The Shannon and Weaver Transmission Model

One of the earliest, most basic and well-known communication models is that of Shannon and Weaver (1949). Their model is sometimes referred to as the ‘Mother of Communication Models’ and it provides a good starting point for anyone studying communication theory.

As you can see in Figure 1.1, the arrows that show transmission from the Information Source to the Destination point in only one direction, reflecting the belief that messages flow in only one direction at any given time. It is therefore a linear process.

The Shannon and Weaver Transmission Model

Figure 1.1 The Shannon and Weaver Transmission Model.

The Shannon and Weaver model consists of five parts and what they term ‘noise’. In a face-to-face communication

  • 1. the information would be the idea that you had in your head;
  • 2. the transmitter would be you sending the message;
  • 3. the channel would be your voice as you speak the idea;
  • 4. the receiver would be the ear of the person to whom you are talking;
  • 5. the destination would be the intended person’s head.

Noise, as you can see, can occur at any point within that communication process, and can prevent the original thought or idea reaching its destination intact and as intended. Noise can be anything. Noise might be

  • • physical, i.e. what we commonly call noise, a loud sound (physical noise);
  • • psychological, i.e. an emotion such as anxiety or a strongly-held point of view or a cultural barrier (psychological noise);
  • • semantic, i.e. a language or representation problem (semantic noise);
  • • physiological, i.e. deafness, blindness or pain (physiological noise).

Noise can interrupt the communication at any stage.


  • 1. Imagine yourself in a busy work area. What sorts of noise do you think might stop your message getting through to another person?
  • • Are people or machines making a 'noise'?
  • • Is the other person in an emotional state, are they flustered, worried, angry or even frightened?
  • • Is their perception of the situation different from yours?
  • • Do they understand the language you are using?
  • • Do they have a particular communication problem?
  • 2. Make a list of some of the common things that you think would cause 'noise' and interfere with communications in your place of work, and discuss your experiences with a colleague. It might help if you list the noises under the headings offered. You'll be surprised at what constitutes 'noise', particularly when you explore the psychological aspect.

If your message is not getting across, this simple model gives you the opportunity to explore some of the reasons why. Once the ‘noise’ is identified you can then try to eliminate or at least modify the ‘noise’ or message in some way. The possibilities are all subject to the nature of the ‘noise’ and may require you to do some strategic thinking and extra planning to ensure your message gets across. Can you think of any recent examples of ‘noise’ interfering with a message you wanted to convey? In Chapters 2 and 6 we will look at noise again by thinking about blocks and barriers to communication and we’ll be exploring ways of overcoming these barriers in order to ensure effective communication.

As teachers we experience ‘noise’ in the learning situation all the time, particularly in the large groups that we sometimes have to teach. We often hear colleagues say, ‘I told the students yesterday, why don’t they listen?’ Our response is always the same. Telling someone something doesn’t mean they have heard what you say and, using Shannon and Weaver’s model, our approach is to identify the ‘noise’ that stopped the message getting across and to try other ways to make sure the message is delivered, heard and understood. Other methods to overcome noise in this example will often involve using alternative modes and channels of communication including announcements, notices, ICT, other people, good old repeating oneself, using humour to capture attention, jumping up and down or sometimes even whispering. These are all strategies that we use in the classroom. The strategies you use should be appropriate to the situation and to the person or people you are communicating with. Never believe that people have heard exactly what you meant to say without first checking their understanding and making sure the message reached its destination intact and as you intended it. Using such a simple strategy will help avoid all sorts of complications later on.

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