journal article part 2 - FREIM :Easterm MI University-CT?!...

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Unformatted text preview: FREIM :Easterm MI University-CT?! FPIX ND. :734 487-3443 Feb. [215 2888 212:5le P2 \l'y'!‘ "'."‘ ME: The Southern Con-mmnicatz'on journal authors, interview transcriptions, and email messages between the instructor and stu— I. dialectical dents. We found no discrepancies among the three kinds of data. Second, we conduc- 1 Silent, Mm ted member checks by inviting two participants to read and to comment on the I to the inst; I accuracy of the report. These students confirmed that the themes presented here their self-i represented their experiences. Third, we used. direct quotes in the following expiir- 3; pariah] th. cation to allow readers to make their own assessment of the quality of the themes. I ' ‘ Teacher-re v Findings Students v ated the v Field note observations suggested that each class meeting followch the same general T d wu stu e y .‘ format: On most days students were required to take an online quiz over the textbook . Chapter before it was introduced in class. The instructor prepared. a brief one—page , ‘ handout. that served as an outline of the day‘s main topics. The class proceeded by Nlmle brief lectures (less than 10 minutes), interspersed with discussion, teachersled ques— ' tion-and—answer, and various other activities. including brief dyadic and group dis— H cussions, a role—play. a networking exercise, and student presentations. Grades were I Rosie: based on writing assignments of case studies, two longer papers, and three essay " exams. During the semester’s first six weeks, the class was conducted in standard fun mat with the instructor standing before rows of desks, During a particular classroom activity, the class was rearranged into a circle with the instructor seated. Students 5 L11“; many ' lilcecl this arrangement so well that they requested they continue meeting in a circle, ‘i pate by the , I which they did for the remainder of the semester. In interviews, all but two students .' be,- thc ma I reported liking the circle, believing that .it stimulated more interaction among 1 At the 1 ‘15 students and allowed them to see other students‘ reactions. ' inhibited t if; The instructor promoted a comfortable, open atmosphere in the classroom. All of ‘ flutes, W113 the participants in this study reported how well the instructor taught and how much ..' Particular ‘ they enjoyed the class, even if it was not their favorite topic. Most of the participants j: quite 011m; "3 reported that they enjoyed coming to class and felt a part of the class because it was , one Elsa?“ . the most interactive class they had ever taken in their college career. As a result they teacher war generally prepared for each class by reading the chapters and taking the online j. ambigmus quizzes, knowing that they would he expected to speak during the class. They inclim cated that they were willing to speak up during class because the classroom was a very Ale“: comfortable environment, and they felt that their ideas were welcome. Nevertheless, because the classroom is also a small group, interactions among the students created dialectical tensions beyond the control of the instructor. Daspite " Although [3 their ttnanimous acclaim for the teacher, these students had different reactions to the instruct each other and to particular events in the classroom. We identified three primary dia- I In inter-r lectical tensions concerning class participation, the structure of the course, and issues other class: related to time management. -‘ fl Elizabc‘ w Participating and Remaining Silent Although students held that this was a very welcoming classroom and they enjoyed Rehw being encouraged and expected to participate, they nevertheless experienced FREIM tEaSter‘n MI University-CW9 FFIX ND. :734 487-3443 Istrnctor and ate :ond, we conduc- 3ornnient on the s presented here following expli- of the themes. the same general wet the textbook a brief one-page tss proceeded by cacherwled ques- : and group dis- ins. Grades were and three essay in standard for- icnlar classroom seated. Students sting in a circle, it“: two students traction among :lassroom. All of and how much the participants s because it was As a result they ting the online lass. They indi— ‘ooin was a very 1E5. ions among the ructor. Despite ant reactions to tie primary dia~ urse,-and issues .d they enjoyed 55 experienced Classroom lJiut‘iri'tirs My dialectical tensions between their desire to participate and their desire to remain silent. Many factors pulled the students in these two directions, some of them related to the instrttctor, sortie of them related to other students, and some of them related in their self-image and personality. In discussing the tension related to class partici- pation, they sometimes compared this class to other classes they had experienced, Tericher- rein ted fa ctnrs ‘ Students were sensitiva to the invitation from the teacher to participate and appreci- ated the way the instructor invited, encouraged, and expected them to participate. Two students commented on enjoying participation in this class: Nicole: It’s one of' the most talkative classes 1 think i’ve ever been in like as far as the dialogue. between the students and the teacher goes. . , but maybe it’s becauso he asks for it more than other teachers. . . . A lot of teachers don’t even ask for interaction. Rosie: i like to participate . . . .lt makes me remember all the words and sttlfttnot'e. because then later when l have to rcgurgitate it, -I’m like, oh yeah, that one day when, you know, we were talking about this, I had this example For that. And so, that helps. Like many others, these two students indicated that they Felt encouraged to partici— pate by the teacher and that their participation helped thorn to learn and to remem— ber the material. At the same time, group members felt that sometimes the teacher’s responses inhibited their participation. For example, one day in class, as noted in the field notes, when the topic was norms, the students discussed openly the norms of this particular class, specifically how the instructor responded to answers that were not quite on target. Students commented that when the instructor responded with “Any- one else?" or gave a “brunt.” they knew that their answers were either not what the teacher wanted or just plain wrong. One student explained more directly how these ambiguous responses affected her class participation: Alex: I think there was one clay when I got a couple of those “l-lnnn“ like right in a row that I was like. ..