Page: 13-33 Author: Šeďová, K., Švaříček, R., Makovská, Z., Zounek, J. Key words: classroom communication, structure, initiation, reply, feedback
This article examines the structure of educational communication in secondary schools. We are primarily interested in dialogic structures. Our decision has also been influenced by the percentage break-down of communication structures in the classroom: dialogic structures amount to 48 percent while the teacher‘s monologic communication only amounts to 13 percent. The rest of communication is taken up with explaining organisational matters (23%) and other structures such as reading, taking notes, presenting etc.
The data was gathered during field re-search. As far as the research itself is con-cerned, four primary schools took part in the project, and in each school four teachers agreed to participate in the project. All four teachers taught either Czech language, History, or Civics. In total we were able to observe 16 teachers who taught 16 different classes. We interviewed each of the teachers at the outset of the project in order to discover their approaches to communication with pupils and their perception of pupils in given classrooms. We then observed the teachers in the classes, and we concluded the observation process with a video recording of two classes. The pupils were given a questionnaire which asked how they perceived the communication in the recorded classes. We interviewed the teachers towards the end of the project so as to obtain as much information as possible on specific occurrences that we observed in the teachers classes. In this paper, we work primarily with the data gathered through the method of video recording. The results of the research can be divided into two parts: teacher-initiated communication and pupil-initiated communication. Communication initiated by the teacher is a clear example of the I-R-F structure. The I-R-F structure comprises three acts where the first one is the teacher‘s question, out of which 23 percent of all questions were open-ended and 77 percent of the questions were closed-ended. As far as cognitive demands are concerned, 61 percent of all the educational questions tested whether a previously taught fact had been ell memorised while the rest of the questions (39 percent) was related to higher cognitive operations. The second act of the I-R-F structure is the pupils‘ reply. It could be taken as an almost automatic response which is produced by the pupils once the teacher initiates communication. Only 7 per-cent of the teacher‘s questions are met with no response at all: in such cases, the teacher repeats their question until a pupil answers it correctly. At the same time, the pupils seem to be more than willing to meet the teacher‘s expectations. Only 4 percent of the reply acts could be considered inadequate in the sense that a pupil would answer the teacher‘s question incorrectly on purpose (which is a totally different situation than when a pupil attempts to answer a question correctly and fails). The third constituent of the I-R-F structure is the teacher‘s evaluation. Positive evaluation was predominant in the classes that we observed (83 percent). In many cases, evaluation is implicit because the teacher does not verbally evaluate the pupils‘ performance.
Communication is initiated by pupils in 27 percent of all cases. However, a more detailed examination of our data shows that only a minority of all the pupil-initiated communications fall into the category of questions (described above) related to class materials (only 15 percent) while the majority of pupil-initiated communications concern organisational matters. Autonomous questions raised by the pupils can be divided into two groups: (i) autonomous pupil questions which are motivated by the pupil‘s wish to know more about the currently taught topic; (ii) questions which the pupils ask because they do not understand something.
Both types of communication structures (i.e., those initiated by the teacher and those initiated by the pupils) take various forms and acquire specific features which are then described in detail in this article.