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Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) (Founded by Howard Giles et al. 1973) Researched and Presented by Julia Maine Context Teaching Basic Literacy to students with Learning Difficulties Communication Accommodation Theory examines How we accommodate our communication to one another to become more alike or by defining our differences; our motivations for doing so and the consequences. Benefits of adapting communication to accommodate others Increase communication efficiency; Accommodate the differences in language, ability, culture, etc. of others; Gain social approval or desired level of social distance. How we adapt communication Subconscious or conscious choices are made about whose communication system to use and how much to accommodate each other. The theory takes note of two communication tendencies: Convergence Divergence These tendencies may be mutual or non-mutual Convergence Characteristics • Mirror other person’s vocabulary, accent, speech rate, grammar, voice etc. • Match other person’s gestures, mannerisms, dress, hair, etc. • Often based on attraction, charisma, credibility and motive Gains or motives • Improves effectiveness of communication • Makes other person more confident and willing to respond • Maintains positive self-identity and brings approval • Makes ourselves more like those we are attracted to and engenders their liking Divergence Characteristics • Works in opposite direction to convergence • Speaks and gestures differently from other person • Can be based on disdain for other person (or their behaviour) and desire to remain different from them Gains or motives • Accentuates differences between the parties • Reinforces individual or group identity • Discourages a relationship or from engaging in lengthy conversation CAT in Practice Accommodating the Needs of Adult Basic Literacy Students with SEN Problems experienced by students with learning difficulties Understanding long, complex sentences Limited vocabulary Understanding abstract concepts Poor listening skills and concentration span Lack of confidence in abilities Inappropriate patterns of communication, e.g. talking too loudly, rigidity in their routines with lack of patience & flexibility to adapt Possible accompanying behaviour difficulties Accommodating Student Needs in lesson planning and teaching In applying CAT theories consider: what skills and behaviour we want to develop; what we want to change or modify; how to accommodate communication & behaviour styles that cannot be changed; how to encourage students to accommodate to teacher. Convergence in Practice Enhance communication, understanding and learning • Simplify vocabulary & sentence structure • Slow down speech rate, longer/more pauses • Support explanations with clear, attractive diagrams and text • Pitch materials at student’s level of abilities • Match materials to student’s personal interests, e.g. football topics, etc • Maintain level of routine for those unable to cope with change Engender liking & approval • Share social situations, e.g. coffee breaks • Reciprocate smiling & eye contact • Mirror gestures, e.g. thumbs up • Show interest and support in students’ interests or personal problems Divergence in Practice Correcting poor English • Stress correct pronunciation of words, punctuation, grammar etc. • Stress importance of reading & writing to reluctant readers/writers • Introduce new vocabulary Behaviour Modification • To affirm authority over disruptive students, speak with calm, professional manner • Speak softly to encourage loud speaking students to adopt a more reserved style • Emphasise eye contact when student avoids • If student is negative and depressive - maintain cheerful disposition Dangers of Overaccommodating Examples Patronizing ‘baby talk’, such as ‘poor little dear’ Depersonalizing language, such as ‘it’s nice that you people get out of the house’ Third-party talk, where a person directs communication not at the person with a disability but to a nondisabled person with them, e.g. ‘Does he take cream in his coffee?’ (Fox & Giles, 1996) Patronizing talk can be damaging as it could discourage students’ independence. Results We have applied: Convergence to accommodate communication & behaviour patterns that cannot, or need not be changed Divergence to develop necessary literacy skills and to modify inappropriate behaviour A delicate balance of convergence - divergence with convergence slightly dominant, particularly from the start to develop good rapport. Converging teachers are viewed favourably by students. Accommodating students’ styles leads to students reciprocating. We have convergence! Students who like their teachers are more likely to accommodate them by staying on task and following rules!
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