Preparation Meeting Opportunity: How Do College Students Prepare ...

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How Do College Students Prepare for Public Speeches? Judy C. Pearson, Jeffrey T. Child, & David H. Kahl, Jr. Nearly half a million students prepare classroom ...

Communication Quarterly Vol. 54, No. 3, August 2006, pp. 351–366

Preparation Meeting Opportunity: How Do College Students Prepare for Public Speeches? Judy C. Pearson, Jeffrey T. Child, & David H. Kahl, Jr.

Nearly half a million students prepare classroom speeches each year, but little is known about overall preparation time and the relative proportions of time used for each speech preparation activity. Further, we do not know the specific speech preparation activities that result in higher speech grades. Public speaking students completed journal entries over the course of a semester detailing their speech preparation process. Multiple regression revealed the relationship of time spent in five writing activities and overall speech grade averages. Overall preparation time correlated significantly with higher speech grades; in addition, students who spent more time in delivery and practice earned higher speech grades. Keywords: Public Speaking; Speech Grades; Speech Preparation Each year, approximately 450,000 college students enroll in public speaking courses in the United States. The public speaking course is the ‘‘bread and butter’’ of most communication departments (Morreale, Hanna, Berko, & Gibson, 1999). Because of the large number of these courses, a variety of pedagogical materials have been developed. Basic course directors guide the instruction by providing orientation, Judy C. Pearson (PhD, Indiana University, 1975) is a professor and associate dean in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58105-5075, USA. Jeffrey T. Child (BS, Wayne State College, 2002) and David H. Kahl, Jr. (BA, Concordia College, 2002) are PhD students and teaching associates in the Department of Communication at North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 581055075, USA. The authors wish to thank Dr. Michelle Shumate and Dr. Paul E. Nelson for their advice and feedback on a previous version of this manuscript. Additionally, the authors would like to acknowledge Kristen A. Nanaziashvili and Min Liu (both from North Dakota State University) for assistance with data coding and feedback on a previous version of the manuscript. This paper was presented at the Eastern Communication Association Conference in 2005. Correspondence: Judy C. Pearson, North Dakota State University, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Dean’s Office, P.O. Box 5075, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58105-5075. E-mail: [email protected] ISSN 0146-3373 print/1746-4102 online # 2006 Eastern Communication Association DOI: 10.1080/01463370600878321


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workshops, and courses to instruct new teachers on how to teach public speaking. Textbook authors assist the college speaker in becoming more proficient at public communication. Virtually all of these voices suggest that students must spend time in preparation to deliver high-quality speeches. Nonetheless, little is known about how students prepare for classroom speeches. Anecdotal bromides suggest that students prepare the evening before the assignment. Students appear to have differential abilities in public speaking: Some students report spending considerable time engaged in preparation without achieving high grades, while others breeze through the public speaking course with apparent ease and high grades. Communication competence should increase after instruction and practice in communication. One’s willingness to communicate, as well as one’s ability to communicate, should be improved with instruction and practice (McCroskey, 2000; Pearson & Daniels, 1988). A student’s prior experience with public speaking and forensic activities, for example, probably portends higher grades in public speaking. Students appear to become better communicators through instruction and practice. Rubin, Graham, and Mignerey (1990) conducted a longitudinal study of college students over four years. In general, students became increasingly more communicatively competent with progression through college. An exception occurred in the second year of college, when competence seemed to decrease: the authors named this phenomenon the ‘‘sophomore slump,’’ which they suggest may occur as a result of change and uncertainty experienced by many college students during their second year of school. Students who were engaged in extracurricular communication experiences were also more competent on a number of measures (Rubin et al., 1990). Because of this evidence, we might posit that preparation leads to better grades. However, in order to successfully prove this claim, related literature must first be examined.

Literature Review Preparation Time Communication teachers and coaches encourage students to prepare thoroughly and practice speech presentations. Burkel-Rothfuss, Gray, and Yerby (1993) suggest that practice must be accompanied by instruction. Consequently, they have their students practice speeches with teaching assistant-led study groups. A number of variables may influence the amount of practice a student needs. For example, the student’s knowledge of the subject, the length of the speech, the student’s previous experience with giving speeches, and the student’s communication apprehension may all affect how much preparation time is desirable. Public speaking textbooks encourage students that preparation is a means of gaining confidence in public speaking (Lucas, 2004). Public speaking preparation has been studied deductively and in quasi-experimental settings (Daly, Vangelisti, & Weber, 1995; Menzel & Carrell, 1994). Menzel and Carrell (1994) videotaped public speaking students giving a speech in an

