• Engagement and Empowerment Through Storytelling

      Dawson, Amanda
      If you were to ask a group of college students if they are “excited” about a public speaking course, generally the answer would be “no.” There are numerous studies that show that public speaking is Americans' biggest fear. The Washington Post published a study from Chapman University, which showed that 23.5% of Americans fear speaking in front of a crowd (2014). This fear is greater than their fear of heights, drowning, and flying. So, how do we help our students overcome their fears? Public Speaking is offered every semester (in multiple sections) on-ground and online at Brescia University. We encourage our students to take this course sometime during their first two semesters as they will utilize the skills learned in this class throughout their time at Brescia, which is why this class is required of all students. Like many required courses, the interest, engagement, and motivation of students varies therefore one of my focuses when teaching public speaking is on student engagement and motivation. My approach to public speaking is through an embodied practice: public speaking as performance via storytelling. Pulling on my theatre background I employ theatre games, improvisational techniques, vocal exercises, and storytelling to help students gain awareness of how mind, body, and speech interrelate. In my public speaking course, you will never hear a student delivering a “how to” speech or a basic “informative” speech. Instead my students learn to tell stories – about themselves, about the world around them, and about their hopes for the future. As a result, students leave my class with confidence, new perspectives, and hopefully, a sense of ownership and empowerment. This approach can be used not only in speech and theatre courses, but also in classes across the curriculum to engage and motivate students.