Dr Rob Grieve, Senior Lecturer Physiotherapy, University of the West of England, is a Senior Fellow of the HEA, who as a person with a mild stammer has faced many issue in public speaking. This has led to an increased awareness of student fears of public speaking and resulted in the facilitation of university wide student support workshops.
This blog describes the implementation of 'Stand Up and Be Heard' (SUBH) workshops for student fear of public speaking, including assessed presentations that negatively impact on the student experience.
My speech dysfluency (stammer) was initially a challenge in my early teaching and academic career and made me fully aware of the challenges of public speaking. During teaching sessions, formal viva voice, practical exams and presentations I also noticed that many students had a real fear of standing up in front of others and speaking in public. In a survey (n=787) of UWE and Plymouth University students on the impact of social anxiety on student learning, 80% of students reported that presentations/public speaking were associated with frequent social anxiety (Russell and Topham, 2012). In a cross-sectional study of undergraduate students (n=1,135), 64% reported a fear of public speaking and 89% would have liked their undergraduate program to include classes to improve public speaking (Marinho et al, 2017). My own previous personal public speaking challenges, observations of student public speaking fear and the research evidence led to the writing up and development of three hour SUBH workshops for students. The SUBH workshop need and development were initiated and developed in the context of the National Student Survey (NSS), Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and HE institutions awareness of student mental health.
The main aims of the workshops are to support learning and teaching related to a fear of presentations/public speaking, through specific strategies and a review of the overall benefits of public speaking as a transferable skill for university, life and future employment. Overall, these workshops have focussed on being an authentic public speaker and have moved away from the common approach that focusses on style and perfection. The authentic public speaker approach seemed to resonate with students and staff and was reinforced by my less than perfect but authentic facilitation of the workshops.
The first SUBH workshop was held in 2015 and was mainly for level 2 physiotherapy students. In the 2015-16 academic year, I sent an email call for more faculty wide workshops at the Glenside Campus, which resulted in an overwhelming response. Due to the popularity of these workshops and a waiting list, it was decided after discussion with library colleagues to run SUBH workshops from January 2017 in the Frenchay or Glenside Libraries. The support and collaboration from Library colleagues was invaluable in running the workshops under the Library Study Skills Events provision. However, due to my other module leadership, teaching and research commitments I did not have the capacity to run more workshops. Fortunately, I secured additional workload bundles from the UWE Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences (HAS), Learning and Teaching Innovation projects award for 2017-18. This was instrumental in taking this initiative forward and ensuring it could be sustained and be more faculty and university wide. Further validation for this SUBH student support scheme was gained by the university wide Vice Chancellor`s Staff Excellence award for “Student Enabling” in July 2017.
Since the initial HAS Faculty Learning and Teaching Innovation projects award, these workshops have also increased my own engagement in pedagogic CPD and have developed further in the following ways:
- SUBH workshops have been run regularly at either Glenside, Frenchay or Arnolfini city campus, supporting students from across all university faculties and departments. This academic year (2018-19), between five to six workshops each semester will be run in the Glenside or Frenchay libraries.
- Recent keynote and workshop at the SW regional PAL Conference at Southampton University (December 2017). This year (2018), invited by Southampton University to develop some of these strategies for staff and run a SUBH workshop for PAL leaders.
- Recent oral presentations at the Advance HE conferences (Grieve 2017, 2018), related to the SUBH workshops and need to support students with a fear of public speaking.
- Qualitative pedagogic research study completed in 2018 with library staff on student fear of public speaking and how this affects the student experience, learning and teaching.
- Presently writing a study guide “Stand Up and Be Heard” (to be published by SAGE Publishing) for university students who have a fear of public speaking, due for completion in June 2019.
Importantly, further evidence for these SUBH workshops has been obtained from all students who attended the workshops by the completion of an evaluation form. Overall the feedback has been really positive, below are a few verbatim responses:
“Amazing workshop. The first time I`ve felt hopeful about public speaking after trying many techniques.”
“Really beneficial workshop that I would recommend to anyone with a fear of public speaking.”
“This was really useful and should be more encouraged to other students”
This SUBH support initiative has mainly focused on student’s needs, and has involved close collaboration with other staff; from library colleagues in setting up the workshops and with fellow module leaders (nursing, social work, occupational therapy, physiotherapy) to identify and support students on their respective programmes. In relation to staff development, a separate SUBH workshop was run for members of the library staff whose role has changed to include more public speaking. Future plans, are to develop and facilitate regular workshops as part of the induction programme for newly employed academic staff (first time teaching) on being an authentic public speaker that would relate directly to teaching quality.
The important take home message, is that we as learning and teaching staff need to recognise that public speaking and module assessed presentations can be a real challenge and impact negatively on some of our student’s university experience and mental health. In my experience and as identified by some of the evidence in this blog, we as universities need to support our students more comprehensively in public speaking, which is an integral component of the university student experience.
Grieve, R (2018) An overview and evaluation of the 'Stand Up and Be Heard' workshops for student fear of public speaking, Advance HE, NET2018 Conference, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, 4-6th Sept 2018.
Grieve, R. (2017) Stand Up and Be Heard (Fear of Presentations/Public Speaking Workshop), Advance HE, Annual Teaching and Learning Conference, Manchester,4-6 July 2017.
Marinho, ACF., de Madeiros, AM., Gama, AC, and Teixeira, LC. (2017) Fear of Public Speaking: Perception of College Students and Correlates. Journal of Voice, 31 (1), 127.e7-127.e11.
Russell, G, and Topham, P. (2012). The impact of social anxiety on student learning and well-being in higher education. Journal of Mental Health, 21 (4), pp 375-385.