“l am not going to say anything in this class today. . .hecause t'ihvit'iusly ilt'n just not on the right track." Although Alex usually felt encouraged to participate, she indicated that sometimes the instructor’s responses discouraged her from participating. in interviews, some students reported strong discriuragement to participate in other classes, as exemplified by these two students: Elizabeth: Our views are definitely suppressed in most classes because they don’t really want to leave it open For discussion. . . . Or they say there's room for discussion, and than someone says something, and you get this [negativei reaction. RElieCL‘a: ltpeoplc did choose to volunteer their opinion . . . a lot of the times the teacher [of another class] had something to correct them or students Feb. [215 EththB 82:51PM P3 :Eastern MI University-CTF‘I FF‘IX ND. :734 487-3443 HR The Southern Corrtmtmicnriort [titty-rm! felt that if you did tt‘t say what he wanted to hear. you knoW, they were: hesitant to voice their opinion. . . .T would almost say that they Were scared of him. "I ‘h ese two stttden ts reported that tea chers’ behaviors in other classes often discouraged them front speaking either by creating an impression that only certain views Were acceptable or that the topics had correct and incorrect opinions. Although not as severe in this class, students still sometimes felt a tension betWeen the teacher's invitation to participate and the teacher’s actual responses to their participation. Other students Although the instructor invited students to participate and students wanted to accept. that invitation, students sometimes felt pressure from other students to remain silent for a variety of reasons. Two students commented on this tension: Alex: Sometimes i feel like i talk too rrtttch in class. that i should stop talking in class. But i know it’s frustrating for [the instructorl, and it’s frustrating for tne when he asks a question and I‘m sitting there that I know the answer. No one. else is saying anything. Rosie: I may have an answer or something. bttt i don’t raise my hand right away, because it would be nice to hear from, you know, other people who don't talk much. And i. think students might think that too, that she likes to talk all the time, you know. (knicern over others‘ reactions limited these students participation. They Were silent because they did not want to be perceived as talking too much or as preventing others from participating. The concerns of these students were perhaps legitimate, as other students could be irritated. by those who talked too much. The tension between participation and silence was evident in Jake’s complaint: r‘And it kind of bothers me at times because... [a student] refers back to a lot of the same situations a lot. of the time. . . . But if he’s not talking, then who is, you know?” Jake clearly expressed the partici- pation tension because he both felt that the student talked too much and at the same time said it was acceptable if no one else was participating. Students sometimes felt pressure to be silent because of the reactions of other students to their ideas. Elizabeth explained what happened. to her one day in class: i raised. my hand and l ottercct something. and there was another person in class who looked back like at me like, “Weird. that was insane! Like that was the roost insane thing i eyer heard of!" . . .And so I didn’t think I said anything again that day. She felt censured by the response of another student to the content of her comments it: this case. 'l‘hcsc cit-ample: provide evidence: that students experience a dialectical tension between the invitation of the instructor to participate and the reactions of other stu- dents who would prefer that they not speak so often or who judged their ideas harshly. t t i: Feb. [215 2888 8%:52PM P4 internal student Students report Although they they participate used uniquenes tribute somethi: much as others Due to her own tributed when s pation for othe; Jake: M try as be Rebecca: 50 ha l‘lit 1T1] lake limited hit experience in ['11 she hesitated, sl‘ instructor’s recp: caused these stu Alternatively, created tension as Mark explain Mark: Som least can : And it? 9:: Because not e risk of being wrt ested, as the foil: Michelle: Researcher: Michelle: FREIM :EaStET‘r‘I MI University-CW9 FFIX ND. :734 487-3443 'IUW, they were that they were often discouraged :ertain views were tough not as severe :her’s invitation to s wanted to accept its to remain silent I: stop talking in . Frustrating for ow the answer. ind right away. :iple who don"t the likes to talk n. They were silent s preventing others r students could be participation and hers me at titnes l a lot of the time. pressed the partici ch and at the same reactions of other r one day in class: person in class e that was the anything again it of her tsjnntnents dialectical tension ctions ol‘ other stu-i their ideas harshly. FEJo. £15 2888 82:52PM (.‘irtsm‘mlm iiittit'r'lt’t‘s .ltt'l Internal student tensions Students reported being pulled by different internal tensions regarding participation. Although they all appreciated the instructor’s invitation to participate, in the end. they participated in response to balancing their internal tensions, For example, Kin-la used uniqueness as her criterion for participating selectively: “Usually, ] try to con-- tribute something that is not immediately obvious, which is why I don’t pa rtieipule as much as others sometimes. I just try to contribute something relevant and dillercnt.” Due to her own internal drive. she chose not to answer easy questions, and only con-- tributed when she had something unique to offer. Two other students limited part ici- pation for other reasons: lake: Most of the time . . , [’1] just sit there and let cvnrything soak in, and just try to get the information as accurately as possible. . . . And my. . . experi- expcrientc is very limited. . , .I don't participate that tnuch either, because I just don’t have examples For them. Rebecca: Sometimes I sit there and i really want: to say something, you know, you have something to say, or you just like hesitate, and one person will raise their hand and they‘ll say it, and you’re like, "I knew I should have raised my hand.” Jake limited his participation because he preferred to listen and felt he had less experience in the topic, whereas Rebecca wanted to speak up sometitnes, but because she hesitated, she often missed her chance by waiting too long. In both cases, the instructor’s request For participation was unable to overcome the internal issues that caused these students not to participate. Alternatively, enduring the silence that occurs when people do not participate created tension for the more outspoken students when they wanted. to participatt‘, as Mark explained: Mark: Sometimes I think it‘s almost Frustrating because it's a very clear answer, at least to me. it’s a clear answer. And I can look at other people’s laces and can see that they know the answer. but no one wants to speak up. , . . And And I’m sitting there, We all know the answer: why doesn't somebody say it? So then I always do it. Because not everyone was as confident as Mark, many students struggled with the risk ol‘ being wrong and the need to demonstrate that they were listening and inter- ested, as the following exchange demonstrated: Michelle: Maybe. sometimes i’m a little shy, like there’s so many times 1 know the answer, and I just don‘t: raise my hand. I guess I don’t have a lot of confidence. 