PILOT PROJECT FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF PUBLIC SPEAKING SKILLS IN STUDENTS OF 4TH YEAR FOR THE DEGREE IN CHEMISTRY

Chemists can be involved in a wide range of activities, including teaching, research and businesses. Graduates in Chemistry have a broad knowledge in Chemistry, as well as a significant knowledge of other Sciences, such as Physics or Mathematics. As indicated in the report approved by the Spanish National Evaluation Agency, ANECA, future graduates should demonstrate the ability to communicate clearly and accurately in public, including both specialist and non-specialist audiences. To help them achieve this skill, a group of twelve lecturers (presently lecturing for this Degree) and nine PhD researchers proposed a Workshop entitled "Public Speaking". The workshop period was 40 hours (16 at the classroom and an estimation of 24 hours of homework).

The workshop was divided in 9 sessions. In the first one, a psychologist expert on public speaking gave a lecture to provide the students with hints and tricks to improve their communication skills. In sessions 2-5, the 27 students enrolled in the workshop gave oral presentations of a scientific article, with a maximum of 8 minutes in length. Next both degree students and faculty (including the PhD researchers) evaluated their performance using a rubric created for this purpose. Subsequently, all rubrics were collected and analyzed and a report with improvement suggestions was emitted.

On the other hand, the presentation was recorded. The students were asked to make a self-assessment of their performance. In their auto-evaluation, the words that appear most often were “fear”, “embarrassment”, “mockery”, and similar expressions. Due to this, session 6 consisted of group dynamics to strengthen the self-confidence and reduce the stress of public speaking. Finally, sessions 7-9 were devoted to a new oral presentation by the students. In this occasion each student choose the subject matter of their own presentations. Again, both students and faculty evaluated their performance using the same rubric.

Finally, the scores obtained in both presentations were analyzed. It was observed that usually, the peer students tend to give a better mark to the presentations than the faculty and, in general, the quality of the presentations improved, and public speaking skills were enhanced.

Acknowledgments:
The team is grateful to Servicio de Orientación y Formación Docente (SOFD, Project C_2015_63) and the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Extremadura for financial support.