Communication: Instructor Modeling of Small Group Speaking

Title: Instructor Modeling of the Small Group Speech Assignment: Can it improve learning and presentation skills for our students?
Discipline(s) or Fields(s): Communication, Humanities, Education, Training & Development
Authors: Jeanine Fassl, Kathy Brady, Sue Wildermuth, University of WisconsinWhitewater
Submission Date: March 2009

Learning goals: The lesson focused on the goal of producing a group informative speech. This included addressing small group communication issues such as leadership and leadership styles, interpersonal conflict resolution, decision-making, problem solving and critical thinking. Skills to be measured revolved around researching, organizing, outlining and presenting an informative speech as a group.

Instructional design: To assist the students in understanding the complexities of working together to achieve a final presentation, and working on the belief that presenting a model of the speech the students were assigned in the course and then using that model as the basis for a discussion of the components developed to create the presentation, students would have a better idea of what was needed to create their own presentations. The overriding goal of the design of this lesson was to ultimately result in better student presentations.

In order to meet the requirements of this assignment, we decided to explore a fairly recent addition to our downtown, the Wall Crawlers Climbing Gym. Conveniently, the youngest of the three instructors, had some experience in Rock Climbing and was able to convince the two older members of our team that it was a safe and fun activity that our students would never think we could actually accomplish. We set up an evening on a Friday, which is half price night for women, and proceeded to get the instruction necessary to complete the activity. While we were there, we used a digital camera to document our successes as well as the discovery that one of the members of the team found out she was better suited to be a “belayer” and stay on the ground to make the climb safe for her colleagues. We actually enjoyed the experience, so we already had one small success. Of course, the researching, writing, outlining and development of our power point slides to enhance our actual presentation was not nearly as fun as the wall climbing. We documented each of our meetings to work on the finished presentation keeping track of the hours, how we divided the duties and responsibilities between us as well as the amount of time spent practicing the speech to get it to meet the requirements of the assignment.

Major findings about student learning: Actual student comments on the Modeling Day Worksheet indicated that the students were happy to have had the chance to see what the instructors were expecting of them and then to question us as to the details of what we had to do to develop our presentation. They were also fairly candid about what we needed to improve. The expectation of improving the grades for our students did not hold for this lesson study. In the three semesters we have used this lesson, we have seen a significant grade improvement in only the first semester of using the new format for the course and therefore cannot make any solid claims as to our effect on the student learning process other than what the students themselves wrote in their reaction sheets after the presentation.

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