Lower Secondary Students' Recognition of and Compliance with Conventional Indirect Requests (CIRs)

Chin Mei San, Agnes

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 2002


A teacher's use of conventional indirect requests (CIRs) as orders in classroom interaction may cause a communication problem. Firstly, students may not recognise the teachers' CIRs. Secondly, students may misinterpret that the teacher intends the CIRs as requests to which their compliance is optional rather than obligatory.

This Academic Exercise investigates lower secondary school students' recognition of and compliance with CIRs. The paper begins by addressing key-concepts relevant to this research such as speech acts, CIRs, indirectness, recognition and compliance. It then introduces factors that can influence students' compliance with CIRs and these are utilised for the data analysis. Using a modified version of Takahashi's (1980) taxonomy of CIRs, ten CIRs were constructed and they were incorporated into the design of a music lesson plan and its corresponding questionnaire. The lesson was conducted with ten classes in a neighbourhood school in Singapore and 130 questionnaires were collected. The data revealed that students' overall recognition rate of CIRs is high but the average recognition rate of lower ability students is lower than that of higher ability students. However, no direct relationship was found between the degree of indirectness of the CIRs and the students' recognition rates of the CIRs. The results also showed that the students' degree of compliance with the CIRs is affected by: politeness, perception of tasks involved, interest and optionality. In general, most students interpreted that the teacher intended the CIRs as requests to which their compliance is optional rather than obligatory.