Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Critical Concerns for Oral Communication Education in the United States and the United Kingdom

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Critical Concerns for Oral Communication Education in the United States and the United Kingdom

Article excerpt


An examination of oral communication education in the U.S. and U.K. identified four critical concerns:

1. Today's college students are not getting adequate oral communication education.

2. Oral communication education is being relegated to a "module" in another discipline-specific course.

3. When an oral communication course is included in the general education curriculum, that course tends to be narrow rather than broad in scope.

4. An increasing number of college faculty who teach oral communication courses do not have a graduate degree in the discipline.

Solutions to each concern are offered and suggestions are provided about how decision-making bodies can address these concerns.

This article first examines the essential role of oral communication before identifying four critical concerns and offering suggested solutions for oral communication education in the United States (US) and, to some extent, the United Kingdom (UK). These concerns may be indicative of similar issues affecting oral communication regionally, nationally and even internationally. If so, then the suggested solutions offered herein may provide direction. If not, then being proactive rather than reactive may prevent some or all of these concerns from becoming reality.

The essential role of Communication

"We listen to a book a day, speak a book a week, read the equivalent of a book a month, and write the equivalent of a book a year" (Buckley, 1992, p.623). A study of how college students spend their time communicating showed that nearly 72% of their day is spent listening and speaking, while reading and writing comprise less than 29% of their day (Emanuel et al., 2008a). Not only do people spend considerable time communicating, communication skills also are essential to personal, academic, and professional success. In a report on fastest growing careers, the U.S. Department of Labor (Career projections, 1995) states that communication skills will be in demand across occupations well into the next century. Good communication skills fuel selfconfidence and enable a person to exert more control over their life. Such a person knows how to effectively research, conceptualize, organize, and present ideas and arguments. This is critical to citizen-participation which is the foundation of a democratic society. There is an ever-increasing body of evidence that echoes the importance of communication skills. Morreale, Osborn, and Pearson (2000) collected and annotated nearly 100 articles, commentaries, and publications which call attention to the importance of the study of oral communication in contemporary society.

Becker & Eckdom (1980) list several studies which indicate that speaking skills are more important to job success than are specific technical skills. A survey of 500 alumni who earned their Ph.D. from Michigan State University between 1982 and 1993 found that conflict resolution, communication, and teamwork skills were rated as vitally important skills that are needed to have successful careers (Crawley & Klomparens, 2000). When Diamond (1997) asked 1,000 faculty members from a cross-section of disciplines to identify basic competencies for every college graduate, skills in communicating topped the list. Harrell & Harrell (1984) stated that no skill is more important to a successful career in business than good communication. Satir (1988), a pioneer in family enrichment, described family communication as the largest single factor determining the kinds of relationships we make with others.

Mosvick and Nelson (1996) state that about one-third of a person's time on the job is spent working in groups or teams and attending meetings or preparing for meetings. Felder et al. (2000) reported that engineering leaders ranked communication skills to be more important than technical skills. A study by Darling and Dannels (2003) reported that the types of communication that engineers rated as most important included message construction skills, teamwork, negotiation, and asking and responding to questions. …

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