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experimental setting and asked them about their preparation time, past experience with speaking, personal anxiety levels experienced with the speech, general anxiety about communication, and grade point average. Grade point average, total preparation time, number of rehearsals for an audience, and state anxiety predicted the quality of a speech performance (Menzel & Carrell, 1994). Daly et al. (1995) created an experimental situation in which students prepared a speech while ‘‘talking aloud’’ about the process. Students were given 20 minutes to prepare. The study divided the preparation activities into preparation and delivery. While preparation and the quality of a speech performance are related, when speech anxiety is statistically removed, the relationship between preparation and quality is much smaller. The Daly et al. (1995) study contributes to our knowledge about student speech preparation, but the study is highly limited by the protocol. The artificial situation in which people have only 20 minutes to prepare and must speak out loud about what they are doing may not generalize to actual classroom students preparing speeches over one to two weeks. In the artificial speaking situation, students could not access reference materials, use audio-visual materials, practice their speech in the classroom, spend time between actual work on the speech to think about the topic, or talk with others about the speech. While knowledge has been generated through artificial exploration, additional methodology must be utilized. The only means to gain a precise understanding of student preparation is through a naturalistic protocol in which students report their behaviors near the time of completion. Only in such a setting are restrictions removed and the actual student speech preparation process is more accurately approached and understood. Communication Apprehension One of the principal means recommended for reducing anxiety in the past was speech preparation (Robinson, 1956). Even today, textbook authors like Lucas (2004) and Nelson and Pearson (2005) suggest that practice and preparation will lead to greater confidence and less speech apprehension. McCroskey’s seminal work in this area includes: measurements, causes, correlates, and methods of treatments (e.g., Daly & McCroskey, 1975; McCroskey, 1970, 1976). In the last four decades, McCroskey remains the leading scholar in this area of study and continues to add an in-depth understanding of the communication apprehension construct (e.g., Beatty, McCroskey, & Heisel, 1998; Burroughs, Marie, & McCroskey, 2003; Cole & McCroskey, 2003; McCroskey, Richmond, & McCroskey, 2002; Neulip, Chadouir, & McCroskey, 2003). Weissberg and Lamb (1977) tested three methods of reducing speech anxiety and found that cognitive modification, or helping students rebuild negative thought processes about public speaking, and speech preparation were most effective in reducing speech anxiety. Speech preparation time varies as a result of communication apprehension. People high in communication apprehension spend more preparation time on


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non-communicative activities, while individuals low in communication apprehension spend more preparation time on communicative activities (Andersen, 1988; Daly, Vangelisti, Neel, & Cavanaugh, 1989). For example, people with high communication apprehension spend more time preparing speaking notes, but less time on audience analysis and rehearsal. In addition, communication apprehension has an impact on the speech preparation process as well as the process of delivery (Daly, Vangelisti, & Weber, 1995). Although high apprehensives reported more overall preparation time than low apprehensives, high apprehensives received lower grades on their speeches (Ayres, 1996). This result may be explained by the meta-analytic work of Bourhis and Allen (1992). Analysis of 23 studies involving communication apprehension and cognitive performance found a negative correlation between the two variables. In addition, it has been determined that students with high levels of communication apprehension spend more time developing speeches but receive lower grades than students who spend less time (Ayres, 1996). Ayres (1996) determined that students with high levels of communication apprehension spend more time writing instead of spending time on other elements of the speech, such as practicing delivery, in order to avoid communicating. If speech preparation in laboratory situations leads to higher grades, then the same phenomenon may be true in the classroom setting. Similarly, if practice and preparation leads to lower levels of speech anxiety, students should similarly receive higher classroom public speaking grades with more practice and preparation. Purpose How can researchers better understand how students prepare for public speeches? One methodological approach is to seek information from the students after they have given a speech. Several studies take this approach (for example, Ayres, 1996; Menzel & Carrell, 1994). Another approach is to collect data by observing people during speech preparation and to have them ‘‘talk out loud’’ about what they are doing (Daly et al., 1995). When students have been asked to describe their public speaking preparation, they have generally recounted the process, long after the speech has occurred (Ayres, 1996; Menzel & Carrell, 1994). Students estimate how much time they have spent in preparation overall, in pre-rehearsal, and in oral and silent rehearsal. While this methodology may serve as a building block, it may not give a completely accurate picture of the students’ speech preparation process. For this reason, a naturalistic study of the entire speech development process is necessary to discover more precise information. No research to date has followed the naturalistic activities of students enrolled in public speaking classes. Will a less intrusive and restrictive protocol demonstrate that students’ preparation time is positively related to the grades earned on speeches? The purpose of this study is to determine the amount of time that college students use to prepare their classroom speeches and to determine which activities of speech preparation led to higher grades. No study has examined the self-reported behavior

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of college students in public speaking courses over an entire semester, nor has previous research explored the relationships between preparation time (and individual activities within preparation) and public speaking grades. Further scholarship may have a direct impact on speech preparation instruction in basic courses. At this point, instructors have general knowledge about beneficial behaviors but lack specific details on the developmental process. Therefore, specific activities need to be discovered. To achieve this purpose, three research questions are offered. RQ1: How much time do college students use to prepare their classroom speeches? RQ2: What relative proportions of time do college students use to prepare the various activities involved in public speaking? RQ3: What activities in the speech preparation process result in higher overall speech grade averages?

