The Demand Control Schema: Interpreting as a Practice Profession

Robyn K. Dean, Robert Q Pollard, Jr

Robyn Dean and Robert Pollard have been developing the demand control schema (DC-S) and their practice-profession approach to community interpreting since 1995.  With its early roots pertaining to occupational health in the interpreting field, DC-S has evolved into a holistic work analysis framework which guides interpreters in their development of ethical and effective decision-making skills.  Adapted from Robert Karasek’s demand control theory, this textbook is the culmination of nearly two decades of work, as it evolved over the course of 22 articles and book chapters and nine DC-S research and training grants.  Designed primarily for classroom use in interpreter education programs (IEPs), interpreting supervisors, mentors, and practitioners also will find this book highly rewarding.  IEPs could readily use this text in introductory courses, ethics courses, and in practicum seminars.  Each of its ten chapters guides the reader through increasingly sophisticated descriptions and applications of all the key elements of DC-S, including its theoretical constructs, the purpose and method of dialogic work analysis, the schema’s teleological approach to interpreting ethics, and the importance of engaging in reflective practice, especially supervision of the type that is common in other practice professions.  Each chapter concludes with a class activity, homework exercises, a check for understanding (quiz), discussion questions, and an advanced activity for practicing interpreters.  The first page of each chapter presents a list of the chapter’s key concepts, preparing the reader for an efficient and effective learning experience.  Numerous full-color photos, tables, and figures help make DC-S come alive for the reader and assist in learning and retaining the concepts presented.  Formal endorsements from an international panel of renown interpreter educators and scholars describe this text as “aesthetically pleasing,” praising its “lively, accessible style,” its “logic and organization,” and referring to it as an “invaluable resource” with international appeal to “scholars and teachers.”  Spoken language interpreters also are proponents of DC-S and will find the material in this text applicable to their education and practice, as well.

Key Concepts


  • Facilitating communication is more complex than the term might initially convey.
  • Interpreters will face demands in their work which come from four demand categories: environmental, interpersonal, paralinguistic, and intrapersonal.
  • An individual’s thought world impacts their communication and therefore the work of the interpreter.
  • Intrapersonal demands, if unknown or unidentified, can compromise an interpreter’s neutrality.


  • Controls are best understood as nouns not verbs.
  • Among other controls, age, gender, and ethnicity also can be understood as controls for interpreters.
  • Different interpreters will bring different controls to the EIPI demands of a job, which will create different demand control interactions and outcomes.

Chapter 3DC-S RUBRIC

  • The DC-S Rubric sets detailed standards for conducting a thorough situational analysis in accordance with the demand control schema.
  • Some scales of the DC-S Rubric hold more weight than others (scale 1, 2, 3, and 9) because they are fundamentally important in a DC-S analysis.
  • Identifying salient aspects of demands and controls are different skills and require time to develop.


  • Taxonomies, while artificial, help us understand and discuss important phenomena.
  • All the other demand categories flow from the environmental category.
  • The goal of the environment should impact decision-making in interpreting.
  • Interpersonal demands make up the bulk of interpreters’ work.


  • The interaction of demands and controls is a helpful way to understand and discuss worker effectiveness and worker health.
  • Demands are a function of the job, regardless of the interpreter; the interactions of controls with demands will be different for each interpreter.
  • Interpreting, like all practice professions, requires skills and knowledge beyond the technical skills that also are required for work effectiveness.
  • There are usually many control options an interpreter could employ – from liberal to conservative ones – that would be ethical and effective in a given situation.
  • Interpreters, like all practice professionals, run the risk of harmful and unethical behavior that is either too liberal or too conservative for a given situation.
  • Choosing from among the many “right answers” is a skill that all practice professionals must develop over time; how that is developed is discussed in later chapters of this textbook.


  • Teleology and deontology are both valid ethical decision-making approaches but they are very different in how they express and apply values.
  • Teleology stresses the weighing of decision consequences against values whereas deontology stresses adherence to values-based rules.
  • Practice professions view ethics teleologically because of their common focus on practice consequences.
  • A code of ethics is a way that professions express their values.
  • The role of conduit or the valuation of invisibility in interpreting are better framed as reflecting the values of autonomy, agency, and self-determinacy.
  • There are other practice values that interpreting professionals employ in decision-making which need greater identification and exploration.
  • Role must always be understood within the context of responsibility.


  • Main demands are almost always interpersonal demands (what happened and what was said/signed) and require a response from the interpreter even if it is to do nothing.
  • Concurrent demands influence the main demand in important ways and flesh out the entire situational context.
  • Demand constellations is a construct that can be used to structure “it depends” dialogues in interpreter education, which improves learning.
  • When demand constellations cannot be built slowly in the classroom, understanding the full context for a given decision can often happen through reflective practice.


  • Positive consequences of control decisions are those that are intended and negative consequences are those that are naturally forfeited as a result.
  • Common mistakes in articulating positive and negative consequences include equating them with good or bad outcomes, success or failure of the control, and consumers’ reactions.
  • Control decisions can have more than one positive and/or negative consequence.
  • Consequences can lead to resolution or resulting demands.
  • Resulting demands can emerge as a consequence of the interpreter’s controls or because of negative consequences related to choices that must be made between incommensurate practice values.
  • Responsibility is defined as “staying with your actions” and being willing to continuously respond (employ controls) to resulting demands.


  • The dialogic work concept puts all the DC-S pieces together to create an ethical and effective practice sequence involving demand-control-consequence-resulting demand (DCCRD).
  • Reflective practice helps interpreters in their application of DC-S constructs, arrive at important answers to practical questions about controls (work decisions), and apply practice values in a DCCRD manner.
  • A goal of DC-S is to structure these reflective practice discussions amongst colleagues so that deicison-making can be improved in future work.


  • The goal of this textbook is to provide the interpreting profession with constructs that allow for effective dialogue about interpreting work.
  • Reflective practices employed by many professions go by different names but can be distilled to talking about work for the purposes of improvement.
  • There are barriers to overcome before reflective practices are widely used in interpreting, including what it means to be confidential.
  • Supervision is a type of reflective practice and, in part, involves the technique of case conferencing.  All techniques and practices of supervision, whether individual or group, are designed to assure quality service.