Kudos to the UMW Speaking Intensive Program

Our school has a requirement that students take a couple of courses that require public speaking. My research methodology course satisfies that requirement, which makes sense since presenting research results is a natural product of the research process. My course includes two formal speaking requirements as well numerous informal opportunities. The first formal event is a 2 to 4 minute oral presentation summarizing their research proposal. The second event is the presentation at the end of the semester of each student’s research results, similar to a conference presentation.

Students do pretty well on the latter, but have always done fairly poorly on the former. Some students have said little more than “This is my topic. The End.” Part of the problem is no doubt that the students don’t yet have a clear idea of what their project entails. Remember, for most this is the first serious research project in economics they’ve ever attempted.

Anyway, last summer I attended a workshop put on by our SI program where we discussed problems we were having with speaking assignments. What came out of the workshop was an idea that worked very well for my students–it was suggested that I make the literature review the focus of their short presentation. This is something the students understand at this point. So the assignment was framed as “Explain your proposal from the point of view of what is the niche it attempts to fill in the existing literature.” Most students spent a minute or two discussing the literature on their research topic, and then were able to clearly explain and justify what they intended to do for their research.

In short, the short presentations were the best I ever experienced. No one did what I would consider to be a poor job, even those students who showed nervousness.

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