1 think I might be wrong. So sometimes when nobody’s answering and l know I‘m right, 1 just get that like confidence in me like to raise my hand. Researcher: So what‘s the difference in this class? Like, why do you talk in this one? Michelle: Because some of the answers he’s looking for are not necessarily like right or wrong. They’re more like opinion . . . so it’s not like a fear of like being totally wrong. P5 350 The Southern Communication Journal Michelle only spoke up in class when she felt absolutely certain of the answer, or when she recognized that her opinion was as valid as any other. .ltesenrchers“ experience of this tension The instructor experienced the class participation tension as well. In his field notes, be frequently wrote about the day's participation level. For example, he wrote one day: “I noticed that. the class seems to have limited number of examples to provide despite my encouragement. I don’t know if they have very little organization /work experience to draw on or are just not a very talkative group.” On a later day, he wrote: “i think just about everyone spoke today. . . .I had to call on [two students}, but they both had something to say." The instructor expressed frustration when it was like “pulling teeth” to get responses and satisfaction when almost everyone in the class participated on a partiettlar day, Similarly, the observer experienced her own tensions between wanting to partici~ pate in class and wanting to remain silent, as evidenced in many of her daily field notes. Early in the semester, as a student herself, she wanted to contribute to class discussitms because she had experiences that. were relevant to the topics being dis— cussed, However, she restrained herself because she realized that she was not enrolled the class and that although her comments might be helpful to the class, they also had the potential to silence other students and overshadow her role as a. class observer. This tension was reduced for the nuast part when she was able to interview each par- ticipant individually. This one-on-one dialogue positioned her as a participant in the class and established relationships with individual stttdents so that the observer some- times chatted with students before or after class, or if they met on the sidewalk. Management. strategies These interrelated tensions surrounding class participation were managed by students and researchers in a variety of ways. Although the instructor might consistently invite students to speak and the class might be in general a warm and comfortable. environ- ment, on any particular day, a student might feel more or less confident in speaking up in class. The strategies the students used rellect spiraling inversion, segmentation, and balance in choosing when to speak, when to remain silent, when to let others talk, and when to let the topic drop. Sometimes the students were responding to the need to protect themselves from potential ridicule or embarrassment; at other times they were motivated by their own preferences or needs and preferred to remain silent even though they knew the answer. For students, the three factors related to the instructm‘, the classmates, and internal. needs interacted at specific times in different unpredictable ways, consistent with Balthtin’s (198.1) concept of clironotope, which captures the idea that every dialogue is unique to its time and space (Easter 8: Montgomery, .1996, p. 26). Therefore, although their management of this tension manifested in whether or not they chose to speak in class, the salience of the various poles was constantly in flux in a way that cannot clearly be pinpointed as one previously identified management strategy or another. FREIM :Eastern MI University-CW? FFIX ND. :734 487-3443 Feb. EIS EEIEIEI 82:53PM P6 The instructor activities, brief d activities commit the ice.” instead one or two other remain silent: w: partner. in addit specific students whether or not t the balance of ti others speak. Ho ring instead to a In contrast, t them in her fielt the instructor 0] uncovered by K; from the intervit substituted for a participation ter strategy of mint; Predictable rind . One dialectical t was the pull beti ity, as noted in (Kramer, 2004.») r students has be: and stimulation. for instructors ti in this study we describing all as firm due dates t, able. with a ha: think-pair-share liking the struc instructor achie an amazing feat knowing what t predictable and N icole: Ever tlir. bee: FREIM :EaS‘tET‘r‘I MI University-CW9 FFIX ND. :734 487-3443 ,._,,.,,—., of the answer, or In his field notes, tple, he wrote one :arnples to provide organization /work On a later day, he on Itwo students], tustration when it tlmost everyone in wanting to partici- y of her daily field contribute to class .e topics being dis- ae was not enrolled class, they also had as a class observer. interview each per- a participant in the the observer some- .tn the sidewalk. tar-raged by students .t consistently invite )rnfortahle environ- Infident in speaking 'sion, segmentation, when to let others were responding to irrassrnent; at other preferred to remain actors related to tire ic times in different i rhroaotope, which rd space (Baxter 8-; rent of this tension ience of the various pinpointed as one (.‘lassronttr iit'olr'r'iiis r-I The instructor managed this tension by including more frequent think pair sltat‘r‘ activities, brief discussions with partners before sharing with the large group. 'i‘hest- activities communicated the instructor’s interest in students’ ideas and alien “l'a'oitc the ice." Instead of addressing the entire class, students could try out their ideas with one or two others. In this one—to-one dialogue, the student’s individual preference to remain silent would he trumped by the social demands of interacting with the partner. in addition, the instructor managed the tension by occasionally calling on specific students when they seemed to have something to say but were undecided whether or not: to speak tip. Again, by employing this strategy, the instructor tipped the balance of the demands of the individual’s preferring to remain silent or to let others speak. However, the instructor rarely employed this particular strategy. prefer- ring instead to allow the students to manage the tensions themselves. in contrast, the observer managed her participation tensions by writing about them in her field notes and occasionally sharing therrt in private conversation with the instructor or in her interviews-both of which might be a form of venting as uncovered by Kramer (2004). In addition, as she got to know individual students from the interviews. she enjoyed chatting with students before and after class, which substituted [or actual class participation. Thus she found other ways to manage the participation tension other than actually speaking up in class. This management strategy of substitution has not been identified by other dialectical researchers. Predictable and Novel One dialectical tension that students experienced regarding the structure of this class was the pull between stability and novelty, between predictability and unpredictabil— ity, as noted in previous interpersonal (Baxter tit Montgomery, 1996) and group (Kramer, 2004) dialectical research. ‘l'eachers are aware that this generation of college students has been