Speaking in the Disciplines FAQ
Q1. Is oral communication relevant to courses in my discipline?
So long as people in your discipline speak and listen as means to achieve their disciplinary and professional goals, there’s a place for oral communication in the courses in your discipline. Moreover, oral communication skills rank consistently among the top ten competencies employers desire, and are necessary in interpersonal, social, and civic interactions.
Q2. Won’t oral communication activities detract from my course content?
Every instructor struggles to balance the content they want students to learn with the limited time they have to help students learn it. A guiding premise of the SID Seminar is that incorporating oral communication helps students learn to speak and speak to learn. Numerous studies show that the performative aspect of speaking is a cognitive tool that aids retention, comprehension, synthesis, application, evaluation and creation of the very knowledge instructors want students to gain.
Q3. Won’t improving students’ oral communication be time-intensive?
Improving oral communication takes time, and SID is designed to ensure that student oral interactions are manageable for instructors. The SID Seminar invites faculty to prioritize the aspects of speaking and listening that matter most in their fields and determine what’s feasible in their courses—given instructional goals, desired learning outcomes, and classroom, curricular and other contextual constraints. It helps instructors explore and decide among possible oral communication activities/assignments and guides them through evaluation options. Finally, SID partners with the Oral Communication Lab in ways that help faculty manage time and support student learning. The Lab’s trained undergraduate assistants provide students (and others) with the guided practice opportunities, encouragement and feedback that improve oral performance. In recent years, assistants have hailed from almost half of the Dietrich School’s departments, including Biology, Economics, French and Italian Studies, Philosophy, Political Science and Psychology.
Q4. Does oral communication really need to be taught?
The belief that humans who communicate orally will naturally become competent speakers and listeners is based on two common misperceptions: that oral/aural competence transcends context, and oral/aural competence can be achieved without knowing what it entails. Such misperceptions leave students to fall through the cracks. They also leave instructors frustrated when the quality and quantity of students’ communication performances don’t meet their expectations. If our students are to become better communicators, they need instruction. The SID Seminar supports faculty as they address this need within the contexts of their disciplines.
Q5. Is oral communication suitable in a large lecture course setting?
Oral communication is appropriate in all classes regardless of size. The key is to implement options that make sense in the learning environment and motivate student learning. SID recognizes that large lecture course settings pose specific challenges to incorporating oral communication. The SID Seminar helps instructors of these courses explore speaking and listening options, and decide what’s best suited to their learning environments--including the recitations or labs they teach and oversee.
Q6. Is the SID Seminar only for faculty new to teaching, or new to teaching at Pitt?
No. The SID Seminar welcomes all Dietrich School faculty members at any stage in their teaching careers.
Q7. Does it matter if I participated in the Writing in the Disciplines (WID) Faculty Seminar?
There are distinctive benefits to the SID and WID fellowships. While both seminars help faculty incorporate discipline-based communication into undergraduate courses, the focus of SID is explicitly on oral (vs. written) use of language. This focus presents unique challenges and opportunities. But, as faculty who have completed both seminars can attest, oral communication can support improved writing, and written communication can fund better talking and listening. Accordingly, faculty are encouraged to explore and take advantage of SID and WID.
Q8. Is the SID Seminar application process cumbersome?
No. Each applicant is simply asked to identify an undergraduate course they currently or expect to teach, and the challenges they anticipate as they seek to incorporate oral communication.