Method Participants Participants for this study consisted of 95 undergraduate students enrolled in five sections of the fundamentals of public speaking course at a medium-sized Midwestern university. Data collection among the participants occurred during the Spring 2004 semester. The sample included 48 male respondents (50.5%) and 47 female respondents (49.5%). First-year students made up the largest portion of the sample at 69 students (72.6%). Nineteen sophomores (20%), three juniors (3.2%), and four seniors (4.2%) made up the rest of the sample. Students revealed their prior public speaking experience at the start of the fundamentals of public speaking course. The public speaking course is required of all students as a general education course. From the sample, 15 students (15.8%) indicated having no previous public speaking experience, 51 students (55.4%) indicated having very little or one main prior public speaking experience, and 26 students (28.3%) indicated having more than one or considerable public speaking experience. Sample participants indicated having 31 different majors, spanning all areas of study on the campus. The university had eight colleges with various majors. Pharmacy students were the largest college sampled at 21 participants (22.1%). Seventeen students (17.9%) came from Engineering and Architecture, 15 students (15.8%) were from University Studies, 11 students (11.6%) identified Science and Mathematics as their college, ten students (10.5%) were from Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, ten students (10.5%) came from Human Development and Education, six students (6.3%) were from Business Administration, and five students (5.3%) were in the Agriculture College. Procedure Data collection and coding process The primary researcher identified and solicited the two instructors participating in the data collection before the start of the semester based on section and time


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convenience. The two instructors had students in five sections, which comprised the final student sample. The instructors told the students that the completed journal entries were part of a research study and that their responses would never be seen by their own instructor. (The anonymity encouraged honesty among the students.) Students completed journal entries at the beginning of each class session using open-ended responses. Each student wrote her or his own unique numerical identifier at the top of each journal entry instead of their name to ensure student privacy and confidentiality. Students gained limited participation points for just completing the journal entries as a part of the course requirements. The instructors provided students the first few minutes of class to write down a description of what they had done since the last class to prepare for the next speech assignment. Instructors asked students to state the amount of time they spent to complete each preparation activity. After completing each speech assignment, journaling did not resume until the next speech assignment. Once students completed journal entries they placed their response in a large envelope. When all students finished writing, the envelope of responses was sealed, dated, identified by section, and taken to a central office for distribution to the researchers. Each student in the two Tuesday and Thursday class sections completed a total of 22 journal entries, and each student in the three Monday, Wednesday, and Friday class sections completed a total of 29 journal entries, both over fourteen weeks (excluding spring break). Five independent coders coded approximately 2,471 open-ended responses. Before conducting any analysis on the data, chi-square tests determined any significant differences among sections by college, student classification, or sex. This was done to address any differences among sections and instructors in the variable measures. The tests allow for each individual public speaking student to be examined as a unit of analysis. No significant differences occurred in student classifications by section, v2(12, N ¼ 95) ¼ 12.80, p ¼ .384. College classification was not significantly different by section, v2(28, N ¼ 95) ¼ 36.34, p ¼ .134. The sex of the student was significantly different by section, v2(4, N ¼ 95) ¼ 9.67, p ¼ .046. However, the difference was not significant when collapsed to the level of course instructor, v2(1, N ¼ 95) ¼ 1.30, p ¼ .254. The co-authors, including an established researcher in the communication field and a small group of graduate students, jointly coded 40 journal entries to train coders. First, the co-authors received an example of how to code the journal data in the training session. To code a journal entry, coders examined responses, and each sentence was the unit of measurement to extract the participant’s own descriptive references for every preparation activity. The coders then wrote each descriptive reference at the bottom of the journal entry and noted the number of minutes spent completing each specific activity. To employ a derived etic approach, the researchers used no pre-determined categories. This approach revealed ‘‘what units make sense within the world of the messages’’ instead of using prescribed categories that may not encompass the range of actual student preparation experiences (Neuendorf, 2002, p. 72).