reared on television and video games and needs constant variety and stimulation. However, classes demand some type of structure, making it difficult for instructors to know the optimum level ol' structure for a particular class. The class in this study was highly structured. The instructor communicated this structure by describing all assignments in the syllabus handed out on the first day of class with firm due dates that did not change. As mentioned. every day class was fairly predict- able, with a handout outlining the class topics and predictable activities such as think-pair-share and discussion. Despite the predictability, all the students reported liking the structure. No one complained that the class was too structured. The instrtrclr.rr achieved a balance point that worked for all the students in this class-"~— an amazing feat in itself—hut most surprising was how much the students enjoyed knowing what to expect in the class arid described it as perfectly balanced hctWeen predictable and novol: Nicole: Evert though we have the same handout every day . . . and so the structure is the ssme...ir’s not iii-to a set thing that we talk about. You know, like because it’s mostly discussion and so, it’s not like he’s just dryly reading Feb. [215 2888 82:53PM F“? FREIM :Eastern MI University-CW3! FFIX ND. :734 487-3443 w"- ssz The Southern Germain-licorice leurnui the handout....It's different. But you know what to expect—47m you don’t, which is good. Shelly: i like how he does the same thing every day, but he doesn’t do the same thing the whole hour...And there‘s variety in it. but you always know what to expect. [Each of these students discussed both poles of the tension. but they expressed satisfaction with the instructor’s management of the tension. All the students imit- ealecl that they craved structure and were not looking for surprises, although perhaps this need for structure reflected the needs of only this small group of students and not college students as a whole. Beeouse the students saw this class as perfectly balanced between predictable and novel, their complaints about their worst classes often Focused on either the utter pre- dictability or complete lack of structure of their worst classes. as exemplified by the remarks of two students: lake: He sat at his table every day. . . and there’s an overhead slide projecw tor, . . then he would read what was on the slide, and take it off, and then he would read what was on the slide, and take it down. And then to top it off, he would give. us a CD . . .like. right before. the test, have all the slides on it. so you never had to go if you didn’t want to. Laurel: And the assignments were just kind of free-tbr-aii assignments. . . Do this, come together, put some prescntatiort together, do whatever you want. Well, we had no idea. We had no direction. . . .t-Ie allowed too much room. And we didn’t know what to do. Together, these students’ testimonies suggest that they wanted some variety. but at the same time they had a real need and desire for predictability and structure. The responsibility of managing this tension fell largely on the instructor of this class, a responsibility he consciously addressed. One way that the instructor balanced this dialectical tension was by providing predictability through the daily handout and providing novelty by occasionally including a debate or a roleqilay, and by including thinknpair-sltarc activities on tnust days. He genuinely listened to students" suggcsw tions or requests, and he allowed flexibility in the structure to tit the students’ needs. For example, although online quizzes were due on specific dates, the instructor offered each student, privately via email, the opportunity to make up one quite late and he accepted late papers if notified in advance. When students requested more time for online quizzes, he granted it. By communicating some flexibility and respi‘mding to their suggestions and using a variety of instructional techniques, the instructor was able to manage this tension for the students by providing a baianee ot' ].‘ll't.‘(lit_‘iitil'!ili[y and novelty. T true for Class Activities and Time for Other Activities issues related to time management emerged as a tension that students experienced lit-tween the time demands of the class and instructor and their DWn personal lime-related needs. This tension manifested in how students managed it through typical management strategies as well as by some unique strategies, such as being Feb. [215 2888 82:54PM PB tardy to class ant activities. Class time and 1.1 Although studen tion to class and in-class time and period to end so. activities, whethc however, noted allotted time. Vt few minutes car] the daily handou The students ace sorne felt impose if they did not 1‘ forced her to res own. Alex poil‘ttt important than t ping work to tin expressed trustra this class with ti? Students man was not more im to their graduatt in which the 111‘ more important life activities. The course in tions and consic tions. For exam; and needed to I in that evening. her good luck in other students o class early hecau class. He always his responses :2 occasionally cho was managed by realities and mill ment the various tension by play instructor about FREIM :EaS‘tET‘r‘I MI University-CW9 FFIX ND. :734 487-3443 set—hut you do the same always know L they expressed ne students indi- ilthough perhaps students and not a predictable and her the utter pre- :ernpli‘l"ied by the slide projec- off, and then then to top it- . the slides on s. . . . Do this, er you want. much room. is variety, but at d structure. nstruetor of this structor balanced aily handout and and by including students“ sugges- : students‘ needs. a, the instructor Lip one quite late. . requested more e flexibility and l l'r:t'.l1riit]t.tt':s, L'l'tC adding a balance .ents experienced ir own personal raged it through is, such as being f.‘lrr.~'.~'rrttnn Male. to ~ tardy to class and struggling to stay on task instead ot‘"socialiy.ing during slttttll group activities. (floss time and parser-ml time Although students respected the right of the instructor to demand their time or alien tion to class and outside class homework, they nevertheless felt a tension between Iht‘i r in—class time and their out-of—class time. For example, most students wanted the class period to end somewhat early at least occasionally, so that they could engage in other activities, whether that was lunch or a longer: break before another class. The observer, however, noted the instructor's ability to continue class until the last minute of thr- allotted titne. When students sometimes began to stir and make ready to leave a few minutes early, he asked them additional questions that stopped them. Although the daily handouts varied in length and detail, they always took the entire class period. The students accepted that homework would demand some of their nonclass time, yet some felt imposed upon by having to talce online quizzes on their own time, especially if they did not have Internet access at home. lieth related how she felt that quizzes forced her to read the textbook according to the instructor’s