Power in the classroom

Like most people in Waterloo, I was upset that my older peers did not have to take a communication course and I did. I felt that these courses were common sense and that my time was better spent studying real world technical concepts.  There was no clear explanation given to me as to the reasoning behind introducing these courses into the curriculum.


After taking the course, I now have a completely different perspective on the situation. I went into this course with the expectation that it was a grammar course focused on the minutiae of how to format technical reports which I will never write. However, it actually turned out to be a course on persuasive communication which is something vastly more important. Persuasion allows you to convince other people of your ideals, in doing so it gives you power over other people. Essentially, this is a course on how to obtain power in the modern technology economy – pretty badass!

I have to say that I am really thankful to Sara and the way that she taught the course. Every concept that was taught was always linked back to some activity that we would do in the workplace, this way I had an understanding of where I was going to use these techniques in the future and motivation to study them ( I wish more courses did this! ). I find that it is quite hard for me to learn when I do not see an immediate future application of a concept and it was refreshing to see that the course that I thought had the least “real-world” applications actually proved to be one of the more useful courses I have taken.

So what did I learn about power?

The Rhetorical Triangle –  this is one of my most useful takeaways from the course and something that I find applicable to many different areas. Essentially, when trying to convince someone of anything you need to have three elements in place to have a sound argument:

  • Ethos: Why should they listen to you?
  • Pathos: Do they agree with your values?
  • Logos: Does your argument make logical sense to them?


It is impossible to truly convince anyone if one of these elements is missing.

Aristotle's Rhetorical Triangle[1]


Presentation Skills – The TED talk project was a good at helping me learn how to obtain power through verbal presentations. It taught me that the way I present something is just as important as what I am presenting. TED talks are popular because they are deceptively simple and communicate a few ideas extremely well. After this project I my presentation slides clear and concise, presenting at most one factual point at a time with all of my arguments backed by the framework set out in the rhetorical triangle.   

I am very happy that we have to take this course, I think there is a very strong dogma around soft skills in Waterloo and they are severely undervalued. I truly felt that I and many of my class mates learned how to become better communicators throughout the semester. I can’t wait to use my new found skills to persuade people outside the classroom.

“Persuasion is often more effectual than force.”
     – Aesop  


One thought on “Power in the classroom

  1. You are singing my song here. I think most students don’t realize how much they need communication skills UNTIL they hit the workplace and then it’s too late or more difficult to learn, at the very least. I would say that the rhetoric can give you power over others but that would be an abuse of rhetoric. Rather, rhetoric is about creating common ground, not submission of others. Your life will be much better if you use rhetoric ethically.


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