About the Seminar
Foundational writing or speaking courses have traditionally taught communication skills largely outside of any specific academic discipline. More recently, in order to provide a context in which communication can be practiced, many first-year writing and speaking programs have structured courses around a broad content theme uniting readings and assignments. Framing a foundational communication course thematically can allow for increased analytical and research rigor, deeper applications of communication skills more reflective of those students will encounter in the rest of their academic careers, and community developed through shared inquiry.
An opportunity to pilot this approach in Speech Communication (COM 1010), the College’s foundational public speaking course, arose in 2015 – 2016, and the Institute partnered with the Communication Studies Department to offer a faculty development seminar in response. In Fall sessions, we explored theoretical foundations of thematic course design, applied practical tools, and developed and workshopped materials for courses with themes such as Ecology and Networks, Urban Spaces as Cultural Landscapes, Social Justice, and Corporations in Crisis. The seminar concluded in the Spring, when we reconvened to discuss what had worked in the classroom, and collaborate on what needed refinement.
Getting Started on Your Own Thematic Course
Whether you’re teaching COM 1010 or another course you think could benefit from more thematic framing, you might begin with some of the questions we did:
How would your current teaching practices and lesson plans be impacted by a theme? More specifically, what kinds of in-class activities can you imagine changing, and how? What about formal assignments? Informal ones? At-home reading? Expectations for student research and source use? Peer review and workshopping practices? What wouldn’t you want to see changed?
What theme content would your students need to know in order to deliver effective speeches (or write effective papers)? That is, what theme content would best facilitate their learning and developing communication skills? How could they gain access to that theme content? To what extent will you introduce it and to what extent will they be responsible for uncovering it? How can you hold students accountable for the entire class’s theme content knowledge? How can you interweave theme content with communication theory, public speaking skills, and/or writing skills?
Be in touch!
If you’d like to learn more about the seminar and its resources or talk with someone about thematic course design, be in touch; we’re happy to help.