Among the challenges in education is recognizing the individual needs of each learner. One of the most basic needs that we should understand, especially when we are using technology so much throughout the day, is how each individual most effectively communicates. Recognizing and respecting this can be crucial when we are working with our teams as well. I make a point of not only recognizing but also respecting this because the primary task is to understand what method is the best form of communication and then the secondary task is to follow through and respect the needs of your audience.
When we are thinking about the different styles of communication, we can categorize them in many different ways. Based on what I have seen from our students and our staff, the most relevant categorizations for styles of communication are:
- Verbal: face to face interactions where listening is required and body language reflects emotion
- Digital: any communication done with technology, provides time to reflect on information and articulate a response
- Written: can be a combination of digital and face to face
So, with a classroom full of students and school full of educators, how do we work to respect everyone’s preferred style of communication and why is this important?
Why to Respect Communication Style
I love this image because it shows all of the various forms of communication in one room. We see students on computers and devices – this is what I notice first probably because that is something I am passionate about. However, there is more going on. Each student is demonstrating their preferred style of communication in this image. We have one kid who is on his phone, others who are working on MacBook devices, and one kid who is so disinterested in his device that he has turned it upside and is probably looking around the room for someone to talk to face to face. It is the subtle recognition of communication styles that can help to build the foundation of a positive classroom community. When we communicate in effective ways, our needs and objectives are heard and more likely to be met.
How to Respect Communication Styles
With most things, people are empowered when their voice and choice is heard and respected. The same can go for communication styles. The first need is to recognize how the audience will most effectively communicate with you. From there, it is simply giving the opportunity to respond in ways that are conducive to their voice and choice. We can do this by removing limitations on the way that learners can respond to questions and on how they can complete their work.
Allow these communicators to record a conversation they are having with other verbal students. They can still be held accountable by turning in the audio recording, but their conversations are purposeful because they are meeting the objective of the task while their voice and choice are both being respected.
If you are giving instructions, these are the learners who need to be able to hear your every word. If there are disruptions, that could hinder their overall understanding.
Allow these learners to meet your objective by giving them the option to create a product that demonstrates their learning. This could be a keynote presentation, an infographic, an email, even a social media post.
These are the communicators who are most likely to be on their devices constantly – walking and texting or sending messages to their peers via social media. By respecting their passionate use of technology, we can support them as they learn how to develop these skills and become respectful digital communicators.
Those who prefer their communication to be done in the written form are more likely to be reflective people. This means that they typically like to read something and think about it. The written communication allows them to think at their own pace. They may even feel rushed when needing to respond to someone face to face. Allow these learners to meet your objective by encouraging them to be the recorder in your literature circles, help out someone who is absent by taking notes for them, and give them opportunities and time to write down their thoughts and reflections.
The written communicators can also be digital communicators in the sense that they may prefer to use their device to complete their notes or write to others. You can respect their voice and choice during your lessons by allowing them time to make notes and by giving them time to reflect throughout the lesson.
Voice and choice are concepts that we should be consistently thinking about as we plan and teach lessons. When we think about it in terms of communication, we start to recognize that we can guide our students to communicate in ways that are most effective for them. This may even help with classroom conflict because the harm often occurs when one person does not feel listened to or respected. Therefore, by encouraging our classroom community to recognize and respect how others prefer to communicate, we can set them up for success.
This is also relevant within our grade level teams. For example, I know that I always need an email follow-up because I am a blend of digital and written communication. I am more likely to do a task well if I have the opportunity to go back and reread what the expectations are in an email or on a OneNote. When we recognize and respect these needs within our own teams, we are more likely to be productive and effective.
I encourage you all to think about how you prefer to communicate and to discuss with your teams and students to see how their communication styles differ. We may find other communication styles too!