Interstate Passport Briefing

Oral Communication: A Foundation of General Education

Kim Weismann Headshot
Kim Weismann, Williston State College

Dr. Kim Weismann is a Professor of Communication and the Arts and Human Sciences Department Chair at Williston State College in Williston, North Dakota. She earned her Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Dickinson State University, her Master of Arts in Speech Communication from North Dakota State University, and her Doctorate of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of South Dakota. Dr. Weismann is also a member of the Interstate Passport Oral Communication Faculty Committee, which is responsible for developing the learning outcomes and proficiency criteria for this foundation skill area.

This is her 15th year of teaching in higher education. Weismann has taught a variety of courses during that time including, but not limited to, Fundamentals of Public Speaking, Interpersonal Communication, Intercultural Communication, Oral Interpretation, Organizational Communication, Persuasion, Argumentation, Cultural Diversity, Social Problems, College Strategies and College Transition. Her doctoral dissertation, “Evaluating the perceived challenges in offering public speaking courses online” was published this year (Publication No. 27667256, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing).  Dr. Weismann currently resides in Williston with her husband, Tony Freed, and their rescue animals.

Oral Communication: A Foundation of General Education

I am a full-time professor of Communication at a small community college in northwestern North Dakota. In my 15 years of teaching in higher education I have taught a variety of courses as well as at different types of institutions, including a research university, a four-year regional teaching university, and currently a community college. During this time, unsurprisingly, I have seen a number of changes. Some practices, however, have remained consistent, one in particular: communication courses count as general education courses within the institutions where I have taught. More importantly, communication course outcomes connect to the workforce and employment. They help students learn ethics, critical thinking, listening, and critical evaluation – skills that employers want.

In a traditional public speaking class, students learn lifelong skills:

  • Writing and organizational skills when writing speeches
  • Analytical skills when researching assignments and assessing peers’ presentations
  • Collaborative skills when working with their peers – considered vital in today’s workplace
  • Listening skills when listening to their peers’ presentations.

Many institutions offer a course in interpersonal communication in which students typically work on communicating with other people in various settings including, but not limited to, the workplace, romantic relationships, friendships, and families. Students also learn about perception and intrapersonal communication. The focus is on collaboration, conflict management and listening skills.

At some institutions, interpersonal communication is the sole class students take for the communication competency. Thus, it is essential that students have a clear understanding of the concepts and skills necessary for effective communication – preparation, delivery, critical listening, and the ability to make adjustments. Students learn about these concepts and skills through a variety of ways such as role-playing and in-class discussions. Students also find examples of situations in popular culture and explain how the concepts apply to each scenario. Students may also share their personal experiences in small group discussions in class as well.

The Interstate Passport oral communication outcomes focus on ethics, critical thinking, organization, delivery skills, monitoring and adjusting with an audience, as well as listening and critically evaluating messages. All of the skills taught in a communication course are transferable to other areas of students’ lives, especially their careers.

Indeed, nearly every job has human interaction of some kind, so the ability to communicate effectively is critical. Employers are looking for candidates who have strong written and oral communication skills, very often labeled as “soft skills.” A 2019 article from the Forbes Coaches Council presents 15 such skills needed to succeed in the workforce, including communication: “speaking thoughtfully and intelligently, listening intently, and being a team player with leadership potential.”

The website, which provides services to job seekers as well as employers, cites communication skills as one of the top five attributes that employers are looking for in potential employees.

Communication studies is a discipline that imparts to students not only new concepts but also skills that will be valuable throughout their lives. The learning outcomes for these courses have remained consistent over time and likely will continue to do so because of the importance of good communication skills in all facets of life.

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