An important part of the history of communication, particularly in the US, focused on how to train teachers to teach this subject. From the first issues of the academic journals in the early 1900s (Quarterly Journal of Public Speaking) until today, when entire journals provide research reports for and about teachers, the topic has been at the forefront of professional associations, as evidenced in their publications (e.g., Communication Education, Feedback, Journalism and Mass Communication Educator) and association names. For instance, the National Communication Association (NCA) began as the National Association of Academic Teachers of Public Speaking (1914–1922) and then the National Association of Teachers of Speech (1923–1945). And the Broadcast Education Association and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication continue to promote education in their association names.
Despite similar interests around the world, the focus on education has not been reflected in communication publications or learned societies as much as it has in the US. Since the roots of teacher training lie in the speech communication field, this article will concentrate on the three main facets of teaching speech communication: training of speech-theatre teachers, teacher communication competencies, and instructional communication.
Training of Speech-Theatre Teachers
Until the early 1970s, the training of speech-theatre teachers was termed “speech education.” At that time, most speech communication educators were engaged in secondary teacher education at the pre-service and in-service levels, focusing on the content and skills necessary to teach public speaking, group discussion, debate, oral interpretation, and theatre (Wallace, 1954). For example, teachers were trained in evaluating speeches, directing plays, and directing co-curricular activities. In 1973 speech communication educators met in Memphis, Tennessee, to shape the future of speech education within the speech communication community. Their work resulted in the publication New Horizons for Teacher-Education in Speech Communication. The recommendations focused on professional education – rather than on specific skills – for communication educators in three areas: research, pre-service education, and in-service education.
A decade after the Memphis conference, leaders in the field of speech communication envisioned a second national planning conference, the Flagstaff conference. The participants of the Flagstaff conference developed several recommendations for each of the goals. The major recommendations for the speech communication preparation of all teachers and of speech communication specialists focused on the widespread dissemination of the Teacher Certification/Preparation Guidelines, endorsed by the NCA. These guidelines included preparation in (1) fundamentals of communication. such as effective listening and ethical standards; (2) public and presentation speaking, such as organizational patterns and evidence in reasoning; (3) oral interpretation, such as forms of performance literature and voice and movement; (4) argumentation and debate; (5) interpersonal and small group communication, such as development of self-concept and managing conflict; (6) forensics, such as directing a co-curricular program; (7) mass communication, such as media literacy and media influence; and (8) theatre/drama such as history and performance skills. In addition, the attendees urged the continuing development of certification standards and preparation guidelines for elementary and college-level teachers.
In 2000, the NCA published Communication Teacher Education Preparation Standards and Guidelines. This document focused on assessing speech communication teacher education programs. Six quality standards are used to assess the speech communication teacher preparation programs: (1) structure of the program, (2) general studies component, (3) knowledge of communication, (4) professional education and pedagogical studies, (5) professional collaboration and growth, and (6) field-based experiences for communication.
In 1973 a joint task force by NCA and the American Theatre Association produced two documents intended to improve pre-service and in-service teacher education and to provide guidelines for certification and hiring. The first, Competency Models in Speech Communication and Theatre for Preparation and Certification of Elementary and Secondary School Teachers, provided guidelines for generating specific competency statements and assessment procedures in local programs. It addressed the preparation of speech-theatre media specialists as well as the speech-theatre competencies needed by all teachers. The second, Guidelines for Speech Communication Theatre Programs in Teacher Education, focused on the components necessary for an effective theatre education program.
In 1988, an NCA subcommittee of the Committee on Assessment and Testing released a document describing the competencies and skills necessary in teaching (Cooper, 1988). According to this report, teachers should be able to send and receive messages that are: (1) informative (e.g., structure information by using preview questions and comments, transitions, internal summaries, and concluding summaries; and identify the main point of students’ informative messages); (2) persuasive (e.g., offer sound reasons and evidence in support of ideas, and recognize underlying assumptions in the arguments of others); (3) affective (e.g., demonstrate openness, warmth, and positive regard for students; be nonjudgmental in responding to students’ feelings); (4) imaginative (e.g., use vivid descriptive language and respond to students’ use of imagination with appreciation); and (5) ritualistic (e.g., demonstrate appropriate behavior in performing everyday speech acts such as greeting, taking turns in conversation, and taking leave; comment favorably when students perform everyday speech acts appropriately).
