Communication and relationship building are essential proficiencies, when working with adults and young people undertaking digital literacy learning. This is in order to satisfy their belongingness and love needs, as identified by Abraham Maslow.
Maslow1 studied the factors that motivate people to succeed, resulting in his Hierarchy of Needs Model, as shown below. Maslow’s theory of motivation identified five categories of human needs, each of which can only be met when the one below it has been satisfied.
Maslow’s five needs are as follows:
• Biological and Physiological Needs
• Safety Needs
• Belongingness and Love Needs
• Esteem Needs
• Self-actualisation Needs
Importance of Communication
Establishing a strong rapport, when working with adults and young people undertaking digital literacy learning, is vitally important. It is crucial that the learner feels comfortable enough to approach the tutor to ask for help or clarification. Good communication can also help diffuse any hostility or apprehension that the learner may have, in respect of their learning experience.
Whilst tutor and learner communication is typically undertaken in a verbal context, it is worthwhile remembering that digital literacy extends the methods of communication to include digital tools, techniques and technologies. When communicating with learners via digital methods, it is imperative that the message being conveyed is clear and unambiguous. This is because digital transmissions lack the subtle signs that face-to-face interactions convey such as facial expressions, body language and tone of voice.
Providing regular and timely feedback also increases the learner’s self-esteem. Any areas for improvement should always be enclosed between positive opening and closing statements.
Therefore, in order for the successful transfer of knowledge to take place, there must be clear and open dialogue between the learner and the digital literacy practitioner.
Importance of Relationship Building
Relationship building is essential, in order to satisfy the learners’ belongingness and love needs. Forging strong relationships, when working with adults and young people, helps motivate them and encourages them to do well in their studies. Building a mutual relationship of trust and respect for other learners, as well as the practitioner, also serves to create a sense of belonging.
In all aspects of relationship building in the classroom, it is important for the digital literacy practitioner to lead by example. This entails being polite and respectful to all learners. Taking time to listen to individuals and also expressing a genuine interest in what they have to say. Practitioners should also encourage learners to talk civilly about any differences, to respect the opinions of others, and not allow any conflict to escalate.
If the belongingness and love needs are not met, then the learner will not progress further and achieve his or her esteem needs. This is a critical point in the learning process as this is when the learner begins to value and respect themselves, and their self-confidence grows.
Importance of Emotional Intelligence
Developing emotional intelligence (EI), also referred to as emotional quotient (EQ), is a key factor in learner success: but what is emotional intelligence?
Goleman, D. (1996, p.34)2 describes emotional intelligence as:
‘…being able to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hope.’
Goleman identified five ‘domains’ of EI as:
- Knowing your emotions
- Managing your own emotions
- Motivating yourself
- Recognising and understanding other people’s emotions
- Managing relationships, i.e. managing the emotions of others
Similarly, Mayer and Salovey (1997)3 developed a 16 step model of emotional intelligence that comprised four branches, as follows:
- The ability to perceive emotions in oneself and others accurately.
- The ability to use emotions to facilitate thinking.
- The ability to understand emotions, emotional language, and the signals conveyed by emotions.
- The ability to manage emotions so as to attain specific goals.
In order to promote emotional intelligence in learners, Goleman states that it is necessary to be able to recognise and respond to your own feelings as well as those of the learners. He advises that an emotional state in learners be encouraged.
Brearley, M. (2001)4 also supports the theory that developing emotional intelligence removes barriers to learning, and that it should indeed be an integral part of the learning process. He states that the outcomes of emotional intelligence in learners are:
• Emotional self-awareness
• Managing emotions
• Harnessing emotions productively
• Empathy reading emotions
• Handling relationships
Adults and young people who possess emotional intelligence have a strong awareness of their emotions and are able to mange them effectively. They do not allow negative feelings to hold them back and simultaneously, use positive emotions to motivate themselves to achieve their goals. It is beneficial, therefore, for the digital literacy practitioner to recognise the advantages of emotional intelligence and how it can be utilised in adults and young people.
Emotional intelligence is particularly relevant when it comes to interactions on social media. These often generate an immediate and sometimes emotional response from the learner. This is why teaching the responsibility component of digital literacy, whilst recognising the benefits of emotional intelligence, are so important. It can assist a learner in acknowledging the emotions that they are experiencing and in doing so, avoid potential and unnecessary conflict.
• Developing their own emotional intelligence
• Encouraging learners to reflect upon their own emotional intelligence
• Creating a safe and positive learning and digital environment
• Establishing standards for acceptable behaviour
• Adopting a non-confrontational teaching style
• Building relationships with learners
• Using positive and encouraging language in the learning environment
• Displaying empathy for others
• Encouraging participation in classroom tasks and discussions
• Empowering learners by providing positive and timely feedback
READ MORE: Diversity and Inclusion in Digital Literacy
- Maslow, A. H. (1987) Motivation and Personality (3rd Edition). New York: Harper and Row Publishers Inc.
- Goleman, D. (1996) Emotional Intelligence. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
- Salovey P. and Sluyter D.J. Eds, (1997) Emotional development and Emotional Intelligence. New York: Basic Books.
- Brearley, M. (2001) Emotional Intelligence in the Classroom: Creative Learning Strategies for 11 – 18 Year Olds. Bristol: Crown House Publishing Limited.