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Next, each co-author coded sample journal entries individually and read her or his coded journal entry aloud. All of the co-authors wrote down how they would have coded the same journal entry, and the coding for that sample journal entry was then revealed. Co-authors discussed differences and repeated the process until complete agreement was reached. Finally, the co-authors coded using the derived etic approach in order to determine the range of activities that emerged from the data. The co-authors met again to reorganize the range of activities into mutually exclusive categories for the final coding scheme. The entire list of activities the research team identified was typed onto a sheet of paper and jointly examined by the co-authors. Several ideas were discussed for potential categories for the responses. The final five categories that the co-authors agreed upon coincided with the five rhetorical canons. The five coders independently coded an entire class session with the final categories and corresponding time increments for determining intercoder reliability before recoding all of the data. Speech activity categories and reliability The first category included generating ideas for speeches, researching speech topics, and gathering or researching resources for presentational aids use. Students wrote about this theme with comments such as ‘‘I spent about 15 minutes trying to come up with a topic during my lunch break at work today. I’m having some difficulty coming up with something of personal significance relating to a social issue’’ (523, 2-4-04) and ‘‘I spent 20 minutes researching social issues on the internet on the computer in my dorm room’’ (114, 2-3-04). (Note that each students was separated into sections and given an individual reference number within the section. The first number corresponds to the section and unit number of the participant, and the second number refers to the date of the specific journal entry.) Commenting on the same theme, another individual indicated: I spent about 20 minutes thinking about my speech. I was relaxing in my dorm room trying to think of a topic. I think I have my topic now but I don’t have my thesis statement that I was supposed to have ready. (507, 2-4-04)

The second category included organizing the speech ideas or topics and completing an informal outline for the speech. Reflecting on this theme, one student indicated: I spent about 45 minutes writing my prep outline last evening—it still needs some embellishing. Some main points are a little thin yet. The intro and conclusion are basically done though. (523, 2-6-04)

while another student said, Since last class period I have worked on my prep outline. I have completed this task but still need more research. I have probably put about 1 hour of work into this speech. (508, 2-6-04)

The third category consisted of writing the formal speech outline. Students commenting on writing their formal outline said things like ‘‘On Sunday I worked until


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10:00 p.m. So, about 5 hours [was spent] on my formal outline’’ (520, 2-9-04) and ‘‘I have now spent a significant amount of time preparing my formal outline. I probably spent about 2–3 hours on it when I was preparing the outline. I was on my computer in my room’’ (115, 2-5-04). Another student, while discussing formal outline writing, said ‘‘I spent 30 minutes preparing my formal outline at the library. I think it was adequate considering I had two tests last night and an English paper to write’’ (117, 2-5-04). The fourth category included revising, editing, and fine-tuning the speech or formal outline. Commenting on the revision process, students wrote: ‘‘Since the last class period I have spend 45 minutes rewriting my speech. I did this at Babb’s Coffee House. It was fun. I recommend the while chocolate mocha.’’ (519, 2-11-04) ‘‘I spent about five minutes tweaking my speech in the library’s computer lab.’’ (510, 2-11-04) ‘‘I spent about a half an hour in my dorm room editing my formal outline.’’ (114, 2-10-04) The fifth category included delivery, practice, creating presentational aids, and creating speaking outline notes for the speech. Comments about this theme included: ‘‘Today I spent about an hour finishing my notecards and practicing my speech. I practiced it by myself in my dorm room. Made a couple of changes but I think it sounds good.’’ (507, 2-11-04) ‘‘I didn’t spend any time on my speech last night, but the night before I spent an hour practicing. I could’ve spent more time practicing but I had a test to study for.’’ (509, 2-11-04) ‘‘Since Tuesday I have spent a couple of hours in my dorm room and my friends’ room practicing with her and with my boyfriend.’’ (104, 2-12-04) Krippendorff’s alpha reliability is a measure for calculating intercoder reliability when multiple coders determine the themes (Neuendorf, 2002). The Krippendorff’s reliability for the five themes was excellent (a ¼ .91). Once the researchers coded all journal entries, they combined the time for each activity in weekly increments so that they could examine a common unit of analysis or measure of time among the two Tuesday=Thursday sections and the three Monday=Wednesday=Friday class sections. The research group met as an entire group frequently during the data coding process to address coding issues encountered by the five coders. Measures Dependent speech grade average measure Over the fourteen weeks, students gave a total of four speeches. The researchers used the grade given on each of the four speeches to compute a total speech grade average for each participant. While students engaged in several preparatory outlines and

