In an effort to improve the instructional skills of its teaching candidates, the Department of Middle, Secondary, Reading, and Deaf Education has introduced MSED 6000: Written and Verbal Communication for Teachers. While the course is not required for those seeking certification-only, it is a requisite class for those pursuing the Master of Arts in Teaching degree.
The course emerged as part of the redesign of the MAT program, which occurred in 2014-2015. The new program of studies was put in place for the January 2016 cohort, and the communications course had its debut during the summer session that same year.
Department chair Dr. Barbara Radcliffe asked for the development of the course after she and several other faculty members had noted issues with the communications skills of the MAT candidates, several of whom were unsuccessful in their student teaching as a result. “It’s not enough to have the content knowledge,” said Radcliffe. “The candidates have to be able to communicate it, and that just wasn’t happening in some cases.”
The purpose of the course is to assist teaching candidates in developing those communications skills necessary to successful classroom instruction. As part of the class, students perform a variety of communicative tasks, including writing emails, memoranda, essays, and short research papers. Public speaking is heavily emphasized and includes activities like leading class discussions, presenting course material, and giving personal, content-related speeches and educational manifestos. Listening skills comprise the third dimension of the course, and candidates are expected to be fully engaged, providing written and oral feedback to their colleagues and the course instructor.
Among those who have taken the class, the overwhelming consensus is that the course is both practical and effective:
“I was worried about speaking and presenting in front of my peers. But, now, I feel my confidence has greatly increased.”
“I am thoroughly enjoying our class because it is so different from anything I have ever experienced. I am also learning a lot about how to communicate with my peers and future coworkers.”
“The communications class has been an excellent experience. It has truly expanded my idea of the teaching profession…. I feel as though this class has successfully prepared me to teach with a passion.”
“I believe I have gotten more confident and comfortable in front of this group and will be more comfortable in front of high school students. I honestly wish the course were a little longer.”
The current environment in secondary education and teacher preparation emphasizes the technical aspects of instruction while largely ignoring the artistic and performing dimensions of the job. The communications course is helping to fill this breach, encouraging new teachers to find their own voices, take creative risks, and be the best they can be for their students.
By: JT Cox