There are a number of ways oral communication can be integrated into any course curriculum. Formal speeches are the most obvious means for teaching oral communication, but by no means are they the only strategy. What follows are activities and suggestions for emphasizing each of the five elements of the oral communication rubric endorsed by the GCP Committee. Additionally, general speech assignments and suggestions for adapting oral communication into any course are provided.
General Suggestions and Considerations
1. Understand the uniqueness of oral communication
There are a number of important differences between oral and written communication. Discussing these differences is valuable, but understanding them as you assign and discuss oral communication is essential. Bullet points outlining some of these differences are provided.
2. Codify a time limit for presentations and activities.
Oral presentations take up more class time than other activities. It is important that activities have a set time limit. This not only helps achieve equity and clarity for grading and performance, but it also helps with course planning and time management.
3. Make the formality of presentation commensurate with goals of the activity.
There are formal and informal ways to orally present information. If the goal of the activity is to promote better delivery skills and confront apprehension, formal presentations are better choices. Either way, the activity should ask students to put themselves in front of the group in a way that highlights the oral delivery of information.
4. Promote apprehension as normal.
Help students understand that apprehension is really adrenaline, or energy, that needs to be directed and controlled. It is natural and positive that they feel a bit anxious because the energy is a resource that can be channeled into their presentation. The likelihood of the anxiety preventing them from delivering their speech is unlikely. (As an example, in my 29 years of teaching public speaking I have only had two students not able to complete their speech, and in each case (1) they admitted to not practicing ahead of time, and (2) completed their speech in the next class session.)
5. Provide samples and include critiquing as preparation.
Students will feel much more comfortable with speaking assignments if they see samples of the assignment when completed. While this is not always possible, it is a good idea to offer a general speech for students to critique. Engaging a discussion of what is effective oral communication through their own insights can be both comforting and empowering.
6. General suggestions for speech evaluation
A list of suggestions for assigning and evaluating oral presentations is included.
A great number of similarities exist between oral and written communication. Both are audience driven. Both demand a great deal of attention to language choice and style. The effectiveness and appropriateness of both are determined by context. At the same time, there are critical differences, such as…
· Audiences must be engaged through both verbal and nonverbal language, making considerations such as appearance important
· Command of language requires greater clarity and less complexity for oral channels
· The role of listener should be promoted, ideally through peer criticism and audience feedback
· Communication is more temporary
· Students should be encouraged to recognize and replace informal communication behaviors that may be distraction as presentational behaviors
· The level of preparation is greater for oral communication than in other forms of communication
· Time is an important factor
There are also similarities between oral and written communication, such as…
· Good communicators attempt to uncover audience needs and interests prior to communicating with them
· Good communicators monitor feedback and adjust communication in order to ensure being understood
· Good communicators adapt their choices to the given context
· Rules of effective organization and language choice tend to be similar for all communication endeavors
The Communication Process
The key to understanding this diagram is to realize that communication occurs as meaning becomes shared. Each participant in the communication process brings to the communication situation fields of experience, or frames of reference. While these are different, through communication, they may begin to overlap one another. As this occurs, meaning becomes shared. The more shared the meaning, the more effective the communication effort has been. These fields of experience overlap as feedback occurs. It is important to realize that feedback is continuous, interference is constant, and that shared meaning is not automatic. It takes effort to overcome differences and interference and more toward a shared meaning.
Perhaps the most significant thing to keep in mind when evaluating speeches is the mindset of the average student. They are feeling more anxiety toward this activity than the assignments in most of their other classes. Likewise, students probably have less experience with this type of activity than other assignments they are completing in other classes. In light of these realities, consider these suggestions.
Include Demonstrations or Video Samples of Speeches
· Be clear to the students that they are not expected to meet the standards of the demonstration or video sample
· The demonstration may work better due to the interaction that can take place after the sample presentation
Include All Details in the Assignment—And Provide Written Versions of the Project
· There is a propensity that students will pay more attention to the details of this assignment because of their anxiety and lack of familiarity with speaking in public
· More detail and control in the hands of the student can alleviate anxiety
Include a Copy of the Evaluation Form
· Again, students will feel less anxious if they fully understand how they will be evaluated
Provide Brief Oral Comments Immediately After Each Speech
· Using the rules for delivering constructive criticism, positive comments immediately after the speech can put speakers to ease—both the person being evaluated and those yet to speak
Objectify and Compartmentalize Evaluation Forms as Much as Possible
· Controlling the subjectivity of oral presentations is made easier if the speech is broken into components
· Assigning an objective point scale to each component can place weight on aspects of the assignment that are more or less important to achieving class objectives
· Evaluating in a compartmental manner can prevent strong aspects of the assignment overshadowing weaker aspects of the performance