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drafts of their speech with peers, outline grades are not reflected in the dependent speech grade measure. Instructors provided the research group student speech grades based on an assigned identification number to ensure student privacy and confidentiality. Overall, participants of the study maintained a B speech grade average (M ¼ 86.10, SD ¼ 4.44). The speech grade average variable was a normally distributed measure. The researchers used ANOVAs and t-tests to test the reliability of the dependent speech grade measure by section and instructor. The overall speech grade average of students was not significantly different by section (F[4, 90] ¼ 1.71, p ¼ .154) nor instructor (t[93] ¼ .45, p ¼ .654). Independent time measure for each activity Some students were very precise in dividing their total time up among activities, and others were not as precise in the distribution of time among activities. When students provided a range of time for a group of activities, coders calculated the average time based on the range provided by the participant and divided it equally among the categories mentioned. For example, a participant said, ‘‘I spent four to five hours total writing my formal outline and practicing my speech.’’ The participant mentioned completing activities three and five. The total time average provided for the activities (4.5 hours) was 270 minutes. Thus, activities three and five were both coded for the student at 135 minutes each with the journal entry. Students used several uncertain time indicators for completing activities. The coauthors consulted public speaking students to understand and code such uncertain time indicators. Based on these discussions, students who said they spent ‘‘a little bit of time’’ were coded for ten minutes; ‘‘some time’’ was coded for twenty minutes; ‘‘quite a bit of time’’ or ‘‘a lot of time’’ was coded for thirty minutes; and an ‘‘all nighter’’ was coded for five hours or three-hundred minutes. Less than ten percent of the coded journal responses reflected such uncertain time indicators. To determine the reliability for the continuous measure of time with each activity, the researchers computed correlations between each coder’s recorded time in minutes by participant for each activity. An average of all the correlations between coders became the reliability measure once all of the correlations were computed (Neuendorf, 2002). The reliability of time measurement was excellent (a ¼ .91). Total time spent in preparation of speeches was not significantly different by section (F[4, 90] ¼ 1.64, p ¼ .171) or sex (t[93] ¼ .17, p ¼ .87). Results To answer the first two research questions, the researchers examined means, standard deviations, and confidence intervals for the total time students indicated they spent preparing for speeches overall and for each activity. Students indicated spending an average of 1224.5 minutes (SD ¼ 591) per semester preparing for class speeches, which was approximately 20.4 hours. Students spent an average of 87.5 minutes a week (SD ¼ 42) preparing for public speeches (see Table 1).


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Table 1 Means and Standard Deviations of Minutes Spent Preparing for Speeches over 14 Weeks Percentage of overall time


Description (N ¼ 95)




Overall time in minutes spent by participants preparing for speeches. Writing the formal speech outline. Delivery, practice, and creating presentational aids and outline notes for the speech. Generating ideas for speeches, researching speech topics, and gathering or researching resources for presentational aids use. Organizing the speech ideas or topics and completing an informal outline for the speech. Revising, editing, and fine-tuning the speech or formal outline.



453.84 306.14

322.96 219.86

37.06 25










Activity 3 Activity 5

Activity 1

Activity 2

Activity 4


Participants gave each part of the speech-making process different amounts of time or focus (see Table 1). Writing the formal speech outline accounted for 453 minutes (37%) of the students’ overall time when preparing for speeches. Students also spent 306 minutes (25%) of their overall preparation time on delivery, practice, creating presentational aids, and creating speaking outline notes for the speech. Delivery as a speech activity was followed by idea generation, researching speech topics, and gathering or researching resources for presentational aids, which combined for 253 minutes of students’ overall time (21%). Organizing speech ideas or topics and completing an informal outline for the speech accounted for 111 minutes (9%) of participants’ speech preparation time. Students spent the least amount of time revising, editing, and fine-tuning their speech or formal outline for 101 minutes (8.3%). To answer the third research question, the researchers performed a standard multiple regression analysis to examine the dependent variable, average of students’ four speech grades, and independent variables of overall time spent by students with activities one, two, three, and five. When the team evaluated the assumptions for performing a multiple regression among all five independent variables, all of the activities were slightly skewed to the right and did not correspond well to the normal curve distribution. Therefore, all five variables were transformed using square root transformations to reduce skewness (Tabachnick & Fidell, 2001). Square root transformations improved the skewness with activities one, two, three, and five. No transformations were able to reduce the skewness of activity four because the data were primarily

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Table 2 Standard Multiple Regression of Four Speech Preparation Activities on Speech Grade Average

Variables Activity 1 Activity 2 Activity 3 Activity 5 Intercept ¼ 82.583

Speech grade average (DV)


.228 .181. .124 .303

.369 .391 .445


.133 .367






.070 .045 .007 .141

.106 .055 .014 .241

 p < .05. R2 ¼ .106, adjusted R2 ¼ .066, R ¼ .325.

