the learning intentions for the children that day.

Areas of most progress

Areas I felt I quickly adapted to and made progress with was my interactions with individual children. I feel I learnt quickly to look at the values the children held as a school: Kind, resilient, respectful, confident and included. Through this placement, I learnt to use appropriate language and praise to effectively communicate and make the children feel valued. I used this to acknowledge the children’s efforts and also to promote positive behaviours. My positive choice of words such as ‘well done’ or giving them a simple ‘good job,’ helped them feel accomplished and respected. I also found I was strong in using enthusiasm, during free play time, to value the children’s confidence and respect their efforts. They would show me their creations and I would interact with them and making sure I was giving them the appropriate attention.

 

 

 

Areas requiring progress

My confidence is always a main struggle of mine. I find I sometimes don’t have strong communication with other adults. Lacking the confidence to ask questions or speak up on my ideas. This is an area I felt I got a bit better with on placement, but still the area of my communication that needs the most work. I find it easier communicating to the children but there is always still the nagging doubt if I am communicating the strategy correctly, or if the language choice appropriate to the stage. I know this will come over time and it will improve with practice and experiences. I try to get involved as much as possible but I feel that on occasions my confidence holds me back.

Action plan

My next steps I need to look at include, communicating to the class and creating my own lessons. This will help me look at the language I need to use and making sure my body language is positive to the whole class not just small groups or individuals. I need to also build on my group work and communication to my adult peers. From teachers to parents alike. Being able to ask questions on things I am unsure of but also sharing my own ideas. I know that group work within university will help with this but also my daily life at work or on my placements over the next few years.

Reflection on Placement

Over the last two weeks I have had one of the most rewarding experiences out on placement and it has given me tools and skills to work with as I […]

Over the last two weeks I have had one of the most rewarding experiences out on placement and it has given me tools and skills to work with as I further develop through my time in my course. The school I attended was very warm and welcoming, with teachers that were willing to help me achieve the most out of the short time I was there for. During my time in the school I got to observe a couple of different classes but was mainly based in Primary 7 and Primary 1. This was valuable as it allowed me to see the contrasting teaching methods used at different ages and levels.

 

Strengths

Before starting at university, I had previous experience working with children from the age of 3-16. This helped when entering the classroom as I was aware that I had to change my level of vocabulary to suit the child’s level to ensure I was not confusing them by using words they did not recognise or understand. Adding to this some children needed words enunciated more than others for example, in the infant school, so they could recognise their sounds and letters. I furthermore varied the pace I would speak at, for example Primary 1 children need some extra time to process what you are saying so I spoke slower than I usually would to allow them that time.

 

Area of most progress

One area I believe I progressed most in during the weeks of placement was building the confidence to speak to teachers and in front a whole class. Before starting placement I was nervous about having to speak with the Head Teacher and other teachers in the school. However, once I had settled in after the first day I surprised myself as I became more and more confident in speaking to everyone in the staff room and in front of all the children.

 

Area requiring progress

When reflecting back on conversations I had during my time in placement I would say I stuttered quite a bit and used words “like” and “um” a lot to fill in gaps. This is something that I must be aware of from now on as it can look unprofessional in a work setting. Also, I noticed that when I was not doing anything with my hands I did not know what to do with them so ended up fidgeting which could convey as a sign of uncertainty in what I am doing or saying.

 

Action Plan

To tackle my stuttering, I should try and take my time while speaking and be very aware to use other words or use silence instead of “like” and “um”. While tackling this I should also research different ways to stand while presenting or teaching to see if I can discover the most comfortable way to stand whilst not fidgeting.

 

Overall, I had a great experience at placement and it has allowed me to discover my strengths and weaknesses, allowing me to develop these for future placements.

Communication In Other Environments – Reflective Questions

Group and Leadership There was not one specific leader in our group, once our group had been formed we all just worked at equal levels together and shared our ideas with each other. We all just fell into place and it wasn’t exactly chosen its just how it worked out and it worked well as …

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Group and Leadership

  • There was not one specific leader in our group, once our group had been formed we all just worked at equal levels together and shared our ideas with each other.
  • We all just fell into place and it wasn’t exactly chosen its just how it worked out and it worked well as we all got on and new we could contribute any ideas we wanted to share with the group.
  • Some members of the group stood out more than others taking control, leading the group and taking on any ideas that team members suggested but it was a fairly equal leadership from our group as we were all confident enough to communicate with each other and share our ideas.
  • As a result of nobody in our group taking full control everyone in the group felt  comfortable to work with each other and thus nobody in the group felt like they were being left out or not included.
  • The most challenging thing for me working in this group was at first not knowing everyone I was working with but it didn’t take long for us all to get to know each other and get on with the task.

Explaining 

  • We all knew what the task was so nobody had to explain what was going on as we had been told  before the task had been started so therefore we all knew what was going on.
  • It was a mutual agreement that we knew what the task involved and we all fell into our roles of what we needed to do to complete the task quite naturally.
  • The first stage of the five p’s may have been missed out as we just went straight onto planning and preparation instead of preassessing what we were going to do.

