As usual, I began with an exercise as jump-off point for introducing what makes up communication study. I told my students to recall their reading of the opening chapters of Griffin, Littlejohn and Foss, and West and Turner. Then I gave my students (working by groups) the following instructions:
Using their answers to the exercise, we talked about how communication may be defined according to the elements they've identified and they've diagrammed how these elements function. We compared their definitions with the 126 definitions mapped by Frank Dance in his 1976 study. We also differentiated their definitions following Dance's three (3) points:
Using the various definitions (Dance's and the students'), we go into a discussion of how communication has been studied through time. We looked at Griffin's drawing (seen below) to map how communication study developed through the years:
I've been teaching this course since 2002, but have never really been satisfied with how to organize the content for first-year Communication students. The problem clearly lies with the numerous communication theories developed through the years. Do I cram all these theories in a 16-week course for first-year students? How to package these theories for students taking their first Communication major course?
Over the years, I've relied on three textbooks as guides:
Among the three, it's Griffin's A First Look that makes for easy reading for most of the students, with West and Turner coming in second, and Littlejohn and Foss third. Fortunately, all newer editions of the three textbooks follow a more or less similar organizing principle — theories are grouped according to different communication contexts. Griffin classifies the theories according to the different contexts: Interpersonal, Group and Public, Mass, Cultural. West and Turner follows the same pattern: Self and Messages, Relationship Development, Groups and Organizations, Public, Media, and Culture and Diversity. Littlejohn and Foss divide the theories around the following: Communicator, Message, Conversation, Relationship, Group, Organization, Media, and Culture and Society.
For this term, I'll follow a mashup of Griffin's and West and Turner's context groupings. As we accomplish exercises for the different theories, we'll also take note of how each theory is categorized under a particular approach (positivistic/empirical, interpretive/hermeneutic, and critical) and tradition (rhetorical, semiotic, phenomenological, cybernetic, sociopsychological, sociocultural, and critical). We'll also attempt to use research methods peculiar to each theory. And did I mention we'll also try out the learner-centered and outcome-based approach to classroom teaching? Here's to a grueling term ahead. ✍
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