bimodal. Therefore, activity four was recoded by either its presence or absence and tested with overall speech grade averages with a t-test. Results from this analysis indicate that the overall model of activities one, two, three, and five (see Table 1) accounted for a significant amount of variance in higher speech grades among participants, R2 ¼ .106, F(4, 90) ¼ 2.66, p ¼ .038. Only one of the independent variables—activity five—contributed significantly to a prediction of higher speech grade averages as a square root transformation, b ¼ .241, t(94) ¼ 2.04, p ¼ .045 (see Table 2). Thus, students who engaged in more delivery, practice, and the creating of presentational aids and speaking outline notes for speeches had higher speech grade averages. Activity four recoded by presence or absence in the speech writing process was tested with overall speech grade average to see if students who revised, edited, and fine-tuned their speech or formal outline had significantly higher speech grade averages. Results were insignificant, t(93) ¼ 1.07, p ¼ .286. Discussion This study found that students spend an average of 20.4 hours preparing four public speeches. The range was great. Some students only spent five minutes over the entire course of the semester in speech preparation activities while others spent sixty-one and one-half hours in speech preparation activities. Students spent the most time writing the formal speech outline, then next on delivery, practice, and creating presentational aids and speaking outline notes, then idea generation and research, then organizing the speech and creating an outline, and finally, revising, editing, and finetuning the speech or formal outline. The study also found that increased public speaking preparation led to higher public speaking grades. Students who maintained a ninety-percent speech grade average spent close to five and a half hours preparing for each main speech delivered in the course. Further, the four activities of idea generation and research; organizing and outlining the speech; writing the formal speech outline; and delivery, practice,


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creating presentational aids and creating speaking outline notes all contribute to higher grades. Taken alone, the category that included delivery, practice, creating presentation aids, and creating speaking outlines notes was the only activity that predicts higher grades. The communicative-related tasks may be most important. This finding is consistent with Ayres (1996), who found that high communication apprehensive students were more likely to engage in non-communicative activities and receive lower speech grades. A number of people have been critical of the basic public speaking course. The principal criticism has been that little has changed over the years. Pearson and Nelson (1990) were among the first to notice the phenomenon: ‘‘Little change has been reported in the basic course even though dramatic changes have occurred in other avenues of the field’’ (p. 4). Leff (1992) reflected on 20 years of connection with the basic public speaking course: ‘‘During the past two decades the academic study of rhetoric has passed through profound and revolutionary changes. . . Yet, they still teach public speaking very much as I taught it’’ (p. 16). Frobish (2000) echoes the lack of change through time in his analysis of The Art of Public Speaking, the most widely used public speaking textbook. Using Jamieson’s theoretical model of eloquence in an electronic age, Frobish determined that this influential text does not successfully acknowledge contemporary communication situations. This work indicates that the basic course in public speaking has not progressed as well as other aspects of the communication discipline. Its size alone renders the basic public speaking course an important site of research. Although anecdotal evidence abounds, social scientific methods need to be applied to the course to determine current practices and measure them against current theories and research. Nearly half a million students pass through the public speaking course each year. Being unclear about best practices or recommending outdated methods for giving speeches is poor pedagogy. Understanding student preparation for the basic course in public speaking leads to additional questions (Palmerton, 1992): What is it that the students are preparing for? What will students gain from their study and preparation? Does the basic course teach skills, including performance skills, or does the course teach students to be better critical thinkers? These questions should guide the instruction of the basic course. Finding that the only activity resulting in higher grades was delivery, practice, and rehearsal suggests that more can be done to assess, encourage, teach, and reward deeper critical thinking among students and instructors alike. Powell (1992) argues that we must assess how successfully we teach critical thinking. Assessing the teaching of critical thinking is a multi-faceted task. The determination of effectiveness requires one to consider factors from both the student’s and instructor’s points of view. Are students who are spending more time thinking and conceptualizing their speech topic and outline actually engaging in deeper critical

