After teaching the basic public speaking course at colleges for over 30 years, and being frustrated with the level of speeches, level of writing, no-shows and drops, I realized I had to radically change the way I was teaching. Because, you know, if they aren’t learning, I’m not teaching. So this blog will explain how I changed the course to make everyone (including yours truly) happier and more successful.
My old way of teaching was standard: 3 main speeches, each with a detailed evaluation sheet that had points assigned for every element I could think of. Fifty points for 10 different delivery aspects, 50 for the outline and so on. I also had mini-speeches, mini-assignments, all intended to keep the students moving toward completing the semester by accumulating points every week, each assignment building on the previous ones.
But here was one of the main problems. If a student stumbled on an assignment early on, or missed mini-assignments, it was very difficult for them to get their footing again, and the failures accumulated (instead of the points). So I often had a fairly bifurcated class–those who kept up and moved smoothly toward a B or an A, and those who couldn’t make up for early problems and dropped or earned a D or worse.
Plus I was getting incredibly frustrated. It didn’t matter how much I emphasized to them that they had to just plug along every day, every week and they’d do fine. Many didn’t or couldn’t and I ended up feeling like I was punishing instead of teaching. I also came to see my detailed point system as arbitrary and tyrannical. One student gets three points for eye contact and another gets four. Really? The activity of circling those numbers was becoming more ludicrous every year.
Our basic public speaking course has a very high DFW rate (Ds, Fs and Withdrawals) and I was sick of it. The spring of 2018 saw new levels of W (some of which I attribute to the stress of the Trump era but that’s another blog). I spent the summer ruminating then figuring out how to actually TEACH public speaking so the students would stay and learn.
I’m about to start the third week of the fall semester of 2018 and the first few months of this blog will explain what my classes are doing with the new system. As the blog sub-title states, the intention is to teach more and grade less.