Transformational Learning Abilities

Oral Communication

Operational Definition

A Samford student will have demonstrated his/her ability to speak and listen competently in public, group, and interpersonal contexts by developing, adapting, and sending messages that are seen as appropriate by the audience for the purpose specified.

There are three general purposes for communication: persuading, informing, and relating. "College graduates should be able to construct persuasive messages adapted to the audience, present the messages, and achieve their goals. They should be able to present and solicit information and understand when they're understood. And they should be able to develop healthy interpersonal relations with others, managing conflicts that might arise along the way" (Morreale & Backlund, 2002, p.10).

Basic communication competencies that apply across all contexts:

  • Eliminate/control communication apprehension
  • Assert self while respecting the rights of others
  • Exhibit listening competency:
    • Listen attentively (use appropriate verbal and nonverbal cues)
    • Recognize main ideas and supporting details
    • Distinguish facts from opinions
  • Engage in appropriate referential communication (asking/answering questions or giving directions), which includes conveying information in a manner that is:
    • Adapted to the requirements of the listener
    • Relevant to the issue or task at hand
    • Concise
    • Accurate


Interpersonal Context

People who are interpersonally competent can (a) develop, maintain and nurture relationships with others, (b) fulfill their own interpersonal needs, and (c) manage conflict while respecting other interactants' rights (Rubin & Morreale, 1996). The Samford student will be able to transmit messages suitable for various interpersonal situations and will be able to select from a repertoire of communication skills appropriate strategies for relationship management.

  • Displays affect (empathy, expressiveness) in keeping with conversational goals.
  • Engage in altercentrism (concerned with, interested in, and attentive to conversational partner).
  • Engage in conversational management via turn taking, self-disclosure, and provision of feedback.
  • Recognize when it is inappropriate to speak.
  • Message adaptability: encode and decode messages within the context of the situation and conversational partner.
  • Identify and manage conflicts and misunderstandings.

Group Context

For competent group communication, a communicator must engage effectively in both task and socio-emotional behaviors (Johnson & Johnson, 2000), which include the following:

  • Engage in perspective-taking; allow others to express alternative views while maintaining one's own perspective.
  • Keep group discussion relevant and focused.
  • Ask relevant questions.
  • Share information and contribute knowledge, opinions, and skills
  • Facilitate group goals by completing tasks and participating in group decision processes.
  • Understand and implement different methods for building consensus
  • Manage and identify conflicts and misunderstandings.
  • Negotiate ideas effectively and assertively.
  • Adapt behavior for various situations, cultures, organizations, and groups.
  • Construct realistic meeting agendas and manage them in role of either team leader or participant.

Public Context

In order to be a competent speaker, a person must be able to compose a message and provide ideas and information suitable to the topic, purpose, and audience with attention to nonverbal cues that enhance the message.

  • Choose and narrow a topic appropriately for the audience and occasion.
  • Communicate the thesis/specific purpose in a manner appropriate for the audience and occasion.
  • Provide supporting material.
  • Use an organizational pattern appropriate to the topic, audience, occasion, and purpose.
  • Use language appropriate to the audience and occasion.
  • Use vocal variety in rate, pitch, and intensity to heighten and maintain interest appropriate to the audience and occasion.
  • Use pronunciation, grammar, and articulation appropriate to the audience and occasion.
  • Use physical behaviors that support the verbal message.

Assignment Examples

Assessment Examples


The Personal Report of Communication Apprehension (PRCA-24)

The PRCA-24 by McCroskey and Richmond (1980) is a valid and reliable measure of generalized-context communication apprehension (CA), which is defined as "a relatively enduring, personality-type orientation toward communication in a given type of context" (McCroskey, 1982, p. 147). The PRCA is a test that measures four different contexts of this type of CA: Groups, meetings, interpersonal conversations, and public speaking. Responses to each item are scored from 1 ("strongly agree") to 5 ("strongly disagree"). Scores on each of the four contexts can range from 6 30. Any score above 18 indicates some degree of apprehension. A total score for the PRCA can be also computed to assess an individual's overall level of communication apprehension, with scores ranging from 24-120. Scores above 65 indicate a higher than average level of apprehension.

Watson Barker Listening Test (WBLT)

The Watson Barker Listening Test (WBLT) by Watson, Barker, Roberts & Roberts (2001) is a valid and reliable measure of listening competency, designed for use with adult and college audiences. The test consists of a videotape of conversations and lectures to which participants respond with paper and pencil. The WBLT is divided into five parts, each designed to test a particular type of listening comprehension ability. Part I measures the listener's skill in interpreting message content. By presenting various dialogues, Part II tests understanding of meaning in conversations. Part III involves listening to a series of brief lectures and test remembering lecture information. Part IV uses questions and/or statements to measure the listener's skill in interpreting emotional meaning, requiring listeners to attend to how something is said as well as to what is said. Finally, Part V measures a listener's ability to follow instructions.

