Communicating with peers
Interacting with peers is a critical part of communication in my UW life. In the classroom context, I have to give feedback on the work produced by my peers and I will in turn receive feedback on the work that I produce. Being able to communicate effectively with my group members helps me get my work done by:
- Offering constructive feedback
- Answering relevant questions
- Using appropriate body language
As a math faculty student, before this semester, the only English language course I had taken was Engl102R which required lots of group work. We formed a five-people group, gave comments on other group mates’ work and received feedback from others. However I have always struggled with group work because I’m a “perfectionist” and was the type of kid who dominated group projects and only allowed my group mates to do little pieces of the project even through English is my second language. I have worked to reduce this tendency because other people have strengths that I don’t. For example one of my group mates called Ann has very good English writing skills.
In addition, I have never understood how to be diplomatic about rejecting weak ideas without sounding mean. I appreciated it when my Engl102R professor taught me that, when giving feedback on work done by my peers, I need to provide a balanced review which highlights both strength and areas for improvement. For example, David (one of my Engl102R group mate) wrote a unclear thesis statement of his part of essay. Instead of saying “what’s wrong with you, you idea is really vague”, I would say “I really like your sentence structure; I wonder if you would consider making your thesis more specific, I think it would make your conclusion even stronger”.
Asking questions is an important part of learning in my university life. I need to ask my peers questions and also answer their questions everyday. In high school, I always asked questions like “Hey bro, tell me the answer of this question.” In University, I learned that when I ask questions I need to avoid sounding hostile, pompous, or antagonistic as such a tone is likely to intimidate my peers.
Evaluating body language allows me to develop non-verbal awareness in a manner that allow me to communicate silently wit me peers. For instance, during a group presentation in my STAT 443 class, nodding as my group mate spoke suggested that I was following the conversation and was interested. This signal encouraged my peers to continue speaking. Eye contact can aid understanding and communicate respect as well. As stated above, offering feedback, answering questions and using body language are all variables contribute to long-lasting, respectful relationships. These variables that I learned from University help me to become a more efficient communicator in the future.
Communicate with professors
As a student in the University of Waterloo, I need to ensure I pay my professor the appropriate respect with regard to all forms of communication. This is a lesson I learned when I was enrolled in Physics 111 last semester. I got a poor grade at the beginning of the course since I was majoring in ACTSC and STAT and not familiar with Physics. Then I started ask questions by sending e-mails and going to professor’s office hours. At first, I wrote emails with no clear heading and no formal greeting. For example, I said “Hey Saisai” instead of saying “Hello professor Zhang” . To a new contact, this may seem disrespectful. The replies from my Physics professor were short and unclear since there were lots of grammar mistakes and spelling problems in my email. Then, I realized that it is incumbent upon me to double check my emails for appropriateness, accuracy and spelling, in order to clarify the questions I was asking. Being able to craft the perfect, respectful e-mail to my mentor will bring with it myriad rewards; professors will be more likely to answer my questions and they will respect me and my effort.
In addition, I met with my physics professor every two weeks to stay on track and ensure I was making good progress in class. I found that meeting with my professor in-office was a good time to build a positive relationship and demonstrate that I was working hard in class. In the end, I got an A as a final grade of my physics course. Two things I learned were that Communicating with professors helps us doing better in courses and that professional relationships with professors may also prove to be helpful in finding a job or pursuing a master’s degree after graduation.
In thinking about the rhetorical triangle, I realized that understanding how it is used would help me become an effective communicator not only through my speeches but also through the trust building and the emotional connecting.