schedule instead of her own. Alex pointed out that since she had to work to pay for college, her job Was more important than a particular quiz. or assignment; she did not have the option of skip- ping work to finish a class assignment because she would lose her job. Thus, students expressed frustration over trying to balance the tensions between the time demands of this class with the demands of other classes and activities. Students managed this tension by reminding themselves that in the end one class was not more important than another, with each class contributing three credit hours to their graduation requirements. This rt'tanagernent strategy is a form of recalibration in which the ultimate goal of graduation or a meaningful college experience was more important than the tensions among the demands of particular classes and other life activities. The course instructor helped students to manage this tension by granting excep- tions and considerations when students .tnade reasonable requests for time aberra— tions. For example. one student emailed him, saying that she was not feeling well and needed to preserve her voice and energy for the play she would be appearing in that evening. tie responded. in a friendly ma nner granting the. delay, wishing her good luck in her performance, and indicating that he might attend it. Similarly, other students occasionally approached him before class. asking permission to leave class early because they wanted to be sure to be early for a test they had in the next class. He always granted their requests, but no one abused- his flexibility. in this way, his responses exemplified segn-tentatiun. helping the students feel okay about occasionally choosing other important life activities over class. Hence. this tension was managed by both the instructor and the students Ctnninunicating about the time realities and making reasonable requests and adjustments .in order to balance or seg room the various demands of college life, In addition, the students managed this time tension by playfully grumbling art-tong tl'rer'nselves and ocmisiooally teasing the instructor about his demands on their time, rnild forms of venting. Feb. [215 EththB 82:54PM P9 FREIM :Easterm MI University-CTFI F—— FFIX ND. :734 487-3443 .llt‘l 'l'lte detail-tern Cemmunicoriot-r join-rial ‘t'unl'iuess as at management strategy ‘ Although students maintained very good attendance, a few students were cl'tronically late to class. This appeared to be a strategy, albeit. not a very effective one, for mart aging the dialectical tension of their class time and. personal time. Their tardiness created new dialectical tensions for them, as two students explained: Alex; I just feel bad being late. to class. And he‘s always very good at pausing in what he’s saying and like handing you a handout if you are late. . . . it's just my own fault, that if you‘re late. you’re kind of on your own. You don‘t really deserve a handout because you weren’t here on time. But i always feel bad that he always stops and gives you one. Beth: 1 end up being late a lot, and 1 come in and sit' down. ...l don"t like participating if I‘ve been late. . .1 just don‘t feel like it’s appropriate, like it’s rude. These students’ chronic tardiness affected their participation. They also felt that somehow the instructor should demand ptomptness from them. When these students used class tardiness to manage the dialectical tension of class time and personal time. they also experienced more pressure in the other dialectics of participating/ remaining silent and more/less teacher-imposed structure, This man- agement strategy of tardiness demonstrates how dialectical tensions are interrelated, or as Brown et al. (1998) described it, “a knot of contradictions," in which finding the. most comfortable balance point for one tension means that other tensions must also be balanced. These tardy students managed their time demands in a way that also affected the tensions they felt about participation and class structure. Staying on task and socializing Almost: every day. students worked with a partner or a small group for a few moments to discuss a particular topic and then reported their discussion to the larger group—the think-pair-share teaching strategy. Although most students expressed that they enjoyed these moments to talk with their fellow students. at. the same time, they admitted that they used them principally to socialize. Two students explained this tension. Laurel: We’ll think of an answer. and it’s like. “Maybe that’s right and maybe it’s wrong. So, what did you think of class the other day?” Or talk about: some- thing else. lake: There’s time where. . .we know that the general basis of what’s going on and whenever he comes to its and asks us, we'll say something and then. he’ll ini‘ive on to the next group, but half the time we spend talking about what everybody did last night. l'ittllttJ students, perhaps when they had no social information to share, felt that these small group discussions went on too long and would have been hEtter managed by simply addressing the topic as a whole class. .‘it talents managed this tension by wandering off task when given the opportunity, but immediately returning to task when prompted by the instructor. This behavior was .i form of "social loafing” [Latani’a Williams, 8: llarkins, 1979) as the individuals Feb. [215 2888 82:54PM F'lth relied on the co their own ideas. to discuss class 1 was aware of th until all of the s: of some off-task not been previt groups, but frat This tension room as a bona dence with cont permeability of i the physical bot sity enrollment leecasional visi the group’s hot the other hand. with pressures : dents do not t groups, inelttd groups that all these groups pl As CliSC'llSSt-lt described by E from this class Some employer quiz, or attend grott p activitie their interview activities. At ll some students the richness n: on how they d they wanted tr. experiences to class activities l't'tunity tlicatet context due tr: l,’t'evious resets interpersonal FREIM :Easterm MI University-CTFI s were chronically :ive one, for man- e. Their tardiness 3d: at [musing in are. . . .It’s just vn. You don’t . Hut. 1 always ..I don’t like propriate, like "my also felt that al tension or class other dialectics of return This man- 5 are interrelated, in which finding ter tensions must in a way that also re. a few moments to .arger group—the that they enjoyed hey admitted that tension. nd maybe it’s ; about some- 31’s going on log and then, talking about ire, felt that these rtter managed by the opportunity, it”. This behavior Is the individuals FF‘IX ND. :734 487-3443 t'liassroorn l.)ifl.lL't't'l:t'$ fifth relied on the contributions of others in the class, rather than thoroughly discussing their own ideas. As a result, to some extent these students wasted the opportunities to discuss class topics with others to further their own understanding. The instructor was aware. of this but managed the tension by waiting to return to the large group until all of the small groups were finished or off task. This communicated acceptance of some off-task. discussion but also emphasized