Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth.


Have you ever stood at the front of the class or in front of a group of colleagues diligently explaining a concept then feeling excited only later to find out that your message was not received.

Often when we reflect on what happened, our first presumption is that “they did not understand”. This is often followed by questioning ones clarity or that you did not explain it completely. We then proceed to thinking about the message and the language that we used and even the explanation and examples that were used.

We are often so engrossed in trying to think about how to get everyone to understand, that we miss what is actually causing the miscommunication.


The simple definition of perception is “the organization, identification and interpretation of sensory information.” Great, so what does this mean, this means that the information we hear, the materials we read and the visualizations we observe are influenced by our life experiences and our understandings.

If this is confusing, think about these two points. As educators we are given a curriculum that we use to guide and determine our teaching of a subject and a grade. As teachers we go through the curriculum and then determine how we are going to plan our year and what manner we are going to teach. This plan is based on a personal, individual understanding and interpretation of the curriculum, even though we all have the same curriculum.

Second, this is more of an experiment. Using blocks or tooth picks or other shaped blocks, give individuals directions, only verbally about how to create a shape. They can not ask you any questions, only follow yours. They also can not look at each others creations. Once this is complete, ask everyone to reveal their representation of your instructions. You will be fascinated at the differing understandings and interpretations.

We are guided and influenced by our perceptions of the sensory information that we experience. Therefore we need to be conscious that when we present information, ideas and concepts to those we are teaching, that their perceptions will effect their understanding. Now the question is how do we present what we want and ensure that although everyone has different perceptions, that everyone understands?


2 thoughts on “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth.

  1. Always so important!

    I just commented on a post yesterday by John Spencer (… the difference between teaching and simply explaining is enormous. A “teacher” is someone who is able to gauge the responses of the learners to a new concept. It isn’t always about repeating the same thing over and over again. It’s as you said- each learner has different experiences that shape their perception. A “teacher” is able to help each learner process new information based on those experiences and perceptions.

    Great reminder, Shawn!

  2. Pingback: What type of Relationship do you have with People. « Learning to Lead, Inspiring to Change

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