Do your first-year or senior students give individual oral presentations as part of your course or curriculum? Has your program considered the value in assessing oral communication as a competency, in addition to assessing discipline-specific learning? Oral communication skills are essential for students in any field to become well-rounded and prepared college graduates.
Fortunately, NC State faculty from all colleges have resources and support to make the assessment of their students’ oral communication skills easy. The Office of Assessment offers an oral communication rubric, revised by NC State faculty, freely available on its website. Faculty are also welcomed to use the accompanying online norming module, providing short sample videos to help faculty become familiar with using the rubric, practice scoring, and compare their scores with sample scores provided by Office of Assessment staff.
Faculty who apply the rubric to their students’ in-class presentations can partner with the Office of Assessment, who will provide its staff as trained additional scorers to assist in scoring presentations. Lara Pacifici, teaching associate professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, partnered with the Office of Assessment to assess her seniors’ oral communication competency for their presentations in FW 415: Professional Development in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology in fall 2018:
“The rubric made things a lot easier. Having two external scorers was huge help. It was nice to see how our scores compared. For most measures, only one person is scoring something, so the additional scorers added to the robustness of the assessment. It was super easy for me. If you have a class with an oral communication component, you can get good data using the rubric. You can drill down and see what areas you need to focus on.”
The Office of Assessment compiles and analyzes data from instructor scores and returns it in a report to course instructors. This report can be used for course improvement and for the program’s annual assessment report. For example, faculty in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology were able to use their oral communication data to make the determination that their seniors could benefit from further guidance on the importance of developing strong conclusions at the end of their presentations. Faculty plan to emphasize this to students for future sections of FW 415 in order to further strengthen their oral communication skills.
Partnerships between faculty and the Office of Assessment also benefit the colleges and the university as a whole by helping to provide aggregate data about students’ oral communication skills. As one of the five General Education Competencies, oral communication is a competency that that a “generally educated” NC State student from every major program should be able to demonstrate upon graduation. The competencies also include written communication, quantitative literacy, critical thinking, and creative thinking. The NC State Office of Assessment collects and reports on data for these competencies at the first-year and senior levels, sharing results with faculty to help improve student learning on campus.
If you are interested in learning more and partnering with the Office of Assessment to apply the common rubric to your students’ individual oral presentations, please contact Samantha Rich, Assistant Director in the Office of Assessment, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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