Developing the Interpersonal Communication Skills of College Students through Poetry: A Classroom Study

By Ramaraju, S.; Dhanavel, S. P. | IUP Journal of English Studies, June 2015 | Go to article overview

Developing the Interpersonal Communication Skills of College Students through Poetry: A Classroom Study


Ramaraju, S., Dhanavel, S. P., IUP Journal of English Studies


Developing the Interpersonal Communication Skills (IPCS) of students at college level is emphasized by the academia and industry to bridge the gap between academic skills and employability skills. Among the qualities sought by the employers from their employees, IPCS are considered the most important. This paper highlights the importance of developing the IPCS, presents the need for academic interventions, and explores the use of poetry in English Language Teaching (ELT), Communication Skills and IPCS development. Poetry is basically a rich source of emotional and interactional diversity. Therefore, this paper argues that a variety of emotions embodied in poetry in English from various countries can be a valuable resource in developing the IPCS of students. It explains the task design, activities, and observations and presents the findings through the response from students. It also presents the limitations of the study undertaken and scope for further research.

Introduction

The development of Interpersonal Communication Skills (IPCS) has been emphasized by the industry and academia in the global environment of the new millennium. Regardless of the field of study and work, to cope with the constantly developing and ever-increasing demands of the workforce, the employees are expected to possess excellent IPCS to succeed in their 'personal' and 'professional' lives (McCroskey et al., 1975). Among the qualities sought by the employers from their employees, IPCS are considered the most important. In the words of Krizan et al. (2008),

Today's service economy puts a premium on people skills and relationship building among co-workers, departments, organizations, and customers. Developing and maintaining these relationships is a goal of business communication.... cultural diversity, globalization, organizational restructuring, worker specialization, and technology contribute to the current emphasis on interpersonal skills (p. 407).

Among the "21st century skills" cluster, IPCS are given prime importance. They are necessary for living and working in an ever-changing society. They are also useful for developing the human potential, Stewart (2009) asserts that

... if we experience our share of close, supportive, interpersonal communicating, we're likely to develop more of our human potential. This is how the quality of your communication affects the quality of your life (p. 7).

Orbe and Bruess (2005) support the above statement thus:

The quality of our communication and the quality of our lives are directly related . . . our lives are a direct reflection of the quality of the communication in them (p. 6).

Mader and Mader (1993) state that "... our ability to observe, evaluate, and infer enables us to create the kind of reality essential to strong interpersonal relationships" (p. 146).

The study and development of IPCS have been at the heart of the university curriculum and has emerged as a vital component in all disciplines of academic fields such as arts, science, humanities, technology, engineering, medicine, management, etc. It is obvious that the English language teachers, especially in a developing country like India, are entrusted with the responsibility to find viable ways to develop the IPCS of the student community and thereby enhance the employability skills of the students at all levels. In the words of Gee (1994), "...like it or not, English teachers stand at the very heart of the most crucial educational, cultural, and political issues of our time" (p. 190). They are at the center of the academic field with some authority which they may not be aware of and they have a special role to play to cater to the needs of the student community and society. This study attempts to offer a valuable and feasible solution for the teachers of English in enhancing the employability skills of the students by suggesting some ways to develop their IPCS.

Research Problem

There is a widespread consensus among the academicians and employers that the lack of IPCS has been one of the main reasons for unemployability among the students aspiring for jobs. …

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