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ESE502 : The Class : Structure : Communication


When people meet in groups, it is inevitable that power and control issues will emerge. After all, it is only human to be happy when things are going our way. When a student refuses to cooperate or engages in defensive behaviors, we tend to react, to become defensive as well. We tend to meet force with force, to exchange verbal or emotional blows. We actually have more power if we choose a strategy that sidesteps defensiveness.

The following power strategies are ways of communicating outside of the power struggle, getting what we want by redefining interactions and setting up more positive responses. Spend at least an hour observing a classroom and record instances of these communication strategies. To heighten awareness, try sitting in the teacher's lounge, in an adult classroom or monitoring the interactions at a family get-together.

Strategy Definition Communication
Assertion Forcefully asserting one's way I voice my wishes loudly
Bargaining Explicit statement about two-way exchange You do this for me,
I'll do this for you
Compromise Both people give up what they see as desired outcome for a mutually valued goal There is a disagreement so each gives ground
Emotional display Facial expressions and body language that express needs or feelings Sweet face, pout, smile
Expertise Explain insights or knowledge "I think this will work since"
Fait accompli Openly doing what one wishes, usually in contrast to what is best for the group Come at 10:00 even though group meets at 9:30
Hinting Indirect attempts to get things as wish Drop hints, set up a confederate to broach idea
Manipulate thoughts Get others to "believe" it's their idea Move others to believe its their idea
Orchestrate others' emotions Project feelings, shift the mood Come in angry, tell jokes
Persistence Continuing to assert needs to change others I reiterate my point
Persuasion Persuasive coaxing and pleading I get my way by wheedling
Reason Rational argument or logical points to change others' minds or influence the decision Debate and argue logically
Statement Simple statement of what is desired I simply state my needs

Power and control are part of social interactions and relationships. Meeting personal needs and simultaneously building community with several others, who also have needs and desires, is a delicate dance. Students alternate between self interest and seeking acceptance by others in the classroom.

Rather than "creating a monster," teachers can use communication strategies, self discipline and self soothing to move outside the power struggle, defining higher expectations and modeling mature ways to resolve conflict.

Once you have completed this observation,assignment, you may want to write a one minute essay to summarize your findings. Once you complete that optional assignment, you can:

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E-mail J'Anne Ellsworth at


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