Academic journal article Education

Critical Comments on the General Model of Instructional Communication

Academic journal article Education

Critical Comments on the General Model of Instructional Communication

Article excerpt


Reading McCroskey, Valencic, and Richmond's (2004) article, "Toward a General Model of Instructional Communication," leaves one with the impression that essentially all classroom occurrences (and phenomena/ properties therein) can be predictably ordered around predefined, isolatable categories, and that much of what takes place in a generic learning situation can be explained by causal-enabling sequences and conditions. They identify six components to their instructional communication model: teachers, students, instructional outcomes, teachers' verbal and nonverbal communication behaviors, students' perceptions of the teacher, and the instructional environment. In this vein, McCroskey et al. (2004) correctly mark a subset of topics pertinent to instructional processes/ practices (via a communicative approach) and continue to refine an already impressive line of scholarship on instructional communication that spans roughly 40 years (see, for example, Mottet, Richmond, & McCroskey, 2006; Richmond, Gorham, & McCroskey, 1987; Waldeck, Kearney, & Plax, 2001). Yet, despite the model's appeal as an objective social-scientific account of instructional events, there are significant limitations with respect to its capacity to facilitate deeper insights and understandings of classroom communication specifically and teaching-learning relationships more generally.

Toward this end, the intent of this essay is to critique the ideological and ontological premises of the model, and offer alternative directions for theory development and practice. It is important to note that my comments are not leveled at the authors' motivations or their scholarly commitments as I have long admired their contributions to the communication field; rather, they are intended to explicate the meta-theoretical assumptions underlying the model's conceptual framework and problematize their implications. It is hoped that these observations may yield and/ or stimulate continued intellectual curiosity in philosophical matters related to education, as well as provide additional resources for pedagogical research and inquiry.

Overview of the General Model of Instructional Communication

The general model of instructional communication (hereafter GMIC) is classified as a rhetorical approach to instructional communication with roots in classical rhetorical theory and contemporary scholarship on interpersonal/group influence. The authors characterize the teaching-learning relationship as a "teacher-controlled, linear process where the teacher is the person primarily responsible for creating messages which will stimulate teacher-selected meanings in students' minds (learning)" (p. 198). Accordingly, the GMIC depicts classroom communication as a predominantly one-directional activity whereby "teachers are the primary source of information" and students "are the receivers/learners" (p. 198). In their explication, McCroskey et al. (2004) suggest that teachers of this tradition "work from carefully designed instructional objectives with specific expectations that the students will master the knowledge represented by those objectives" (p. 198). They further portray the model as representative of a conventional approach to instruction, thereby distinguishing it from those perspectives and approaches used in humanistic disciplines where learning "specific facts are not the primary focus of attention and where objectives for learning are quite general, such as 'learning to appreciate' some area of endeavor" (p. 198). (1)

As previously indicated, the GMIC is comprised of six components (i.e., variables), four of which were examined in their study: (1) teachers (content knowledge, experience and expertise, temperament, intelligence); (2) teachers 'verbal and nonverbal behaviors (the way teachers communicate to students; presumed to stimulate/impact students' minds); (3) students (personality, intelligence, prior learning, cultural background and influences); (4) students' perceptions of the teacher (perceptions/evaluations of teachers' verbal and nonverbal behaviors); (5) instructional outcomes (cognitive, affective, and/or psychomotor learning; and (6) the instructional environment (institutional culture, nature of classroom, class size, and relevant transitory factors). …

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