Imagine Consulting Group International and Griffith University (AUSTRALIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN12 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Pages: 3716-3721
ISBN: 978-84-695-3491-5
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 4th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2012
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Over the course of four years, in an undergraduate tourism and hospitality third year project-based course, a scaffolding-based learning approach (Hogan, 1997) was utilised to develop oral presentation skills of students, especially the ability to capture passion in oral ‘pitches’ and to rely less on technology to support communication.

Action research (Heron & Reason, 2008) was used to frame changes to course delivery. At the outset of each course, students were asked to set their specific learning objectives for the course. These were recorded in project proposals and in open class discussions. Students repeatedly identified having to present using oral modes as one of the areas in which they wished to improve their skill sets.

The course was structured to enable multiple opportunities to engage in oral communication in varying modes and with differing audience contexts. There were three core-learning engagements associated with oral communication. The first was a five minute oral project pitch, the second was a ten minute project oral report, and the third was on-going weekly oral participation within a specific forum.

The first and second oral learning-engagements were assessed by the student, student peers and lecturer. The third was not formally assessed although students were encouraged to weekly assess their own oral participation and to seek feedback from the lecturer. The first and second oral learning engagements were tied. Both were focused on individual student projects.

To facilitate the learning-teaching engagements in the project-based course, role play was the dominant conduit for learning (Kolb, 1984; Knowles, 1990). The class became a pseudo-organisation with each of the students representing differing departments in the organisation. As such it reflected attributes of scenario-based learning. Each week, the organisation met for two hours to discuss work progress. In this context, students were able to practice their oral communication skills using the “mask” of an organisational position. In these weekly contexts, students focussed on the third core-oral learning engagement.

The five minute oral project pitch had three key points to convey: what the project was about, how it would be implemented, and why it was important for the organisation to support the project. Students provided a written evaluation of their pitch performances. Student peers supplied written feedback and rated the top five projects pitched and why.

The use of student peer evaluation was effective in enhancing student learning. It enabled reflexive learning (Kolb, 1984; Knowles, 1990, Schön, 1987) to be part of the educational experience. Debriefing of pitches occurred in the following week and provided further learning for the students.

The ten minute oral reports addressed same key points as the five minute oral pitch. Again students self and peer assessed their presentations. The lecturer formally assessed the students’ oral presentations and debriefing sessions were held.

Across the four years, the students developed greater confidence in their oral communication abilities and skills. The students were supportive and critically constructive as self and peer evaluators. Many took the opportunity to receive individual feedback from the lecturer regarding lecturer feedback. Importantly, they understood the need for passion in their pitches and how best to effect this.
Oral communication, project pitches, action research, reflexive learning, role play, student and peer evaluation.