ERIC Identifier: ED392111
Publication Date: 1996-00-00
Author: Mino, Mary
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading
English and Communication Bloomington IN.
Taking Personal and Professional Contexts into Account in the
Basic Public Speaking Course. ERIC Digest.
The basic course in communication skills is an integral part of the college
and university curriculum--instruction in speaking and listening competencies is
one of the essential features of a minimum required curriculum for a coherent
undergraduate education (Ford and Wolvin, 1993).
This Digest will consider how to more effectively integrate basic public
speaking concepts into students' personal and professional lives.
RELEVANCE OF PUBLIC SPEAKING
When teaching the basic public
speaking course, instructors most often focus their efforts on presenting the
theory and describing the mechanics involved in the public speaking process
(Gibson et al., 1985; Johnson and Szczupakiewicz, 1987). Rarely do instructors
effectively clarify the rationale for how basic public speaking course content
is useful in "real life" contexts (Mino, 1988). Consequently, students often
question the relevance of enrolling in a public speaking course because they
fail to see the connection between learning public speaking skills and applying
these skills in real life situations. In fact, Ford and Wolvin (1993) contend
that very few students see any connection between learning public speaking
skills and applying them beyond the classroom. They recommend that instructors
should try to determine how to better deliver public speaking training so that
it impacts on students' personal, academic, and professional lives.
Frymier and Shulman (1995) are among the researchers who have studied the
concept of "relevance," which they have defined as "student perception of
whether the course instruction/content satisfies personal needs, personal goals,
and/or career goals." Application Speech
The application speech is one instruction activity that helps students
discover the relevance of the basic public speaking course. Specifically, the
speech illustrates how the oral communication concepts presented in the basic
course are inherent in all communication situations.
The instructor describes and assigns this
ungraded activity prior to students' final graded speeches. Because students
need to practice communicating with an audience and are often anxious about
public speaking, this activity allows them to practice using their public
speaking skills without the pressure of "a grade." The instructor should provide
for each student a written or oral critique that focuses on basic communication
skills such as audience analysis, organization, evidence, and delivery. These
critiques not only acquaint students with the instructor's critiquing style but
also share with students their performance strengths and weaknesses.
Understanding their strengths and weaknesses as public speakers gives students
an advantage when preparing graded assignments.
Instructors should allow students time to prepare for this speech. The
assignment is described during one class session early in the semester and
scheduled for one to two classes (depending on student enrollment) later on.
Students are asked to:
(1) Review basic public speaking concepts such as
listening, audience analysis, organization, evidence, and delivery.
Select a concept or concepts. Think about when, where, how, and how often you
use the concept or concepts in your personal or professional life.
Prepare an organized two-to-three minute speech that clearly illustrates how a
concept or concepts apply to you in personal and/or professional situations.
There is no need to conduct formal research for this assignment. Develop your
speech using real or hypothetical examples based on your own personal
experiences or perceptions.
This activity appears to have a
positive impact on students during all stages of the assignment.
While preparing for their application speeches, students often comment about
personal or professional contexts where public speaking concepts apply and how
they did not realize the relevance of learning these concepts before preparing
for this assignment.
When presenting the speeches, students share cogent examples that describe
for their classmates the utility or value of a variety of basic public speaking
course concepts in numerous personal and professional contexts.
Reactions continue after the speeches are presented. One striking example
involves a student who apologized to his audience for his comment he had made
about the course. He said, "I told you how worthless it was to take a public
speaking course on the first day of class. After all, we talk all the time and
we aren't going to be professional public speakers. Why learn about it? But all
through this assignment I thought about how public speaking involves learning to
speak--in public--with all listeners. It makes an impression on my family, my
friends, my boss, my classmates, and my professors. Why not take it and take
time to learn, as our professor puts it, 'to orally communicate effectively in
Donald E. Novak would be in agreement with this student's "feedback." Going
beyond the basic course and working with upper level undergraduates, Novak
(1992) has developed a speech communication course which involves student
collaboration with community entities, a course about which he says: "The
challenge of this course is to enable students to understand the real-world
workings of applied communication and how they can use what they have learned in
the undergraduate program to bring about change in their and others'
communication choices...it educates students for life while helping them to see
the practical application of what they have learned."
Some instructors favor group exercises and
collaboration to enhance
relevance--they feel that group activities (especially experiential learning
exercises) which actually produce something closely emulate an actual job, but
in a low risk setting (Mandeville, 1994). The exercise developed by Mandeville
involves the manufacture of a simple product using paper as the base material
with the employment of basic office tools, but the focus is really the discovery
of how to improve group communication skills.
Glaser (1995) elaborated a final examination for a basic public speaking
course for honors students which featured group discussion and which also
focuses on practical applications. The students had to agree on a topic which
they would be happy to discuss over a 2-hour period, and individual preparation
for the group discussion had to be rigorous and structured so that the
discussion could be free flowing and allow for a valid assessment. For a
modification, Glaser is considering assigning positions to the class to ensure a
variety of perspectives and a more interesting discussion. The cooperative
aspect of the class and the final exam mirror the cooperation needed in real
world situations, especially in an increasingly multicultural workplace.
Ford, Wendy S. Zabava, and Andrew D. Wolvin
(1993). "The Differential Impact of a Basic Communication Course on Perceived
Communication Competencies in Class, Work, and Social Contexts." Communication
Education, 42(3), 215-23. [EJ 463 803]
Frymier, Ann Bainbridge, and Gary M. Shulman (1995). "'What's in It for Me?':
Increasing Content Relevance to Enhance Students' Motivation." Communication
Education, 44(1), 40-50. [EJ 497 372]
Gibson, John W., et al. (1985). "The Basic Speech Course at U.S. Colleges and
Universities: IV." Communication Education, 34(4), 281-91. [EJ 326 419]
Glaser, Hollis (1995). "A Multi-Cultural Final Examination for the Public
Speaking Course." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech
Communication Association (San Antonio). [CS 509 164] Johnson, John R., and
Nancy Szczupakiewicz (1987). "The Public Speaking Course: Is It Preparing
Students with Work Related Public Speaking Skills?" Communication Education,
36(2), 131-37. [EJ 352 123]
Mandeville, Mary Y. (1994). "Using Experiential Learning to Teach Group
Communication Interaction." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech
Communication Association (New Orleans). [ED 376 541]
Mino, Mary (1988). "Making the Basic Public Speaking Course 'Relevant': Is It
Preparing Students with Work-Related Public Speaking Skills?" The Speech
Communication Teacher, 3(1), 14.
Novak, Donald E. (1992). "Communication Training for the Real World: Linking
Community Needs to the Undergraduate Course." Paper presented at the Annual
Meeting of the Speech Communication Association (Chicago). [ED 354 552]