Instructional possibilities for using the WBLT test include:

  • Listening awareness at the beginning of a listening module or training program
  • Listening instruction using a test-retest strategy
  • Listening measurement to identify listening skills that need improvement
  • Assess the effectiveness of various instructional strategies on listening skills
  • Determine whether gender influences listening effectiveness
  • Diagnose differences among different populations
  • Examine commonalities and differences among various assessment instruments
  • Investigate the effects of unique instructional environments on listening skills.

The WBLT is currently being administered in over 40 states and 10 different countries. The test has been adopted for use in community colleges and universities, government agencies, professional organization, business and industry.

Conversational Skills Rating Scale (CSRS)

The CSRS was developed to provide a psychometrically sound instrument for assessing self or other interpersonal skills in the context of conversation. It combines both verbal and nonverbal behaviors in its content, and can be used in a variety of contexts, including instructional contexts. It can be applied by students, instructors, and trained observers. It can also be used to refer to a particular conversation, or to conversations in general.

The CSRS is a measure of interpersonal skills applied in virtually all face-to-face conversational interaction. Skills, in turn, comprise one of the three essential components of interpersonal competence. Specifically, to be competent an interactant needs to have the motivation to create a competent impression and avoid being debilitated by anxiety. Further, an interactant needs to have the knowledge relevant to the context, topics, activity procedures, norms, and the like. But having motivation and knowledge may not be sufficient if the person cannot demonstrate the actual interaction skills required to implement his or her goals and understandings. The CSRS was developed to provide a subjectively based, yet relatively specific, assessment of the skills component of conversational interaction.

Consists of 25 behavioral items written at the micro level, which comprise four skill clusters:

  • Altercentrism: tendency to be concerned with, interested in, and attentive to, a conversational partner.
  • Composure: avoidance of anxiety cues, and an assertive or confident manner.
  • Expressiveness: gestural and facial animation, topical verbosity.
  • Interaction management: coordinated entrance and exit from conversations, nondisruptive flow of conversational turns, topical innovation.

Should not be used for admission, placement, or grade purposes. Competence is a social standard, open to the prevailing subjective conceptions of propriety and efficacy.

The Competent Group Communicator (CGC)

Designed to provide a valid and reliable tool to assess performance in small group problem-solving discussion. Its purpose is to assess nine competencies of individual group members as well as overall group competency in task-oriented discussions in which there is a problem to solve or a decision to make. The instrument focuses on assessing behaviors rather than knowledge about small group communication or motivation to participate in group discussion.

This instrument can serve several purposes:

  • Evaluating student performance in problem-solving and decision making group discussion in classes or training sessions
  • Assessing students' skills, thus serving as a placement tool for participating in group discussions
  • Measuring pre- and post-test student mastery of small group communication skills taught in classes or seminars
  • Generating assessment data that could help academic institutions or organizations determine the effectiveness of instruction in group communication and student mastery of group communication competencies.

The instrument is designed to assess nine general problem-solving competencies that are organized into four general categories. The nine group competencies are supported by extensive small group communication research and pedagogy.

The four general categories of competencies are:

  • Problem-oriented competencies
  • Solution-oriented competencies
  • Discussion management competencies
  • Relational management competencies

The Competent Speaker (CS)

The Competent Speaker Speech Evaluation Form by Morreale, Moore, Taylor, Surges-Tatum and Hulbert-Johnsopn (1993) was developed by the National Communication Association (formerly Speech Communication Association) Committee for Assessment and Testing and representatives of 12 academic institutions.

The measure has been determined to be a psychometrically reliable and valid instrument with which to judge speeches. The Competent Speaker is to be used to assess public speaking competency at the higher education level for purposes of (1) in-class speech evaluation, (2) entrance/exit placement and assessment, (3) as an instructional strategy or advising tool, and/or (4) to generate assessment data for institutional or departmental accountability.

The Competent Speaker consists of eight public speaking competencies, four of which relate to preparation and four to delivery: The speaker chooses and narrows a topic appropriately for the audience and occasion; communicates the thesis/specific purpose in a manner appropriate for audience and occasion; provides appropriate supporting material based on the audience and occasion; uses an organizational pattern appropriate to topic, audience, occasion, & purpose; uses language that is appropriate to the audience, occasion, & purpose; uses vocal variety in rate, pitch & intensity to heighten and maintain interest; uses pronunciation, grammar & articulation appropriate to the designated audience; uses physical behaviors that support the verbal message.

For each of the eight competencies, specific criteria for assessment are provided at three levels of performance, identified as "excellent," "satisfactory," and "unsatisfactory."

The National Communication Association makes available a training manual and accompanying videotape for training one or more speech evaluators/raters.

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