|Chapter 3. Effective Communication
The receiver is the listener, reader, decoder, or student—the individual or individuals to whom the message is directed. Effective communicators should always keep in mind that communication succeeds only in relation to the reaction of their receivers. When the receiver reacts with understanding and changes his or her behavior according to the intent of the source, effective communication has taken place.
In order to understand the process of communication, three characteristics of receivers must be understood: abilities, attitudes, and experiences.
First, an instructor needs to determine the abilities of the student in order to properly communicate. One factor that can have an effect on student ability is his or her background. For example, consider how familiar the student may be with aviation. Their familiarity may range from having grown up around aviation to absolutely no familiarity at all. Some students may have highly developed motor skills, and others have not had opportunities to develop these skills. These factors must be taken into consideration when presenting information to a student.
Instructors in aviation enjoy a unique advantage over other teachers, in that the aviation student, as an adult learner, usually exhibits a much more developed sense of motivation and self-concept. The aviation student generally wants to be in the learning environment, as opposed to a typical school student, and is willing to expend his or her own time and money to learn. Additionally, they usually come into the learning environment with a significant amount of prior knowledge, many life experiences, and have already developed a number of decision-making skills.
The instructor also must understand that the viewpoint and background of people may vary significantly because of cultural differences. However, this consciousness of the differences between people should not be overdone. The instructor should be aware of possible differences, but not overreact or assume certain values because of these differences. For example, just because a student is a college graduate does not guarantee rapid advancement in aviation training. Student education certainly affects the instructor’s style of presentation, but that style should be based on the evaluation of the student’s knowledge of the aviation subject being taught.
Second, the attitudes students exhibit may indicate resistance, willingness, or passive neutrality. To gain and hold student attention, attitudes should be molded into forms that promote reception of information. A varied communicative approach works best in reaching most students since they have different attitudes.
Third, student experience, background, and educational level determine the approach an instructor takes. What the student knows, along with student abilities and attitudes, guides the instructor in communicating. It is essential to understand the dynamics of communication, but the instructor also needs to be aware of several barriers to communication that can inhibit learning.
Barriers to Effective Communication
The nature of language and the way it is used often lead to misunderstandings. These misunderstandings can be identified by four barriers to effective communication: lack of common experience, confusion between the symbol and the symbolized object, overuse of abstractions, and interference. [Figure 3-3]
Lack of Common Experience
Lack of common experience between the communicator (instructor) and the receiver (student) is probably the greatest single barrier to effective communication. Communication can be effective only to the extent that the experiences (physical, mental, and emotional) of the people concerned are similar.
Many people seem to believe that words transport meanings from speaker to listener in the same way that a truck carries bricks from one location to another. Words, however, rarely carry precisely the same meaning from the mind of the instructor to the mind of the student. In fact, words, in themselves, do not transfer meanings at all. Whether spoken or written, words are merely stimuli used to arouse a response in the student.
The student’s past experience with the words and things to which they refer determines how the student responds to what the instructor says. A communicator’s words cannot communicate the desired meaning to another person unless the listener or reader has had some experience with the objects or concepts to which these words refer. Since it is the students’ experience that forms vocabulary, it is also essential that instructors speak the same language as the students. If the instructor’s terminology is necessary to convey the idea, some time needs to be spent making certain the students understand that terminology.
For example, a maintenance instructor tells a student to time the magnetos. A student new to the maintenance field might think a stopwatch or clock would be necessary to do the requested task. Instruction would be necessary for the student to understand that the procedure has nothing to do with the usual concept of time.
The English language abounds in words that mean different things to different people. To a farmer, the word “tractor” means the machine that pulls the implements to cultivate the soil; to a trucker, it is the vehicle used to pull a semi trailer; in aviation, a tractor propeller is the opposite of a pusher propeller. Each technical field has its own vocabulary. Technical words might mean something entirely different to a person outside that field, or perhaps mean nothing at all. In order for communication to be effective, the students’ understanding of the meaning of the words needs to be the same as the instructor’s understanding.
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