VUE - Examples from practice

Communication practice: Giving a speech


Key words: Active participation, oral presentation, verbal- and non-verbal communication

Helle Alrø,
Professor
Department of Communications
Aalborg University

BACKGROUND
This is an example of an assessment method, which was applied in the 5th semester course ”Communication Practice” offered by Humanistic Informatics and Communication at Aalborg University. The course was carried out in two days where students in teams of maximum 16 members were taught communications theory with a specific focus on strengthening skills in orally communicating academic knowledge to an audience. Active participation during the two days replaced the regular oral exam.

THE ACTIVITY
The course was carried out in two days with 8 hours of teaching per day. The students were divided into teams of maximum 16 students, and two teachers were present.

On the first day the teachers covered communications theory, specifically related to oral communication. The relevance of theories and their significance were also discussed. The students were introduced to and tried out physical exercises, such as relaxation and voice exercises, which can be conductive to oral communication.

The first day finished with each of the students being asked to prepare a speech about an optional topic for the next course day. The content of the speech was not important, on the contrary the emphasis was put on the student’s ability to perform a vivid and informative speech in a structured and personal manner that captured the attention of the audience. The speech should take 15-20 minutes, and it was recorded.
After performing the speech the student received feedback from the other students. The feedback consisted of an assessment of strengths and weaknesses in the student’s verbal and non-verbal communication, e.g. how much the student’s body language supported the communication of the message. When the feedback round finished, the student and one of teachers went to another room to review the recording of the speech. The purpose of this was to give the student professional discussion about the student’s presentation, and for the student to become more conscious about his or her performance and evaluate it.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES
The purpose of this assessment method was to train the students in oral communication. The objective was to improve the students’ awareness of the significance of verbal and non-verbal communication when they present a topic. Another objective was to train the students in giving constructive and motivational criticism.

FEEDBACK FROM THE STUDENTS
The students were positive about the days of communication practice. The students found that the two-day course increased their awareness of the communicative instruments that can facilitate entertaining and credible oral communication of a certain message. A number of students felt uncomfortable giving a speech in front of an audience, which was accentuated as the speech was recorded. Several students expressed that it felt ”very weird” to watch a recording of themselves, yet they also saw it as an effective method for identifying the strengths and weaknesses in their oral communication.

EVALUATION
This assessment method has the advantage that the students get the opportunity to practice and enhance the qualifications of their oral communication techniques. It is normal that some of them on the first day and the second day just before the speech feel very nervous. Thus, it is important to devote some time to present techniques to the students that can help them control their nervousness, e.g. breathing exercises etc. It is important to create a pleasant learning environment, where the students do not have to hide their nervousness or be afraid of making mistakes. As a teacher you have a significant task in forming the foundation for a pleasant learning environment and making the students feel comfortable. For this purpose it has proven to be beneficial to shake hands and say good morning to each students before the class starts.

Suitable for classes of:: Maximum 16 students
Suitable for level: Bachelor level
Suitable for offline, online or both:  Offline
Is the activity part of the curriculum? Yes

 

For more information about VUE please contact:
Centre for Teaching and Learning - Inger-Marie F. Christensen - imc@sdu.dk or Rie Troelsen - riet@sdu.dk

For more information about this assessment method please contact:
Helle Alrø - helle@hum.aau.dk