Over the past 30 years research in the training of speech/theatre teachers has become nearly nonexistent in the US, while instructional communication has increased substantially. Instructional communication concerns are identified increasingly as the province of communication education. Staton-Spicer and Wulff (1984) list three categories of research in the area of teacher characteristics: first, studies of the relationship between various teacher characteristics and student learning; second, teacher characteristics and teacher effectiveness; and third, teacher attitudes and expectations.
While much of the early research in instructional communication focused on individual differences in students (for example, levels of communication apprehension), much of the research in recent years has focused on the behaviors and orientations of teachers related to communication instruction. Although no general theory of instruction communication has guided this research, two general approaches (relational and rhetorical) have dominated much of the research in instruction communication (McCroskey & McCroskey, 2006).
The relational approach to instructional communication has derived from scholarship relating to interpersonal communication, particularly the transactional model of interpersonal communication. This model assumes that teachers and students mutually and simultaneously exchange information and ideas, which results in shared meaning and simultaneous learning. An example of this approach is the “learning communication culture” advocated by Book & Putnam (1992).
The second approach – the rhetorical approach to instructional communication – is derived from classical rhetorical theory. The rhetorical model assumes that in instruction, teachers are the primary source of information (including teacher-selected reading material and other instructional aids) and that students are the receivers/ learners. Instructional communication according to the rhetorical approach is seen as a teacher-controlled, linear process, where the teacher is the person primarily responsible for creating messages that will stimulate teacher-selected meanings in students’ minds (that is, learning). The teachers carefully design instructional objectives, with specific expectations that students will master the knowledge represented by those objectives. This model is used primarily in the scientific and social-scientific disciplines where specific facts and processes are being taught.
Increasingly, courses are being taught using the findings of both the relational and the rhetorical approaches to instructional communication (Cooper & Simonds 2007; Hunt et al. 2002). These courses are designed to foster the communication competencies of all teachers and are generally focused on three major areas: (1) communication competence – classroom communication, interpersonal communication, listening, and verbal and nonverbal communication; (2) instructional strategies – the sharing of information, leading classroom discussions, small group communication, and storytelling and communicative reading; (3) communication impact – ethical considerations of influence on students and issues of influence such as power, conflict, handling student misbehaviors, sexism, racism, class, ethnicity, children with special needs, and ways to create a positive classroom climate.
- Book, C., & Putnam, L. (1992). Organization and management of a classroom as a learning community culture. In V. P. Richmond & J. C. McCroskey (eds.), Power in the classroom: Communication, control and concern. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 19–34.
- Cooper, P. J. (ed.) (1988). Communication competencies for teachers. Annandale, VA: Speech Communication Association.
- Cooper, P. J., & Simonds, C. (2007). Communication for the classroom teacher, 8th edn. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
- Hunt, S., Simonds, C., & Cooper, P. (2002). Communication and teacher education: Exploring a communication course for all teachers. Communication Education, 51, 81–94.
- McCroskey, J. C., & McCroskey, L. L. (2006). Instructional communication: The historical perspective. In T. P. Mottet, V. P. Richmond, and J. C. McCroskey (eds.), Handbook of instructional communication: Rhetorical and relational perspective. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, pp. 33–47.
- National Communication Association (2000a). Communication teacher education preparation standards and guidelines. Washington, DC: National Communication Association.
- National Communication Association (2000b). Guidelines for developing oral communication curricula in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Washington, DC: National Communication Association.
- Staton-Spicer, A., & Wulff, D. (1984). Research in communication and instruction: Categorization and synthesis. Communication Education, 33, 192–204.
- Wallace, K. R. (ed.) (1954). History of speech education in America: Background studies. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
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