Environment

  • The impact of the environment on our communication made it better as we were all moving about so anytime anyone had an idea to propose they made it clear to the whole group so that everyone could hear and decide where best to use the idea.
  • As we were outside we had to make sure everyone was in the vicinity when talking as a group as in a classroom setting everyone is in the one room whereas outside we were all wandering and collecting materials which sometimes made it harder to communicate with each other which is why we all had to be clear in what we were saying to each other.
  • It wasn’t too challenging as the area we were in was relatively quiet apart from a river. The communication that was made made sure that the person speaking projected their voice enough and ensured that all the team members were listening and that their attention was solely focused on the person that was addressing the group.
  • Yes, the environment did distract me as we aren’t used to working outside so things would catch our eye and distract us easily as we wanted to see what was going on. We an overcome this by listening and communicating with each other all the time so that we don’t get distracted by things in the environment.

Negotiation 

  • Our negotiations were successful to some extent as we did get a helper from the other group like we were supposed to but they were reluctant to come and help us because they felt as if they were betraying their team by helping ours. It was challenging as we lost a member of our team so we lost some ideas as the member of the other team didn’t want to contribute their ideas to help our group although they did help us with the task that we had to complete.

Communication in Other Environments

Group and leadership There wasn’t just one leader, we split into rough pairs and took different parts of the shelter each. Everybody contributed to a part of the den. When someone came up with an idea it was discussed with other members of the group and, if it was decided it was an idea we …

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Group and leadership

There wasn’t just one leader, we split into rough pairs and took different parts of the shelter each. Everybody contributed to a part of the den. When someone came up with an idea it was discussed with other members of the group and, if it was decided it was an idea we would use, that person would take control of doing that section and making it work. For the most part this worked well for our group. However, at times people were overshadowed by other peoples ideas or were not heard because of all of us talking at once. At these times, someone would step up and say something letting everyone get their ideas and thoughts heard. I think, looking back on the day, the hardest part was communicating exactly what everyone was doing. As there wasn’t an overall leader it was sometimes difficult to understand what everyone was trying to achieve and who was trying to achieve the other challenges we were given. Overall, I think we functioned very well as a team.

Explaining

The group that was explaining their den were slightly unclear with their explanation of how they built it but clearly put across their overall concept of their den. They explained what their initial idea of their den was and then went onto add some imaginary aspects (underground levels). Their explanation of their den was clear because they were able to “simplify [their] complex idea” Hargie, O. (2011)¹ and put across clearly and concisely what they had been thinking and discussing. However, their explanation of how they built it was unclear. This was mainly due to us running out of time there for it was rushed and not completed. Overall, this means that the planning of both groups was not very good because we allowed time to run away from us, but the presentation was good and all other steps that were needed to explain their ideas to us were done.

Environment

The physical environment didn’t impact  that much on our communication, but I could see that if we had different weather (i.e strong winds, rain or snow) then our communication could have been hindered. The main changes I noticed in the way I communicated in an outdoor environment instead of in the classroom was the way I tended to demonstrate things more rather than just explaining how I was going to do it. I also noticed that I tended to speak quieter and made more eye contact. I think the reason I spoke quieter was that I was more aware of the fact that I was only speaking to a small group rather than a whole class. It was not that difficult to communicate above any natural sounds because it was a rather quiet spot. However, if there was more people around, more wildlife or more sounds from the wind or rain then there might have been some difficult in communicating. To ease any difficulty the speaker and the listener would have to maintain good eye contact, make sure they were standing fairly close to each other and make sure they are able to hear each other as they talk. The environment didn’t distract me that much but I can see how it would distract other people as it is a very beautiful location. Primary children, in particular, could become very distracted in an environment like this. In order to avoid distraction I would allow time at the start of the session to allow them to explore and then get them to settle down for the task we were out their for.

Negotiation

The negotiation we were tasked with was to get someone to come and help us for five minutes, for free. This did not work very well. We were able to get someone to help for a short amount of time (less than one minute) but were not able to get anyone to help for a longer period of time. This was because of the fact that we were not offering anything in return, it was also partly due to the fact that the people that we asked we joking around and did not want us to complete our task. It was very difficult to try and negotiate with someone for their time when you were not offering anything in return. Most people will not do a task for nothing. I think this is something you have to keep in mind when working with anyone, especially children. You have to be willing to have a give and take relationship and be able to negotiate with children. There will be times when you have to be firm and not be able to negotiate but there will be times when you have to be able to have an open discussion and negotiation with children.

 

The communication, explanation and negotiation skills I have learned through this are ones that are essential in classrooms, indoors and outdoors. Without these skills classrooms would not be successful environments and it would be harder to function in classrooms where these skills are not being implemented by teachers and students alike.

 


1 – Hargie, O. (2011) Skilled Interpersonal Communication. 5th Edition. London:        Routlege