the class activities. Social loaf‘iog has not been previously identified as a strategy for managing dialectical tensions in groups, but framing it thus may provide insight into why social loafing occurs. This tension of time for class activi ties/ other activities illustrates how the class-t room as a bona tide group is characterized by permeable boundaries and interdepen- dence with context due to multiple group memberships (Stobl 8t Putnam, 1994). The permeability of this group’s boundaries was experienced in two ways. On one hand, the physical boundaries of the class were rigidly maintained by the context of univer- sity enrollment that does not. allow much physical permeability except for the occasional visitor or observer. The observer in this study slowly permeated the group’s boundaries through her daily attendance and individual interviews. On the other hand, the psychological boundaries of the class were constantly permeated with pressures and events from the. individual students’ personal lives. University stn-r dents do not exist in a container; they are simultaneously members of multiple groups, including other classes, organizations, families, work groups, and social groups that all interact and. overlap to form the context of university life. Each of these groups places competing demands on students. As discussed aboVe, students managed these tensions in some of the ways as described by Baxter and Montgomery {1996). Students requested early departure from this class in order to prepare for tests in other Clarifies (spiraling inversion). Some employed students had to choose to work rather than to study, take an onnline quiz, or attend class. Social needs often trumped academic needs during classroom group activities (segmentation). In addition, most of the participants indicated in their interviews that Family needs were more important than any of their classes or activities. At the same time, these management st1'ategies were also experienced by some students as a form of recalibration, in which the poles were seen to add to the richness of their college experience. For example, several students commented on how they did not view getting an education as only about good grades. Instead, they wanted to participate in sr‘icial and other activities to enhance their educational experiences to become wellnroundcd individuals. Thus this tension between time for class activities and other activities, similar to one reported by Kramer (2004) in com- munity theater groups, reflects how bona fide groups sift". interdependent With their context due to multiple group memberships and have permeable boundaries. Discussion Previous research on dialectical tensions has focused primarily on dyadic Pairs in interpersonal relationships and a few group settings. In instructirmal setLings a Feb. [215 2888 82:55PM P11 FREIM :EaS‘tET‘r‘I MI University-CW9 FFIX ND. :734 487-3443 ,__ ....__,,_,, eat. The Southern Cot-urt-ttt-nicrttimt Jet-trttt-I-l piore the instructort-to-student relationship dialectical perspective has been ttsed to eat titawlins, 2000) without considering the tensions in the relationships between stu- ensions of a classroom group made up dents. This study explored the dialectical t d how they managed those tensions as of students and the instructor and examine part oftheir group processes. Three main arenas of tensions suggested by the findings and remaining silent, the desire for predictability and novelty, and or activities. Students and the instructor managed these haviors, such as choosing when to were participating time for class and time for otit tensions through a variety of communication be communicate and when to remain silent, communicating strttcturc and flexibility, and communicating acceptance of social tails. The participating-remaining silent tension was p study. Students felt encouragement to participate from the instructor generally, bttt sometimes his resptmses made them reluctant to participate. 'l‘ltcir desire to partici- pate was further inhibited by the responses from other students, especially negative ones, and their own sense of the appropriateness of their participation. This finding has implications for a group dialectical perspective, For group communication in articulariy prominent in this general, and for classroom instruction. Both individual and group dialectical tensions affected student participation. Although the instructor seetttEt‘l to manage the participation tension rather well, he could only influence part of the process; he could not manage other Factors within the group and individuals that influenced students’ participation. t-lence, although some scholars might prefer that group tiialectics be studied only at the group level and not at the individual level, these results reinforce the suggestion from Johnson and long (2002) that it is the coml'iination oi" individual and grottp tensions that influences the group interaction. These tensions emerging from the presence of the group pull individuals in different directions and create a knot of contradictions that individuals must balance. Studying both levels of analysis provided a more complete understanding of the motivations anti behaviors of the students in this group. Although the participadon-remaining silent tension may be indigenous to class- rooms and not typical of other groups, it may more broadly represent an active and passive participation tension apparent in multiple venues. In many group set- tings, such as meetings, committees, organized discussions, or other voluntary group associations, individuals feel a tension between a desire to actively participate and passively observe. Although the reasons for choosing how to manage the tension might be different front student groups, the impact may be quite similar as some members actively participate in achieving group goals while others passively observe without engaging in the group activities as they manage individual and group partici- pation tensions. The implication for instructional settings is informative although perhaps disap- pointing. Mnch of the instructional research focuses exclusively on teacher behaviors, snth as increased immediacy, that improve the classroom climate and increase ‘-.tlltlt'|tl participation] (Andersen, 1979). While such research is valuable because anther to student behaviors influence student participation, it fails to recognize lllt' dialectical tensions created by the student-to-student group intt-Lzractions that Feb. [215 2888 82:55PM P12 influence partit ences their par singer, 1995), t such as the thir ing their own i responses to st The tensior research (Base in this study, v dictabie class s although nian' organized or t dynamics in a negotiate a cot setting this ca and needs of of group settir satisfies the is responsibility students and settings, grout The time ft to be present group membt to their othet somewhat clii dents essentia through their of one class 1 between prio find ways to priorities or t other tensior duals to socia settings. Mos sinus, and at though they Although and social it Montgomery or spiraling i other studen‘ eat at partict good balance FREIM :Eastenn lttt‘lcnt relationship ships between stu- In group made up l those tensions as ited by the findings :y and novelty, and :tor managed these choosing when to etc and flexibility, prominent in this ctor generally, but r desire to partici- especially negative ition. This Finding :ommunication in lent participation. ion rather well, he :her factors within . l—Ience, although at the group level ion from lohnson 'nup tensions that he presence of the :ontradictions that l a more complete n this group. digenous to class- :present an active i many group set- ll' voluntary group 1y participate and anage the tension e similar as some i passively observe and group partieb gh perhaps disap- teacher behaviors. tate and increase valuable because fails to recognize interactions that MI University-CTFI FF‘IX ND. :734 487-3443 Clussromn Uinlrrrirs .