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The importance of cultural background knowledge in understanding student needs

Discuss about the Cultural Differences: Teacher Of Michel’s Insolence At School.

The cultural background knowledge aims at understanding the cultural differences and the diverse background, which plays a major role in determining the needs of the student. An important consideration is being undertaken by the teacher in this context, which portrays the concern of the teacher for understanding he issues faced by the student. An example of such can be taken from the transcript when the teacher enquires of the activities that the student Michel undertook n his home. The understanding of the shifts in the environment and its impact on the student is evident through the conversation as the parent retaliates to the comment of the teacher of Michel’s insolence at school.

On the other hand, the interpersonal background knowledge helps in determining the transfer of information, which is being undertaken by the teacher and the parent while in the meeting. The exchange of the information on the progress of the student is being communicated to the parent by the teacher, which shall help the parent in understanding the huge change in the behavior of the student at home and at school.

The background information is both shared and unshared in certain cases. Michel is known to the teacher and the parent; however, the parent was required to get introduced to the teacher through the share of the interpersonal background knowledge.

Personal deixis plays an important role in the conversation that is being undertaken by the teacher and the student in this context. It helps in the proper understanding of the role of the speaker, the addressee and the referent.  The evidence of the cooperation is evident throughout the communication that is being undertaken by the teacher and the parent. However, it is more evident in the communication that is undertaken by the teacher and the parent in lines 63-65. Here the speaker is looking out for the steps that the addressee could have undertaken for bringing in changes in the constituents of Michel.  It helps in the proper understanding of the value of cooperation that the speaker and the addressee is undertaking for understanding the issues faced by Michel, the referent. The proper understanding of the different factors of the change in the behaviour of the student is evident from the understanding of the different factors that is affecting his academic studies. Therefore, the teacher and the parent cooperate with one another to understand the issue that is being faced by the student.

Interpersonal background knowledge and the transfer of information

According to the politeness principle by Geoffrey Leech the six maxims for politeness are: tact, generosity, approbation, modesty, agreement, and sympathy. In the line 32, the teacher replies modestly to the disapproval of the parent relating to the referent, Michel’s behavior. On the other hand, the teacher agrees to the parent’s disapproval to the teacher’s comment on the lag of the student in his studies. It is evident in the line 16 where the teacher agrees (Agreement maxim) to the past grades of the student, which was portrayed by the parent as a good one to prove the worthiness of Michel. It helps in understanding of the application of Leech’s politeness principles.


The teacher has made use of the negative FTA (Face Threatening Act) while complaining to the parent of the progress that is being made by Michel. The determination of the lags in the capability of the student is being identified and communicated to the parent by the teacher. It is aimed at helping the parent in determining the major factors of the change that the parent must supervise of Michel.

The mitigation strategy that is being used by the teacher is based on the identification of the maxims of politeness and instilling the same in the communication practices. The usage of modesty and sympathy has helped the teacher in mitigating the FTA issues, which helped the same in making the conversation more polite. It is evident through the study of the conversations undertaken by the teacher where the teacher says-  “well, I think you should really sit down with him and I'm happy to do that with you, if you like or with the head of faculty, and talk about what he really wants to do after school and what he wants to aim towards.  Ah and  if he's willing to put in the work in other subjects”

The utterance of the parent while cross checking on the teacher as per the progress of the student in his academic career poses a threat to the positive face of the teacher. It can be found in the line 13 and many other lines in the transcript as the parent seemed to challenge and question the understanding of the teacher as per the needs of the profession.

An example of the positive politeness strategy is evident from the line 24 as the parent tries to convince the teacher that Michel is not insolent at home and is good at his studies. It is a polite reply that is being given by the teacher in the referred line because the teacher did not negate the comments made by the parent directly; however, the teacher made the parent aware of the fact of Michel’s misconduct at school. The teacher undertook the modest manner of replying to the comment made by the parent for ensuring the proper transmission of the information to the parent of the student’s progress. On the other hand, the teacher actually did not negate the notion that was introduced by the parent by stating that it was perhaps the environment that affected the student’s behavior.

