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Oral Expression Across the Curriculum


To know what needs to be said and how it should be said and yet lack the facility to express it well is like brooding over a hoarded treasure.


Quintilian, First Century, The Orator’s Education


The foundation for a successful undergraduate experience is proficiency in the written and spoken word.  Students need language to grasp and express effectively feelings and ideas.  To succeed in college, students should be able to write and speak with clarity, and to read and listen with comprehension.  Language and thought are inextricably connected and as undergraduates develop their linguistics skills, they hone the quality of their thinking and become intellectually and socially empowered.


Boyer, 1987, College: The Undergraduate Experience in America


How do I know what I think until I see what I say? 


E.M. Forster


To participate actively in our society individuals must be able to communicate clearly, effectively and appropriately in a variety of modes and to employ reasoned analysis to interpret and structure arguments.  To meet this goal, students at Ohio University are required to take three learning units in courses that are dedicated or enriched in oral expression.  The oral articulation of ideas influences the development of critical thinking, problem solving abilities, and general learning outcomes.  In addition, opportunities to practice oral expression will help students become more competent communicators.


When submitting a course as oral expression-dedicated or –enriched it is important to articulate as clearly as possible how oral expression is present in the content of the course.The following information may help you to write a description of the course that clearly notes how oral expression is included as a learning outcome, how students will presentation/performance oral expression, and evaluation/feedback of oral expression in the class.

Oral expression courses are noted as either dedicated or enriched.


1.  What is an oral expression-dedicated (OE-D) course?


  • Oral expression-dedicated courses provide conceptual frameworks, theories, and vocabulary that deepen students’ understanding of oral expression.  Dedicated courses provide instruction to strengthen skills associated with oral expression, such as discourse conventions, delivery, persuasion, and argumentation. 
  • Dedicated courses are foundational in that they provide the skills and knowledge from which enriched courses can build.
  • Faculty of OE-D courses provide in-depth instruction and explanation of their expectations relative to oral expression.
  • Dedicated courses provide multiple opportunities for students to practice oral expression concepts discussed in class.  Students consistently receive feedback on their oral expression performance.
  • The Oral Expression Advisory Committee suggests that dedicated courses are devoted almost entirely to oral expression concepts, that students have multiple opportunities to engage in oral expression, and that at least 25% of the student’s evaluation is based on knowledge of oral expression concepts and at least 25% of the student’s evaluation is based on performance of or engagement in oral expression. Students must receive feedback on their performance or engagement in oral expression.
  • Dedicated courses carry two learning units.  In general, dedicated courses should be worth four-credit hours or more.


2.  What is an oral expression-enriched (OE-E) course?


  • Oral expression-enriched courses typically build on conceptual frameworks, theories, and vocabulary developed more fully in OE-D courses.
  • OE-E courses do more than provide an opportunity for a student to make a public presentation, they provide an opportunity for students to consider the importance of the act of oral expression and clearly define the importance of oral expression in the discipline.
  • Faculty of OE-E courses provide instruction and explanation of their expectations relative to oral expression
  • OE-E courses provide assurance that all students will participate in oral expression and, like OE-D courses, students receive feedback on their oral expression.
  • In enriched courses, students speak regularly through combinations of the following: a) answering questions and participating in discussions, b) taking positions and arguing those positions in class, c) debating other students, d) making formal and informal presentations, e) engaging in or analyzing oral expression processes.
  • The quality of instruction and assignments in the area of oral expression are more important than quantity.  However, as an approximate measure, in OE-E courses engagement with oral expression should involve a quarter of the course work and constitute 25% of the student’s evaluation. 
  • Enriched courses carry one learning unit.  These courses may be less than four-credits.


3.  How can I enrich a course with oral expression?


Oral expression assignments should facilitate student learning of course concepts and ideas.  Faculty must specify learning objectives so that students don’t perceive of oral expression as an “add on” or busy work.


Oral expression in the classroom is typically structured as presentations, impromptu speaking, or oral performance.  These activities are discussed in more detail below.  Over the next several months, the Oral Expression Advisory Committee will be posting information about and examples of oral expression activities appropriate for enriched courses.  During the 2004-2005 academic year, the Center for Teaching Excellence will provide oral expression workshops.


Structured Presentations


A structured presentation is appropriate for learning objectives that focus on content comprehension, organizational skills, logical arguments, research and analysis skills. Examples of structured presentations include:


          Individual Formal Presentations

          Team Formal Presentations


          Extemporaneous Speeches

Panel Discussions

Poser Sessions

          Oral Exams


Impromptu Speaking


Impromptu speaking is appropriate for learning objectives that focus on discussion skills, interpersonal skills, questioning techniques, critical listening, collaboration, group interaction, problem solving, conflict management.  Examples of impromptu speaking include:


          Small Group Discussions 

          Peer Interactions

          Class Discussions

          Public Communications


          Active Listening



Oral Performance


Thought, meaning, and intention are directly linked to speech just as non-speaking means such as gestures can support effective communication during oral expression.  Thus, oral performance is appropriate for learning objectives that focus on the physical execution/delivery of speech and the dramatization of speech.  Oral performance is the ability and right to speak freely and clearly, unashamed, to fully vocalize, to choose to make contact with a word and to communicate that word successfully.  Oral performance includes the learning of vocal skills for a free and articulate delivery.  Oral performance may focus on:


          Production of Speech

Dramatization of Speech

Dramatic Interpretation


4.  How can I assess oral expression?


It can be challenging to assess a student’s oral expression.  Unlike written assignments that a faculty member can interact with, come back to, and respond to after-the-fact, oral expression is “intangible” and fleeting.  Thus, oral expression – unless it is recorded – should be assessed as it occurs or immediately afterwards.  Workshops and website information specific to assessing oral expression assignments are forthcoming.


5.  What criteria will the Oral Expression Advisory Committee use when       assessing my proposal?


The Oral Expression Advisory Committee will use a standard set of questions to assess each portion of the proposal.   These questions are listed below:


How does the content of the course address the proposed general education goal?


Will content include a focus on the importance and means of oral expression specific to the discipline?


Has the author discussed what disciplinary specific content or professional situations will be complemented or reinforced through oral expression?


Does oral expression involve about a quarter of the coursework?


What will students do in pursuit of learning the general education goal?


Are students instructed on planning, organizing, and/or presenting their oral expression assignment?


Do students have multiple ways in which to express them selves? (Although only one form may be formally assessed.)



How will student learning of the general education goal be assessed in the context of the course?


Does the author discuss how students will be assessed?


Does the author discuss who will be conducting the assessment?


Do students receive feedback on their oral expression?


Is at least 25% of the grade based on oral expression?


6.  Who should I contact for more information about oral expression?  


R. Sam Larson

School of Communication Studies

110 Lasher Hall




Advisory Committee Contact Information


Chair: Sam Larson
Department: Interpersonal Communication


James Andrews
Department: Classics & World Religions


Lacey Curtis 
Department: Education: Southern Campus         


Norm Garber

Department: Hearing, Speech, and Language Sciences


Sharon Mullen

Department: Nursing


Laura Myers

Department: Management Systems        


Laura Parrotti
Department: Theater


Scott Titsworth
Department: Interpersonal Communication



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