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thought, or are they just putting off deciding on a topic so they do not have to begin the writing process? Students from the current study prepared all four of their major public speaking assignments around understanding relevant social issues and considering solutions to unresolved problems individually in small groups—a problem-based learning approach. Additionally, students were given feedback and points for the development of preparatory drafts of their written speech work. Such an approach is especially geared toward encouraging deeper critical thought among students. The results of the study beg the question: does deeper critical thought happen more naturally at higher course levels where students have more self-interest in the course content than at introductory level courses? Teaching deeper critical thinking skills can also be problematic for instructors. At most major universities, graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) are responsible for teaching the introductory public speaking course. While most communication departments provide extensive training to new GTAs, value rests in considering the feasibility of transmitting strategies and tactics for engaging students in the process of deep critical thought to novice public speaking instructors—or, does the issue of engaging students in deep critical thought cut deeper than simply developing such strategies through more hands-on experience? Dance (2002) laments the current state of affairs in the public speaking course. He believes that the basic course should integrate dialectic and rhetoric, thought and speech. For Dance, effective public speaking should be based on the quality of the ideas of the speaker, a focus that promotes critical thinking. Such an approach leads to considering how the simple virtue of assigning points implicitly tells students how much to value the end-product in the public speaking preparation process. Allen, Berkowitz, Hunt, and Louden (1999) have the final word on the effect of communication education (and forensics) on critical thinking. These authors conducted a meta-analysis of all of the studies that have tried to determine the relationship between either communication education or forensics and critical thinking and demonstrated that both result in improvements in critical thinking. Consequently, it can be asserted that the basic public speaking course, as it is, does serve to advance the educational outcome of critical thinking. However, improving critical thought in the one and only class that most undergraduate students will take as an introduction to the communication discipline always warrants further discussion. Gayle (2004) has offered specific strategies for teaching both critical thinking and civil discourse. Encouraging students to take multiple perspectives on a single topic, they began to understand different points of view. They were also able to engage in ‘‘civil, robust, and effective public discourse’’ (p. 174). This study suggests that students understand the role of multiple speech activities. Students reported spending time on the classic rhetorical canons of invention, disposition, style, delivery, and memory. At the same time, their emphasis on the communicative aspects of preparation, namely delivery and practice, was the only activity that individually predicted public speaking grade. Basic courses may be


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teaching both thinking and speaking but privilege the performance aspects or the development of skills. Limitations This study relies on self-report data. One limitation of self-report data is the possibility of students over-reporting preparation time for each activity. Possibly students over-reported consistently across all categories, given the lack of significant differences in total preparation time by section for all but one of the categories. The researchers did not actually observe the students’ participation in the variety of preparation activities referenced. The self-reports were also collected only twice or three times a week rather than day by day or activity by activity. Another method of collecting data would be to use a public speaking daily diary where students would record an entry each time they spent time preparing for speeches. This alternative method might capture the data more realistically, but students might also forget to add entries to the diaries or journals. Ideally, researchers would collect and analyze observational data. Another limitation of this project was that the sample size is relatively small. Nonetheless, the sample size was sufficient to reveal multiple relationships among variables. In addition, the large numbers of comments (nearly 2,500) render larger sample sizes difficult to manage. Implications This study suggests that classroom instructors can tell students that increased preparation time will lead to higher grades on their classroom speeches. Preparation time does matter. We also have a gauge as to how much time students do prepare for their speeches. The most important preparation activity may be activities related to delivery, practice, creating presentational aids, and creating speaking outline notes. In other words, the communicative-related tasks are most important. Future Research Studying actual classroom behavior is difficult. Following students throughout an entire semester is time-consuming and can lead to large data sets. Nonetheless, we need to continue to study the basic public speaking course. While laboratory studies can be useful, studies of actual students and their behaviors is most important. As Lucas (1999) observes, the basic public speaking course is the ‘‘bedrock of the undergraduate curriculum’’ (p. 75). Future studies might test the ‘‘sophomore slump’’ phenomena discussed by Rubin, Graham, and Mignerey (1990) in regard to speech preparation by classification with a larger sample. Further, evaluative behavior needs to continue to be studied. Recently McGlone, Kobrynowicz and Alexander (2005) tested the idea that people change their evaluations when they verbalize them. They found a contamination effect as so-called ‘‘experts’’’ verbalized their reasons for liking or disliking an abstract piece of art.

