Academic journal article The English Teacher

Causes of Academic Oral Presentation Difficulties Faced by Students at a Polytechnic in Sarawak

Academic journal article The English Teacher

Causes of Academic Oral Presentation Difficulties Faced by Students at a Polytechnic in Sarawak

Article excerpt


Mastering good communication skills is essential because it serves as the key to success in one's life, career and relationships. Communication involves the delivery of ideas and feelings to others (Abdul Aziz Yusof, 2003). An effective communication is conducted "in a manner which is clear, fluent, and to the point, and which holds the audience's attention, both in groups and one-to-one situations" (Idrus & Salleh, 2008, p. 62). A person who cannot clearly articulate his or her thoughts may be wrongly judged as uneducated or poorly informed. Thus, upon realizing the importance of mastering good communication skills, most academic courses offered at Malaysian institutions of higher learning require their students to conduct oral presentations as part of their course assessments. Most students find it challenging when asked to present orally, especially in English. Students often encounter difficulties such as lack of proficiency in using the English language correctly as well as lack of confidence when speaking in front of an audience. Thus, this paper looks into the causes of academic oral presentation difficulties faced by students at a polytechnic in Sarawak.

Problem statement

There is an issue which has become a major concern in many institutions of higher learning. The problem is many students from these institutions have graduated with excellent results but remain unemployed. One of the causes of unemployment among graduates is being unable to communicate well in English (Hanafi Zaid & Kamarudin, 2011). They face difficulties in pronunciation, the use of correct grammar and fluency.

In addition, a study conducted by Zainuddin and Selamat (2012) mentioned that "many employers who employ polytechnic graduates have voiced their concerns that these graduates have great difficulties in communicating effectively at work despite having excellent technical knowledge in their areas" (p. 78). In other words, they are not well prepared for effective communication. That is why students often feel frustrated and intimidated each time oral presentations are assigned to them, especially when they are dealing with research matters and communication skills required for a successful presentation (King, 2002). Besides, it is also stressful for students who are not fluent in English and are expected to speak in the target language, especially during their English lessons (Khairi & Nurul Lina, 2010).

Therefore, the purpose of the study is to explore the perceived causes of academic oral presentation difficulties faced by the students at a polytechnic in Sarawak and also the differences in the causes of difficulties faced between engineering and commerce students.

Research questions

The research questions of the study are:

(a) What are the perceived causes of academic oral presentation difficulties faced by polytechnic students?

(b) Are there statistically significant differences between polytechnic engineering and commerce students in regard to the causes of academic oral presentation difficulties?

Literature Review

The literature review focuses on components of language anxiety and related research that has been carried out to identify causes of difficulties in oral presentations.

Components of language anxiety

Horwitz, Horwitz and Cope (1986) categorized language anxiety into communication apprehension, test anxiety and fear of negative evaluation. Some students find that giving an oral presentation is a difficult task because of their inner fears. Students are afraid of making mistakes, of being criticized or rejected by the audience, and of forgetting what they want to say. All these fears are known as communication apprehension. Communication apprehension is defined as an "individual's level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons" (McCroskey, 1977, p. 78).

Test anxiety is defined as "an apprehension over academic evaluation which is a fear of failing in test situations" (Horwitz & Young, as cited in Joy, 2013, p. …

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