Shared and unshared background knowledge

The Indirect Speech Act is based on the understanding of the relation, which the speaker wants to break voluntarily between the structure and the form in order to bring in the difference in the content that is to be communicated. One example of the indirect speech act that is being undertaken by the parent is evident in line 142 of the transcript. It is an indirect speech act of interrogative nature because the proper understanding of the different forms and structure are not balanced as the speaker, the parent enquires about the activity of the teacher that is not exciting the student through the statement in an indirect form.

Intended Illocutionary Force is one where the speaker’s views are misunderstood and negated in different situations based on the different perceptions of the students. It helps in the proper functioning of the different dynamics of communication as per the speech acts.

The maxim of quantity is where the speaker tries to be more informative in order to transmit the maximum knowledge to the addressee. Moreover, the proper understanding of the maxim is enabled through the determination of the truthful information, which is supported by proper evidence.  In this context, the parent has breached the Grice's Maxims, which has affected the communication that is being undertaken by the same. The example of such a breach is evident in the lines 30 and 31, where the parent was incapable of providing the teacher with a valid evidence of Michel’s attitude while supporting the student by saying that “..such an outgoing such a nice kid.  He's got lots of friends and I've never heard a teacher say that he was insolent before”. The parent could not support the justification with evidence based on the phrases ‘nice kid’ and ‘lots of friends’.

The teacher used the downgrading in the lines 16-20 where the teacher talks of the issues faced by the student while pursuing the subject. However, the teacher also acknowledges as per the belief that the student is struggling to do his best in the subject.

On the other hand, the parent used the downgrading in the lines 21-23 where the parent was defending the student by saying that the student cannot be insolent as per their knowledge. Moreover, the parent defends and the sticks on to the point that Michel is a ‘nice’ boy in order to enshroud the student from the accusations.

The role of personal deixis in communication

The parent used more of the downgrading in order to portray the issues faced by the student to be smaller than that perceived by the teacher.

The analysis of the transcript as was undertaken by me has helped in the understanding of the different concepts relating to Deixis, mutually assumed knowledge, Speech act theory, Gricean maxims and the politeness theories. The most revealing theory that has helped me in evaluating the transcript is the politeness theories. The politeness maxim as stated by Geoffrey Leech has helped in the understanding of the type of conversation that is being undertaken by the teacher and the parent in determining the progress made by the student (Holmes, 2012). The Person Deixis on the other hand, has helped in the determination of the role of the speaker, the addressee and the referent, which has helped in the understanding of the different methods of evaluation of the communication (Duchan, Bruder  & Hewitt, 2012). The generosity, modesty, agreement and sympathy are being portrayed through the dialogues of the teacher, which forms the epitome of the politeness maxim. It has helped in the identification of the various aspects of the understanding that is being promoted by the teacher and the sympathy that the teacher portrayed through the communication.

The Gricean maxims have helped in the understanding of the quantity and the truthfulness of the dialogues that are being undertaken by the speaker. It helps in determining the various aspects of the change that is being undertaken by the speaker in their respective speeches while communicating with the addressee (Vogel et al. 2013). The proper understanding of the maxims has helped in determining the prospects of the analysis of the communication (Sifianou, 2012). The politeness theories have helped in determining the change in the structure and the functioning of the teacher and the parent meet which is aimed at making the progress of the student. The teacher and the parent meet up to discuss the prospects of the progression of the student. On the other hand, the understanding of the downgraders has helped in determining the communication that is being undertaken by the teacher and then parent.

References

Duchan, J. F., Bruder, G. A., & Hewitt, L. E. (Eds.). (2012). Deixis in narrative: A cognitive science perspective. Psychology Press.

Holmes, J. (2012). 11 Politeness in Intercultural Discourse and Communication. The handbook of intercultural discourse and communication, 29, 205.

Sifianou, M. (2012). Disagreements, face and politeness. Journal of Pragmatics, 44(12), 1554-1564.

Vogel, A., Bodoia, M., Potts, C., & Jurafsky, D. (2013). Emergence of Gricean maxims from multi-agent decision theory. In Proceedings of the 2013 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies (pp. 1072-1081).

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