‘m influence participation. Given that increasing interactions between students inl‘lu-i enees their participation with the instructor (Anderson 8r Carts-Faisa, 2002; lins- singer, 1995), teachers may want to provide more brief, structured group activities. such as the thinlt-pair-sliare activities used by this instructor, in addition to monitor ing their own communicative behaviors, such as their explicit imitations and their responses to students’ participation. The tension between predictability and novelty has been explored in dyadic research (Baxter 8: Montgomery, 1996) and other group settings (Kramer, 2004-). In this study, we were somewhat sttrprised at students" appreciation of the fairly pre- dictable class structure. None ofthc students complainecl that it was too structured, although many voiced complaints about other classes that were either too loosely organised or too predictable and structured. This tension created some interesting dynamics in a group setting compared to dyads. The two parties in a dyad can otten negotiate a comfortable level that satisfies both members. in a group or instructional setting this can be much more difficult to manage, given the many different wants and “spat of the memhem It is easy to envision this tension existing in a variety of group settings as members nnist negotiate a level of predictability and novelty that satisfies the largest possible number of members. in this case, the instructor took responsibility for managing the tension by communicating the structure to the students and communicating flexibility in response to their requests. in other settings, group members may more actively negotiate this tension. The time for class and time for other activities tension that emerged also appears to be present in other group and dyadic relationships. Kramer (2004) noted that group members experienced tensions between their commitment to the grottp and to their other life activities in a voluntary group setting. The classroom setting is somewhat different because the time commitment is not truly voluntary, since stu- dents essentially must attend class to achieve their educational and professional goals through their coursework. Students experience a time tension between the demands of one class and another, between their outside lives and their academic lives, and between priorities of getting good grades and keeping jobs to pay for college. They find ways to balance these tensions through reminding themselves of their personal priorities or through being absent or tardy--« --management strategies that may create other tensions for them. in addition, the group instructional setting allows indivi- duals to socially loaf in ways not. possible in dyadic relationships or some other group settings. Most students admitted to social loafing during in-class small group discus- sions, and as a result, some students felt those activities wasted their time, even though they were the ones who were wasting it. Although two new strategies for managing tensions were identified, substituting and social loafing, most of the strategies participants used appear in Baxter and Montgomery‘s (1996) classification system. For example, students used segmentation or spiraling inversion strategies for class participation; various elements of the class. other stnclents, and their own internal feelings made participation or silence more sali- ent at particular rnornents or on different days. Students felt the. instructor achieved a good balance in the tension of predictability and novelty by communicating struct ore, Feb. [215 2888 82:56PM P13 FREIM :EaS‘tET‘r‘I MI University-CW9 FFIX ND. :734 487-3443 ass 'I‘hs Southern C‘orrin-mr-ticatiun Iom'rtol along with flexibility and variety. Students grumbling to each other is reminiscent of venting, a communication strategy identified by Kramer (2004). Unlike venting, how- ever. by teasing the instructor, students voiced concerns over the tension to a person able to make a change. The fact that the instructor made adjustments to some but not all such interactions, suggests that the direct strategy was more effective than simply venting. An important finding froth this study is how interrelated and complex dialectical tensions are—«a “knot of contradictions” (Brown et al., 1998). .A. simple tension. of preferring to talk or to remain silent was confounded by individual, dyadic, and group tensions. Time management problems affected students” participation and their need for predictability. The implication for this knot of contradictions is that teaching issues are not often simple isolated problems that can be “tired” exclusively by teacher behaviors. Classroom dynamics are influenced by complex intrapersonal, interpersonal, and group tensions. Instructional communication inquiry has only scratched the surface of how classroom communication affects these dynamics. Future Studies Understanding dialectical tensions in classroom communication and their manage- ment has the potential to expand our understanding of teaching and learning. and, thereby. to enrich teacher preparation programs. a. weakness of this exploraton study is that it focused on one course taught by an experienced instructor. To further understand classroom dialectical tensions. other classrt‘u'nn settings should be stud- ied. varying teaching experience, class size, subject, and cenn'se level. A more diverse student body including nontraditional or international students may also uncover other dialectical tensions, such as tensions between experienced (adult) and less experienced (traditional) students. Courses in other disciplines that are not tradition ally taught in small groups or by discussion, such as chemistry or mathematics, may present different tensions. Future studies in other naturally occurring groups will also provide insight into the transferability of these findings to other settings. The tension between active and passive participation in a group is likely common, especially in voluntary groups. Examining the effectiveness ofthe strategies identified here for managing the tensions would also be valuable. Conclu sion Much of the research on instructitmal communicatitm has focused on the direct impact of instructor attitudes and behaviors on student outcomes. This study demrmstrated that such a focus only partially explains the dynamics of classroom instruction. By examining an instructional setting as a group setting using a dialec- tical perspective. this study demonstrated how the dynamics of various individual. and group tensions affect interaction in the classroom. Further research using a Feb. E15 2888 82:56PM P14 dialectical perspt cation, as well as Arlelman, M. T3. 