Mental Model Enhancement via Multimodal Communication Methods: Benefit for Self-directed Learner


  • Silvi Tenjes



mental models, multimodal means of communication, qualitative microethnographic video analysis


The article deals with the enhancement of the structures of mental models, i.e. of knowledge, of military leaders via the analysis and learning of components of multimodal communication. An overview of previous research concerns military leaders in interaction, mental models, dialogue and multi-party communication. The theoretical part of the article introduces the concepts of and approaches to mental representations and models and outlines the most recent positions from brain research and the definitions and research methods of multimodal communication. The term mental representations signifies the way information is stored in an individual’s mind – in words, pictures, abstract connections or some other way. Mental representations may occur in three different forms: propositions (totally abstract and verbally expressible), mental models (knowledge structures in various potential shapes and at different levels of perfection that an individual has built based on the existing knowledge and theories and that are therefore subjective) and mental images (somewhat more specific representations retaining many of the perceivable features of the objects and of the details of a particular situation). Multimodal communication is communication involving more than two sensory modalities. The resources of the human body that produce information for different sensory modalities are motor, or production, modalities. Thus, gestures may produce information for visual modality and speech organs phonemes for auditory modality. Multimodal means of communication are considered to be prosody, speech, hand gestures, artefacts, facial expressions, body postures and eye gaze direction. The objective of the research was to identify, by means of observation and video data microanalysis, the components of verbal and non-verbal communication in officers and non-commissioned officers, and to evaluate their use in public performance and communication. The data comprises lessons for officers and non-commissioned officers recorded in an auditorium using a single camcorder. The non-commissioned officers were recorded in a written and oral self-expression course and the officers during a leadership course. A total of 59 non-commissioned officers participated in the self-expression course and 10 officers attended the leadership course. The video data analysis is based on the qualitative microethnography and communication ethnography method, which is rooted in the qualitative microanalysis method, i.e. the particular video clips under analysis are viewed repeatedly and thoroughly. The learning and analysis of public performance and communication was based on multimodal means of communication. Consideration was given to the classification of communication modalities according to I. Poggi8 (see also Annex 2): head movements, facial expressions, hand gestures, body posture, voice volume, smile or absence thereof. The non-commissioned officers delivered a previously prepared written report in a two-minute speech to their colleagues in the auditorium (total duration of data 1 h 38 min 16 sec). Use of notes during the speech was permitted – thus complementing the performance context with an artefact and manipulation thereof. The officers presented role plays prepared by their instructor (three dialogues and one multi-party communication situation, total duration of data 48 min 12 sec). The non-commissioned officers previously perused Poggi’s classification of communication modes as an independent study assignment, and after the first analyses by the teacher at the seminar of analysis and feedback started to also analyse the videos presented. The officers acquired knowledge during the course of collective analysis but were also driven by the desire to analyse their fellow students after the latter had just analysed them . The preliminary results of the two-level analysis of the research provide information on the ways of replenishing the knowledge structure, which are individual activities and related also to self-direction. The theoretical framework used in the article connects cognitive and sign theory studies (C. S. Peirce) with mental representations and models: 1) learning to know multimodal means of communication, the motor part of which being basically iconic and/or indexical and the linguistic part providing a symbolic presentation; 2) learning to present the corresponding modalities, being aware that they were seen and heard by the fellow students and the instructor (conveying the meaning); 3) learning to cognitively receive and understand the modalities presented (understanding the meaning). The connection with the mental models consists – by the definition – in the perception enhancement and linguistic comprehension of the officers and non-commissioned officers (enhancement of the knowledge structure). Another finding from this research is related to reflection, or analysis, which yields representation on the mental level (is individual). Mental models as knowledge structures can be developed by the learner himself. What is retained in one’s head (what the brain forms) is up to oneself; however, it is compiled by receiving the production modalities of the participants in a communication situation involving the learner and using the learner’s own activity of sensory modalities, i.e. his perceptions.


Download data is not yet available.