Speaking Assignments

Goals for student learning:

  • Distill and organize ideas
  • Speak cogently and persuasively
  • Understand importance of addressing a specific audience

Be aware that:

  • Students may require extensive preparation and practice to give an oral presentation or speech that is more than a simple recitation of material.
  • Performance anxiety is a real but not insurmountable obstacle.

To encourage active, deep, and honest engagement:

  • Define the purposes of the speaking assignment for your students.
  • Develop a grading rubric that evaluates form as well as content. Do you expect students to make eye contact with their audience, speak at a reasonable rate, use notes or PowerPoint, or adhere to a time limit, for instance?
  • Request help from experts. Speaking well requires physical attentiveness to stance, breath, and volume; your students may benefit from the Peer Speaking Tutor Program (see below).
  • Public speaking assignments are also occasions to teach your students how to be a good audience: to listen carefully and attentively, to ask appropriate, on-target questions, etc.

Assignment types and examples:

  • Oral presentation
  • Research presentation
  • Debates
  • Role-plays, simulations
  • Oral exam

Resources for faculty:

Harvard College Writing Program Speaking Resources