3: NJ: Lawreno Allen, T. H. 8t Pia: L. R. Iircy (Er cation til-teary Andersen, J. 1*. (19 (Fri), Cor-mi ,llnnlt‘s. Anderson, L. E. 3! l Live. College Arnett, it. (i. (1992 Southern Illl Arnett, R. 5t Ar personal rela Baklnjn, M. M. (1‘. Austin, TX: Barge, I. K. (1994 St. Martin t Barge, I. K. (1996) it. Y. l'lirolt pp. EDI—341 Barge. I. K. (1997). life: Corr-moi Baxter, l.. A. (1539s Personal Re. Baxter, L. A. (15‘ i.. S. Btaffm CA: Acadia“. Baxter, L. A. fit M Press. Baxter. L. A. «’3: Mi relationship personal rel Baxter, L. A. B: Sii tions in pet Benefit, P. J., Kran teaching to Association Bochner, A. P. f C. C. Arm (pp. SIM—ti: Bridge, K. 3:: Batch of Common Hrown, B. a, We transaction FREIM :Eastern MI University-CTFI FFIX ND. :734 487-3443 r is reminiscent of .like venting. how»- insion to a person ts to some but not active than simply omplex dialectical. simple tension of dual. dyadic. and participation and tradictions is that fixed” exclusively lax intrapersonai. inquiry has only at: dynamics. lid their manage“ nd learning. and. this exploratory 'uctor. To further : Should he stud- l. A more diverse nay also uncover (adult) and less are not tradition— iathematics. may uvide insight into :1 between active roiunlary groups. ging the tensions ed on the direct Ines. iiihis study ics of classroom g using a dialec- It‘ious individual research usingp u ('flrissruoni illulrriics W: dialectical perspective will increase our understanding of instrucliumil colnlmloi cation. as well as the l)1'(')i:l\'_lt-_‘T issues afFecting naturally occurring groups. References Adclman. M. E. St Frey. l... R. 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Bowers (Eds). Handbook of rhetorical and cor-ntnunicatian theory (pp. filled—Ml l. Boston: Allyn s: Bacon. Bridge, 6r Baxter, l.. A. ( l99‘2). Blended relationships: Friends as work associates. Western Irnrruul ofComoutnicatiron. 5-5. Hill—225. Brown, 3. liq Werner, C. M... 3: Allluun, l. (1998). Choice points [or diniccliciuns: A diulcclicul- - transactional perspective on close relationships. In B. M. Mrmlgcnmu-y E's: T.. A. Basic: Fain. [215 BEES 82:57PM FREIM :EaStET‘r‘I MI University-CW9 FFIX ND. :734 487-3443 Lion The Southern Cornmunicotion journal (title), Dialectical approaches to snuiying personol relationships (pp. 137—l54). Mahwali. N]: Lawrence Erlbaum. (innville. R. L. (1993). Telling stories: Dinlcctics of relational transition. in B. M. Montgomery 8r l.. A. Baxter (11:15.), Dialectical approaches to studying personal relationships (pp, 17—410). Mahwah. NI: Lawrence ,Erlbaum. Creswell. l. W. (1997). 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Friendship "utters: Con-rmunimtion. dirtiectics, nncl the life course. New York: Aldine cle (iruyter. Rowline, W. K. (2000). Teaching as a mode of Friendship. Como-iunicotion Theory. 10, 5—26. Richmond, V. P., Gorham, J. 3., 8t McCZi-oslcey. I. D. (1.987). The relationship between selected immediacy behaviors and cognitive learning. In M. McLaughlin (EL-U) Communication year. book (Vol. 10. pp. 574-690}. Beverly Hills. CA: Sage. Smith. K. K. at Berg. D. N. (1987). Paradoxes of group life: Unite-standing conflict, po-rulysis. mnl movement in group dynamics. San Francisco: lossey-Bass. Stohl. (1. t3: Putnam. L. L. (1994). Group cmnmnnication in context: Implications For the study of bona fide groups. In 1.. R. Frey (EAL). Group con-mntnimtlon in context: Studies of‘nnriiml grown (pp. 285—292). l'lillstlnlt:, NI: Lawrence Erlbaum. Williams. J'. (2005). finkblin on teaching style. Written Con-intunicntirm, .22, 339—347. Appendix A interview Schedule I. Describe :1 typical clay in this class. a. What do you do? b. Describe your typical participation in the class. Feb. [215 2888 82:57PM F'lEu c. How do cl. What do e. Describe f. Does any g. What do it. How inn i. How imp 2. How impor yourself an . The instruci think about 4. The instruct you thinlc n‘ . The instruct sions. think (3. Describe an made you ti o. What clicl b. How did 7. [lave you ev class. in the l 3. How clues L? a. What Int b. What CW 9. Describe wh how the cls participatiol 10. Think oliant characterize that disappc 11. Do you how Lu U1: FREIM :EaStET‘r‘I MI University-CTR FFIX ND. 1734 487-3443 137—154). Mahwah, NI: 1 B. M. Montgomery 8: 'ritioi-iships (pp. l'i—th]. r r-li't'l'ong five traditions. tent in “what difference truthssors’ contributions ige. rtrters: An investigation ch, 26, 455-488. itudent cognitive learn- : Dialectics and group mriicruion (pp. 25—41). ition: An ethnographic *1. 3| I—332. ' Wflrkl Thl‘. [-31.1535 and logy. 37. 8231—8-32. ch u-ierliocls (2nd ed). iteration: Dialogues and lion, 4], “37480. of H teacher's life. San if life course. New Yorle Tl-ieory. to, 5—26. iship hot-ween selected . Cnmmm-ticotion year conflict, paralysis. and ations for the study of text: Studies of normal 3351—347. Feb. 215 221218 BEE—WM (.JlrrssrtmmlJirilr'r'lirx int c. How do you feel during class? d. What do other students do? e. Describe other students’ participation. f. Does any particular student's participation in class stand out? g, What do you do hetween classes (related to class)? h. How important is this class to you compared to your other classes? i. How important is this class compared to your other life activities? 2. How important is it for a student to feel a part of the class? Do you consider yourself an important part of the class? 3. The instructor provides a certain amount of structure to the class. What do you think about that? 4. The instructor provides certain guidelines for the writing assignments. What do you think about these guidelines? S. The instructor uses a variety of teaching techniques, briel‘leetures, student discus- sions. thinlcmpair-share times. and others. What do think about these activities? 6. Describe an interaction in this class (that included you or any other student) that made you feel uncomfortable. a. What did you feel at the time? h. How did it affect the other people in the classroom? 7. Have you ever interacted with the instructor outside of Class—either before or alter class, in the office, electronically, or someplace else? If so. describe that interaction. 8. How does this course relate to your life and future plans? a. What makes it relevant? b. What could make it more relevant? 9. Describe what an ideal class is to you in terms of what the instructor would do. how the classroom time would be used. the assignments and tests, and your participation. 10. Think of another class you have taken (ot'sitnilar size to this one) that you would characterize as your worst class experience. Describe the components of the class that disappointed you. 11. Do you have anything, else you’d like to say about this class or classes in general? ...
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