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Public Speaking Support Repository

Pages first created May 22, 2020, redesigned summer 2022, last updated August 20, 2023

This is the landing page for the resources curated by Dr. Christina Knopf, Professor and Presentation Skills Coordinator in the Communication & Media Studies Department at SUNY Cortland, to support public speaking instruction (COM210) and oral communication in General Education (PRES)

  • Basic syllabus & assessment requirements for all COM210 sections at SUNY Cortland

  • Informational resources for the instruction, support, and assessment of oral communication across the curricula. Tips for applying for PRES designation.

  • Scholarship on: speech teaching & learning, grading & assessment, accessibility, anxiety, DEI, presenting, & new formats... 

  • Ready-to-use digital materials, organized by topic, to support online, F2F, or hybrid classes. Includes IDEA resources.

  • Tools and tips to support remote and hybrid classes.

COM210
red tinted photo of a dragon statue

COM210

REQUIREMENTS

The Communication & Media Studies Department expects that the many sections of COM210 are standardized. Toward this goal, while maintaining instructors' academic freedom and autonomy, all sections of COM210 should:

  • share core student learning outcomes (SLOs) -- instructors may add to these with section-specific outcomes

  • share core assignments (4 speeches: special occasion, informative, persuasive, & ?; 2 exams, 1 "peer" critique, 1 self-critique) that are linked to these SLOs -- instructors may define the parameters & details of these assignments as desired

    • NOTE: Peer & self critique is a GE requirement and must be included for the course's PRES designation; General Education expects to see it included, and defined, on syllabi

  • use a common grading rubric, premised on the SLOs, for all speeches

  • share the same course-level grading scheme

  • share a common textbook

  • share a common antiracist reading

    • Waltman, M.S. (2018). "The normalizing of hate speech and how communication educators should respond," Communication Education, 67 (2), 259-265. Available through the college library.

  • share common syllabus content/statements as required by SUNY Cortland

✎Shared Syllabus components are comprised of the university requirements.

✎The common SLOs & rubrics for all COM210 sections were developed from the National Communication Association's (NCA) Learning Outcomes in Communication, the NCA Speaking and Listening Competencies for College Students, and the NCA Competent Speaker Evaluation Form, in line with the SUNY Cortland requirements for General Education Category 10, and with regards to DEIJ.

-A few notes on the rubric:

  • The items are taken directly from tested assessment tools developed and shared by the NCA.

  • Though they are condensed into just five categories, the skills listed in the rubric represent all eight of the public speaking competencies NCA outlines for undergraduate achievement.

    • If you look at the descriptive information on the second page, all the components usually found in speech rubrics are included.

  • The comments section and the availability of a grading range for each SLO category allows instructors to focus feedback where necessary. (Ex. If a student doesn't include a preview statement in their introduction, we can note that under the SLO3 category as related to organization. If a student's content is not appropriately adapted to the audience, that falls within SLO1. Etc.)

  • The rubric can easily be broken into pieces, depending on particular assignments. (Ex. An oral interpretation assignment may be graded using just the SLO5 categories.) 

  • Connection of the rubric to assignments will make it easier for instructors to demonstrate to both students and administration the purpose and goals of assignments, because the rubric is directly linked to the SLOs.

  • Use of the rubric will help us each to meet the department's and college's assessment needs more efficiently.

dragon scales

In 2024, new requirements for COM210 and updated guidelines for PRES will be released: the IDEALized public speaking curriculum.

 

There will be a new required text/readings, new grading rubric, revised core assignments, and suggested course materials to infuse public speaking and presentation skills with inclusivity, diversity, equity, and accessibility in learning.

This initiative has been delayed due to staffing shortages. The pilot program planned for Fall 2023 was, because of program scheduling needs, pushed back to Spring 2024.

Why?

There is a cultural gap between Anglo-American and non-Anglo interpretations of public speaking. Standard public speaking curriculum does not embrace inclusiveness and diversity. Premised in Aristotelian rhetoric, traditional public speaking instruction preferences Western, White, masculine/patriarchal, abled traditions of communication. It directs students to apply traditional logical structures, to make direct eye contact, to stand and move, to extemporize, and to engage with academic standards of English language use. Such an orientation excludes narrative cultures, Eastern traditions, physical and emotional disabilities, and cultural linguistics. This sets up the public speaking classroom as a place of assimilation, at best, and exclusion, at worst, and thereby contributes to student anxiety, discomfort, and failure. Furthermore, neglecting cultural differences in communication practices does not adequately prepare students for globalized business or citizenship. 

The typical instructional method is to teach public speaking as “tell the audience what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them.” In other words, it is a speech with a prescriptive introduction, a linear body, and a repetitive conclusion. There is an emphasis on the use of inductive and deductive logic, with ample evidence use – such as is preferred by European audiences. The preferred delivery mode is extemporaneous, allowing for strong eye contact and lots of movement – creating a the kind of high-energy presentation preferred by American audiences, despite the fact that Asian audiences, for example, may find gestures distracting. Ideas about audience adaptation tend to emphasize ethos and pathos, to build a rapport with audiences – but in Russia, for example, speakers are more direct and less likely to interact with audiences. Language use is patterned on standard White English and Western rhetorical techniques. This approach is echoed in the assessment materials and student learning outcomes provided by the associations and journals of the discipline. 

It is not enough to merely incorporate intercultural communication lessons into the public speaking classroom, because that runs the risk of turning non-American communication practices into exotic and racialized Others. A truly decolonized, anti-racist, inclusive, accessible curriculum will embrace different organizational styles and a wider range of best delivery practices, with assessment still considering aspects of clarity in organization and language use and adequacy of support and explanation, but in a way that is more organic to the communication styles –including limitations and potential- of the students.

How?

A new textbook is being selected (or course reader developed) and new teaching materials are in development. A key decision in planning the basic public speaking course is the selection of a textbook, and readability, gender sensitivity, and diversity issues must be considered. Many public speaking textbooks are biased in their visual representations of speakers and frequently include cultural diversity only insofar as recommending culturally relevant examples for speeches and inclusive, non-offensive, language. Discussions and instructions about such topics as language use reinforce and re-code White English as the norm, to the detriment of multicultural language practices. Guidelines for persuasive structures, tactics, and appeals are those that are typical for the White, American context, but may not be suitable for other cultural traditions. Preferred delivery modes explored in these texts not only emphasize Western norms for vocal and nonvocal communication, but they also overlook best practices for neurodivergent speakers and work within other ableist assumptions about movement and speech patterns, and they fail to address communication strategies that speakers should use to accommodate audience members who have disabilities, even the most obvious such as visual or aural impairments.

 

A new grading rubric and assessment instrument must be created, embracing the SUNY GE outcomes for Presentation Skills and the Communication & Media Studies Department program outcomes, while also recognizing and supporting cultural communication differences for race, ethnicity, gender identity, ability, and neurodivergences, especially regarding delivery norms and rhetorical strategies. Effectively, this means creating an instrument that both adheres to assessment needs and to UDL principles by being free of judgment, while measuring student accomplishments guiding students in ways to improve.

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