June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.1219.1 - 13.1219.13
The Effect of a Targeted Speech Communication Course on the Public Speaking Self-Efficacy of Engineering Undergraduates
This paper reports on how tailoring a speech communication course at The Pennsylvania State University specifically for engineering undergraduates affected the public speaking self- efficacy of those students—a project partially funded by the Engineering Information Foundation. This paper focuses on the following research question: Did engineering students who completed an engineering section feel more confident in their ability to communicate effectively than engineering students who completed a regular section? Overall, students in the engineering sections increased their public speaking self-efficacy slightly more than students in the regular sections; this difference approached statistical significance (p = .06). One reason the differences in the increases were not statistically significant might have been because of the relatively small sample sizes: 52 reporting in the engineering sections, but only 23 engineering students reporting from the regular sections. One statistically significant increase did occur for the issue of visual aids (.02), which is not surprising since the engineering sections taught the assertion–evidence slide design, which has a stronger theoretical basis than the commonly followed topic–subtopic design propagated by PowerPoint’s defaults. Approaching statistical significance was the issue of delivery, which follows because the engineering sections promoted the engineering style of thinking through the content and maintaining eye contact while speaking, as opposed to continually looking down at note cards. Because of these increases in the scores and the enthusiasm shown by the participating students for the engineering sections, the College of Engineering desires to increase the number of engineering sections to meet the anticipated demand.
A challenge for engineering colleges, particularly large colleges, is to improve the presentation skills of students. One common strategy is to have engineering students take a general speech course from a communications department. Another strategy is to incorporate speaking components into engineering courses such as senior design. Still a third strategy, which The Pennsylvania State University has adopted, is to use a combination of these two strategies. In theory, a combination of the general speech course with the discipline-specific presentation components should provide students with a balance between general communication theory and practical advice. In practice, though, we have observed that students perceive conflicts in the advice that they receive from the speech course and the engineering courses with presentation components. For instance, some students point out that speaking from note cards is allowed (and even encouraged) in the general speech courses, but is frowned upon in the engineering courses on the grounds that, for engineering audiences, holding onto note cards undercuts the credibility of the speaker.
Schuurman, M., & Alley, M., & Marshall, M., & Johnstone, C. (2008, June), The Effect Of A Targeted Speech Communication Course On The Public Speaking Self Efficacy Of Engineering Undergraduates Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3210
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