What is the Demand Control Schema for Interpreting (DC-S)?

Dean and Pollard (2001) adapted the demand control concept from occupational research conducted by Robert Karasek (1979) and Törres Theorell (Karasek & Theorell, 1990). Karasek and Theorell recognized that occupational stress and illness, or work satisfaction and effectiveness, arise from an interactive dynamic between the challenges (demands) presented by work tasks in relation to the resources (controls or decision latitude) that workers bring to bear in response to job demands. This interactive view of work challenges and worker resources was a rejection of more static views of occupational stress as a function of specific job types. For example, while the occupations of firefighter, teacher, or physician are commonly viewed as high-stress, occupational research such as Karasek's documented that such professions were not associated with high rates of stress-related illness if workers had adequate resources (e.g., education, experience, equipment and materials, emotional support, and flexibility in decision-making) to perform well in light of job demands. In contrast, when workers were least able to respond to high-demand job situations, (i.e., when they had few controls), stress-related illnesses were at their highest levels.

Dean and Pollard (2001) used the framework of D-C theory to examine the nature of demands and controls in the interpreting profession specifically. They defined four categories of job demands that act upon interpreters: environmental demands, interpersonal demands, paralinguistic demands (formerly referred to as linguistic demands), and intrapersonal demands . Environmental demands are interpreting challenges or success requirements that pertain to the assignment setting (e.g., the need to understand consumers' occupational roles and specialized terminology specific to a given setting or tolerance of space limitations, odors, extreme temperatures, or adverse weather). Interpersonal demands are interpreting challenges or success requirements that pertain to the interaction of the consumers (e.g., the need to understand and mediate cultural differences, power differences and dynamics, differences in fund of information (Pollard, 1998), or the unique perceptions, preconceptions, and interactional goals of the consumers.) Paralinguistic demands are interpreting challenges or success requirements that pertain to overt aspects of the expressive communication of deaf and hearing consumers, i.e., the clarity of the –raw material” the interpreter sees and hears. Examples of paralinguistic demands are when a hearing individual has a heavy accent or is mumbling or when a deaf individual is signing lazily, lying down, or has an object in his or her hands. Finally, intrapersonal demands are interpreting challenges or success requirements that pertain to the internal physiological or psychological state of the interpreter (e.g., the need to tolerate hunger, pain, fatigue, or distracting thoughts or feelings).

In Dean and Pollard's D-C schema, controls are skills, decisions, or other resources that an interpreter may bring to bear in response to the demands presented by a given work assignment. Controls for interpreters may include education, experience, preparation for an assignment, behavioral actions or interventions, particular translation decisions, (e.g., specific word or sign choices or explanatory comments to consumers), encouraging –self-talk,” or the simple yet powerful act of consciously acknowledging the presence and significance of a given demand and the impact it is having on an interpreting assignment. As adapted from Karasek's D-C theory, the term controls refers to a broad array of worker characteristics, abilities, judgments, and actions that contribute to effective work. As we use the term, it is a noun, not a verb, and is preferably stated as control options. The term does not refer to –taking control,” –having control,” or "being in control" over demands that may arise. Control options may or may not be effective in meeting demands À in fact, the analysis of the effectiveness and consequences of how one chooses to respond (or not respond) to a given demand is the fundamental manner in which the D-C schema is applied during teaching, supervision, or self-analysis of interpreting work. Dean and Pollard define three temporal opportunities where controls may be employed: pre-assignment controls (e.g., education, language fluency, and assignment preparation), assignment controls (i.e., behavioral and translation decisions made during the assignment itself), and post-assignment controls (e.g., follow-up behaviors and continuing education). When engaging in a D-C work analysis, recognition of a given demand sparks consideration and critique of control options that might be employed during each of these three time periods.

See our publications page for a complete listing of our DC-S and other publications, many of which are available free of charge by request. For further information, contact Robyn Dean.

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