Oral Communication Resources

Tips for effective oral communication instruction

  1. Learning objectives:
    • Should be communicated explicitly to students
    • Should be relevant to criteria of oral presentation
    • Should consider differing levels at which students enter the classroom
  2. Learning tasks (the presentation assignment):
    • Should be related to disciplines relevant to the student
    • Students should perceive the contexts of the task as authentic
      • Presenting case studies to allow students to feel more connected to the topic of the presentation.
      • Rehearsing with an authentic audience, such as instructor or classmates
      • Incorporating role-playing or other creative techniques prior to presentation
  3. Task difficulty meets students at their current level and builds competence from there.
    • Building self-efficacy first leads to better student outcomes in oral communication

See sources in our annotated bibliography: Pedagogical Principles for Oral Communication Competency

Tips for effective oral communication learning activity

  1. Provide opportunities for students to observe models of peers or experts.
    • Though watching exemplars appears less beneficial than personal practice (Hunt et al., 2005), it may be useful as an early activity upon which further activities scaffold competence.
  2. Provide opportunities to practice oral presentations prior to final presentation assignment.
    • Practicing with peers or having access to an interactive oral communication laboratory improves competency.
    • Practice might also include practice with presentation software and tools to reduce apprehension.
  3. Learning activities supporting final assignment should be frequent throughout course.
  4. The complexity of the activities develops through the course.
  5. Learning tasks may also include workshops/instruction in supporting aspects of the presentation.
    • Using software such as PowerPoint
    • Aspects of good/poor presentation slides
    • How to cater to different audience types
    • How to develop questions for peers’ presentations and respond to questions when peers present them
  6. Helping students identify their own ineffective presentation techniques (body posture, eye contact, tone, and pace) reduces communication apprehension at time of final presentation.

See sources in our annotated bibliography: Pedagogical Principles for Oral Communication Competency

Setting learning objectives/outcomes for oral presentation

Students benefit from explicit, specific, and achievable learning outcomes. University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Oral Communication learning outcomes for the undergraduate students are:

  • select appropriate content for an oral presentation;
  • present information in a clear and organized manner appropriate for the intended audience and purpose;
  • demonstrate effective verbal and nonverbal delivery;
  • use supporting materials such as handouts, visual aids, models to promote clarity and interest.

You can adapt these general learning outcomes to fit your course/program’s specific context and purpose.

Setting criteria to evaluate oral presentation

Oral presentation is a performance task that can be assessed through different dimensions (e.g., content, organization, delivery, and language). Clearly defining and describing these criteria can help students best prepare their presentations. Clear criteria made scoring easier and more objective. University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa uses adapted Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) rubric developed by American Association of Colleges & Universities. See the rubric here.

University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa oral presentation signature assignment—specify audience and purpose

When faculty give students with assignments that share common elements, it facilitate faculty conversation about student learning and ways to improve learning. It would be easier faculty to discuss Mānoa students’ oral presentation skills when the presentations are of similar length, delivered for similar purpose, for example. For this purpose, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa General Education Office and the Oral Communication Board developed an oral presentation signature assignment. The Assessment Office (now ACSC) and General Education Office collected faculty feedback and revised the signature assignment. The current assignment specify the oral presentation task that can be used to guide faculty discussion about student OC skills:

  • Length: 5-20 minutes;
  • Purpose: to persuade or inform;
  • Language: English;
  • Specify intended audience; and
  • Includes supporting material (e.g., evidence, primary/secondary sources to support claims, graphs, charts, materials, visual aids to support presentation)

Sample scaffolding activities for an oral presentation

For many students, oral presentation is a complex task and it can be hard. Students benefit from clear performance expectations, prompt and focused feedback, in-class practices, opportunities to self-reflect and self-assess, tips and tricks to fight stage fright, and so on. More importantly, students need instructional stepping stones to grow into a confident and competent speaker. Faculty can consider breaking a big task into small steps and guide students through the learning process. The follow represent sample steps to scaffold students in giving a final oral presentation.

  1. Review rubric and critique example of an oral presentation (class discussion)
  2. Select topic and read 5-7 credible, relevant articles to supplement textbook: submit bibliography using (YYY) style to instructor; get feedback
  3. Annotated Bibliography: Write a 750-1,000 word summary of the three most relevant articles and submit to instructor; get feedback
  4. Write a “stated purpose” statement (in class pair & share activity)
  5. Write and submit a presentation story board; complete out-of-class peer review
  6. Revise presentation story board using feedback
  7. Practice presentation at home (including timing)–student self-assessment using rubric
  8. Practice presentation (in class small group activity); complete in-class peer review
  9. Give oral presentation to the class

(Developed by Hōkū Aikau, 2016  General Education Office Director)

Check out more assignment design strategies workshop handout:
Assignment design for powerful learning in oral communication
Oral Presentation Assignment Design Strategies

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