Thursday, November 17, 2011

W. Barnett Pearce: The Legacy of CMM

Last month, I attended a Villanova University conference on “Making better social worlds.” The conference centered on the work of Dr. W. Barnett Pearce. If you graduated with a Communication Studies degree, you will recall that Dr. Pearce co-founded the Coordinated Management of Meaning theory.

I went to Villanova, in part, to meet Barnett. I have long admired him from a distance. Unfortunately, he was ill and unable to attend. Last week, I received the sad news of his passing.

I want to share three reasons why I admired this person. In celebrating what he did, I find inspiration for what Communication teachers can do.

First, Pearce taught "beyond the data" (p.6). When leaving grad school, he felt obliged to teach only content verified by empirical research. As a result, he found himself producing “lectures that were very thin and narrow in their content but ‘certain’ in their tone.” Barnett determined to offer a "richer, wider, and much more tentative curriculum." He facilitated learning that helped students "live beyond the data."

Second, Dr. Pearce transcended typical academic boundaries. He worked between disciplines, taught at different kinds of universities and took his ideas to the larger world. He was a "cosmopolitan." The Villanova conference was attended by Communication scholars, teachers, students, corporate executives, lawyers, artists, and distinguished psychologists. It reflected the spirit of a person whose classroom became the world.

Third, Barnett worked not only to understand social worlds but to change them. Near the close of his life he wrote an essay on "Being at Home in the Universe." Here is the essay’s thesis:

To be at home in the universe is to know the universe as well as we can, to know our place in the universe as well as we can, and to be, as fully as we can, what we are …; the makers of better social worlds through the coordinated enactment of compassion, empathy and mindfulness.

Profound tributes appear online for Barnett Pearce. As I read them, three maxims for teaching came to mind. The maxims are mine. The exemplifying quotes are about Barnett’s life from his colleagues:

Great teachers live what they teach

"Barnett modeled his work in every moment, in every engagement, in his life as mentor, colleague, scholar, practitioner, father, husband, son, brother, friend, facing his diagnosis and anticipating his death." - Ilene Wasserman

Expertise is no substitute for care

"With all of the academic focus, all the writing and reading in which Barnett engaged, he never lost his pastoral presence. His support and encouragement not only carried me through the dissertation process; it re-formed me as a person." - Michael Sayler

Paradigm breakers need trusted colleagues

(In co-creating CMM, Barnett Pearce and Vernon Cronin considered themselves "paradigm breakers." There is always a kick-back of opposition to such ventures)

"We could not have weathered the early days of criticism, rejections, even personal attacks without each other’s support...
I [Vernon] reminded him [Barnett] of an analogy we used to use when critics said that CMM kept changing. We would reply that there are many ways to compare theories and this is one: Some theories are like Jack-in-the-box toys, you turn the crank, the clown pops out, and that is it — so there! Others are like Legos. They open new possibilities and create new parts and new plans."  -Vernon Cronen

Possibilities, parts and plans of the Pearce legacy appear online. Search the links that follow for essays and teaching resources that define CMM as a practicing art:

Practical Applications of CMM

Using CMM (especially pp. 50-54)

W. Barnett Pearce

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Professor Ed Kerns: Celebrated Artist and Teacher

Good teaching is inspired by masters of the art. From time-to-time, my blog will feature master teachers who know how and why they teach.

Ed Kerns is Eugene H. Clapp Professor of Art at Lafayette  College. He is an artist of international distinction.

On the following two minute video he discusses his view of teaching.

Notice Professor Kerns' emphasis on the active teacher, the primacy of relationships and the "hidden agenda" of values in teaching. His concluding quote from Viktor Frankl defines the ends for which he teaches.

Professor Kerns
“That’s what thrills me — to work in front of students, to collaborate with students, and to have them be a part of the whole process.”

Learn more about Professor Kerns’ teaching philosophy, student involvement and art by visiting his profile at Lafayette

Congratulations Ed on enriching the lives of 5500 students!


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Top Ten Communication Quotes

My Ten Favorite Communication Quotes
  1.  "One cannot not communicate."   Paul Watzlawick, Janet Beavin and Don Jackson
  2. “Every communication has a content and relationship level…” Paul Watzlawick, Janet Beavin and Don Jackson
  3.  “The belief that one's own view of reality is the only reality is the most dangerous of all delusions.”   Paul Watzlawick 
  4.  Effective communication depends on the “acknowledgement of differences” in perception.  William Haney (In other words, “There is no such thing as an immaculate perception” – Jonah   Lehrer)
  5.   “Human thinking depends on metaphor” Jonathan Haidt
  6. "If ... [we] define situations as real , they are real in their consequences." W.I. Thomas
  7.  “You persuade a man (sic) only insofar as you can talk his language…identifying your ways with his.” Kenneth Burke 
  8. “People in interactions move together in a kind of dance [unaware].” Edward Hall
  9. “Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs.” Clifford Geertz 
My top ten quotations hold these qualities for me: 
  • When I first met them I saw communication in a new way.
  • They are written in a way that is easily remembered.
  • Hearing them is like hearing  a good, old song.

I give special credit to Paul Watzlawick and The Pragmatics of Human Communication for providing three entries on the list. 

Paul Watzlawick

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Secret Life of Pronouns

James Pennebaker's  The Secret Life of Pronouns:

 The most exciting Communication book I have read in 2011!

Professor Pennebaker  shows how pronouns, articles, conjunctions, prepositions and other “small stealthy words reveal parts of your personality, thinking style, emotional state and connections with others (p. ix).” His findings and hypotheses make excellent discussion starters.  Here are five examples.

 1.  “We-words” create less identification between a politician and his audience than “I-words.” John Kerry was advised to use more “we-words” to connect with his voters; poor advice. “We-words” made him appear more distant and arrogant. They are often used by high status persons who presume to speak for others. “I-words” create a less presumptuous basis for rapport. 

2.  Women use the first person singular more than men do.  Men use “articles” more than woman. Apparently, this occurs because men talk more about objects. That is, men are apt to chat about, “the carburetor,” or “a beer,” or “dah-Bears.”  

 3.  Students who use lower rates of personal and impersonal pronouns in their admission essays receive higher grades throughout college.  

 4.  Couples that mirror each other’s pronouns in e-mails have longer lasting relationships.

 5. The style by which college exams are written is predictive of how students will frame their answers. If exam givers write exams in the linguistic style of a “valley girl” they are likely to receive  “valley girl” answers (“Like, it matters?...or, whatever”).  If they write questions with academic lingo, exam givers receive more "erudite responses."
Pennebaker reports “stealth word” findings from many areas of communication: gender, age and cultural differences, interpersonal and group evolution, suicide messages and healing narratives, politics and leadership. Even more intriguing than these discoveries is the methodology by which they are obtained.

Pennebaker and his associates developed a software system, LIWC, for doing electronic content analysis. It counts the number of “stealth word” in documents as near as your last e-mail or as grand as classical literature. LIWC (Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count) can count and categorize the works of Shakespeare in twenty seconds.

An abbreviated form of LIWC is provided on Pennebaker’s web page for free. Try it.  
I encourage you to purchase The Secret Life of Pronouns. Pennebaker is a conversational writer. The research examples you can use in class are abundant.

Dr. Pennebaker' website provides

additional content analysis tools for class assignments. 

(For a more comprehensive review of The Secret Life of Pronouns read Dan Zimmer's NY Times article)

Northwestern University where I received an M.A. in Philosophy of Religion