Communication Quarterly


Novice viewers changed their judgment about a second object even though the experts did not identify their rationale. How do classroom evaluations of speeches by instructors affect other students’ evaluations? Optimistically, the continued study and discussion of the introductory public speaking course, which is required of all students at many colleges and universities, will similarly increase our ability as instructors to have an impact on students’ lives and assist them in obtaining sound educational outcomes. References Allen, M., Berkowitz, S., Hunt, S., & Louden, A. (1999). A meta-analysis of the impact of forensics and communication education on critical thinking. Communication Education, 48, 18–30. Andersen, S. M. (1988). The composing process and speech communication: An examination of the strategies of six successful student speakers. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida. Ayres, J. (1996). Speech preparation processes and speech apprehension. Communication Education, 45, 228–235. Beatty, M. J., McCroskey, J. C., & Heisel, A. D. (1998). Communication apprehension as temperamental expression: A communibiological paradigm. Communication Monographs, 65, 197–219. Bourhis, J., & Allen, M. (1992). Meta-analysis of the relationship between communication apprehension and cognitive performance. Communication Education, 41, 68–76. Burkel-Rothfuss, N. L., Gray, P. L., & Yerby, J. (1993). The structured model of competency-based instruction. Communication Education, 42, 22–36. Burroughs, N. F., Marie, V., & McCroskey, J. C. (2003). Relationships of self-perceived communication competence and communication apprehension with willingness to communicate: A comparison with first and second languages in Micronesia. Communication Research Reports, 20, 230–239. Cole, J. G., & McCroskey, J. C. (2003). The association of perceived communication apprehension, shyness, and verbal aggression with perceptions of source credibility and affect in organizational and interpersonal contexts. Communication Quarterly, 51, 101–110. Daly, J. A., & McCroskey, J. C. (1975). Occupational desirability and choice as a function of communication apprehension. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 22, 309–313. Daly, J. A., Vangelisti, A. L., Neel, H. L., & Cavanaugh, P. D. (1989). Pre-performance concerns associated with public speaking anxiety. Communication Quarterly, 37, 39–53. Daly, J. A., Vangelisti, A. L., & Weber, D. J. (1995). Speech anxiety affects how people prepare speeches: A protocol analysis of the preparation processes of speakers. Communication Monographs, 62, 383–397. Dance, F. E. X. (2002). Speech and thought: A renewal. Communication Education, 51, 355–359. Frobish, T. (2000). Jamieson meets Lucas: Eloquence and pedagogical model(s) in The Art of Public Speaking. Communication Education, 49, 239–252. Gayle, B. M. (2004). Transformations in a civil discourse public speaking class: Speakers’ and listeners’ attitude change. Communication Education, 53, 174–184. Leff, M. (1992, June). Teaching public speaking as composition. Basic Communication Course Annual, 4, 116–122. Lucas, S. E. (1999). Teaching public speaking. In A. Vangelisti, J. Daly, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Teaching communication: Theory, research and methods (2nd ed., pp. 75–84). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Lucas, S. E. (2004). The art of public speaking. (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.


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McCroskey, J. C. (1970). Measures of communication-bound anxiety. Speech Monographs, 37(4), 269–277. McCroskey, J. C. (1976). The effects of communication apprehension on nonverbal behavior. Communication Quarterly, 24, 39–44. McCroskey, J. C. (2000). Introduction to rhetorical communication. (8th ed.). New York: Pearson Allyn & Bacon. McCroskey, L. L., Richmond, V. P., & McCroskey, J. C. (2002). The scholarship of teaching and learning: Contributions from the discipline of communication. Communication Education, 51, 383–391. McGlone, M. S., Kobrynowicz, D., & Alexander, R. B. (2005). A certain je ne sais quoi: Verbalization bias in evaluation. Human Communication Research, 31, 241–267. Menzel, K. E., & Carrell, L. J. (1994). The relationship between preparation and performance in public speaking. Communication Education, 43, 17–26. Morreale, S. P., Hanna, M. S., Berko, R. M., & Gibson, J. W. (1999). The basic communication course at U.S. Colleges and Universities: VI. Basic Communication Course Annual, 11, 1–26. Nelson, P. E., & Pearson, J. C. (2005). Confidence in public speaking (8th ed.). Los Angeles: Roxbury Publishing Company. Neuendorf, K. A. (2002). The content analysis guidebook. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. Neulip, J. W., Chadouir, M., & McCroskey, J. C. (2003). A cross-cultural test of the association between temperament and communication apprehension. Communication Research Reports, 20, 320–330. Palmerton, P. R. (1992). Teaching skills or teaching thinking? Journal of Applied Communication Research, 20, 335–341. Pearson, J. C., & Daniels, T. D. (1988). Oh what tangled webs we weave: Concerns about current conceptions of communication competence. Communication Reports, 1, 95–100. Pearson, J. C., & Nelson, P. (1990, November). The future of the basic course. Basic Course Annual, 2, 1–26. Powell, R. G. (1992). Critical thinking and speech communication: Our teaching strategies are warranted—Not! Journal of Applied Communication Research, 20, 342–347. Robinson, E. R. (1956). An experimental investigation of certain commonly suggested teaching methods for the development of confidence in beginning students of public speaking. Speech Monographs, 23, 97–98. Rubin, R. B., Graham, E. E., & Mignerey, J. T. (1990). A longitudinal study of college students’ communication competence. Communication Education, 39, 1–14. Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2001). Using multivariate statistics. (4th ed.). Needham Heights, Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon. Weissberg, M., & Lamb, D. (1977). Comparative effects of cognitive modification, systematic desensitization, and speech preparation in the reduction of speech and general anxiety. Communication Monographs, 44, 27–36.

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