nghien cuu khoa hoc

Oral presentation plays a vital part in today’s life. Patil (2006) states that “the
ability to give a great presentation can be a tremendous career booster, while
the inability to do so can keep you on a dead-end path”(p.1). Oral prsentation
skills prove to be absolutely necessary for students, especially for English
studens in the student-centered classes. Because there have been an increase
number of communicative events when students go to work, it is necessary for
them to communicate effectively using appropriate language and excellent
features of presentation skills. Due to its importance, oral presentation skills
have been emphasized in the current English course syllabuses of many
universities and colleges.
According to Patil (2006), an effective presentation has to cover all three
aspects: the preparation, the delivery and the questions and answers that follow
the delivery. All of these stages are important in creating excellent
presentations. If we want to be good presenters, we need to explore the
methods to improve all of these things.
This paper aims at improving the eye contact skill for students in EFL classes
to make effective presentations. Speech is part of communication and the use
of the eyes to convey messages is one aspect of non-verbal communication
(Ledbury, White & Darn, 2004), but teachers often play down the importance
of eye contact in their own and their students' performance (Ledbury et
al,.2004). While studying at our college, we realize that students are quite
limited in using eye contact, which makes their speech less interesting and less
persuasive in many ways. Even though some students appear to deliver very
good presentations, they are rated as having bad eye contact with their listeners.
This weakness is also a cause of students’ embarrassment when they have little
interaction with other students.
To summarize the above, the primary focus of this research is as follows: to
build high recognition among students about the importance of eye contact in
good presentations; to find out the role of eye contact in comparison with some
other delivery factors with a view to helping students see the necessity to use
eye contact while they make presentations; to introduce some methods to help
students, step by step, improve their eye contact skill. It should be noted that
this study should not be considered exclusive to the students of Hue College of
Foreign Languages (HCFL). In fact, the fundamental concepts and results of
this paper can be applied to students of other majors in other universities and
even those outside college.
There have been a lot of books and articles on “oral presentations”. Rizvi
(2005) considers an oral presentation as a form of oral communication. On
discussing the nature and importance of oral presentations, he said:
“It is a participative two-way communication process characterized by the formal and
structured presentation of a message using visual aids. It is purposeful and goaloriented and communicates a message to an audience in a way that brings about the
desired change in their understanding or opinion.”(p.195)
According to Ham (1992), oral presentations are those in which spoken words
are heard by an audience and oral presentations may be talks, demonstrations,
etc. Rizvi’s definition goes deeply into the nature and the purpose of oral
presentations while Ham’s just reveals the way oral presentations happen.
Despite the differences in their expressions, we can get a general idea that oral
presentations are speaking activities about a particular topic in front of a
number of people.
Oral presentations have become an important skill in our life today. “King
(2002) states that oral presentations can provide learners ‘learning experiences’
and ‘life long skills’ which are beneficial for them both in all school subjects
and in their future careers” (cited in Tran Thi Loan Anh, 2006, p.18).
Therefore, it is necessary to equip students with useful strategies in preparation,
in delivery, etc so that they can become persuasive and confident speakers in
When delivering a speech, each speaker needs to pay attention to language,
voice control and interaction with the audience (Otoshi and Heffernen, 2006).
There are different ways to interact with the audience during the presentations
but eye contact is rated as the most important nonverbal skill (Campbell, 2002).
For a long time, people have seen the eyes as the window of the soul. The eyes
have been identified by many scholars who have studied face-to-face
interpersonal communication as the single most important channel for
communicating emotion and other subtle messages (Hiltz and Turoff, 1993). So
what is eye contact?
Eye contact is an event in which two people look at each other's eyes at the
same time. It is a form of nonverbal communication and is thought to have a
in ). According to Campbell (2002), eye
contact is a powerful tool for establishing rapport with audience. Although
there are several ways to define this concept, all of them bear the resemblance
in the nature of this phenomenon. Eye-contact, from our own perception, is the
connection made by the looks in the eyes of people.
Campbell (2002) thinks that using eye contact during the presentation gives the
appearance of confidence and competence. Whenever we evaluate a presenter,
we can easily realize their self-confidence through the way they make eye
contact with their audience. Moreover, eye contact performs some other
functions such as regulating the flow of the conversation, monitoring feedback,
expressing emotion and communicating the nature of the interpersonal
relationship (Whyte, 1997)
Due to the important role of oral presentations and of eye contact skill, there
have been a number of studies on this topic. Otoshi and Heffernen (2006)
researched the key factors contributing to effective presentations and their
research showed that clarity of speech and voice quality, correctness of
language, and interaction with the audience are the three major criteria for
English presentations. Patil (2006) also did a research on the skills and stages
needed for an effective presentation and he found that there were three main
stages: the preparation, the delivery and the questions and answers following
the delivery. Another thesis paper about the anxiety in giving oral presentations
of EFL Vietnamese learners was conducted by Tran Thi Loan Anh (2006). This
research has addressed the reasons for students’ anxiety when giving oral
presentations (eg: fear for negative evaluation, fear for losing face, lack of selfconfidence in their English proficiency and the subject matter, competitiveness
and cultural fixed beliefs). All of these researchers have focused on improving
students’ presentation skill in many aspects ranging from academic English
organization, language use to delivery style. However, they still do not go
deeply into each of these aspects. In the first research, the author has come to
the conclusion that interaction with audience is an important contributing factor
to successful presentations but he has not presented in what ways students can
interact well with the audience. When reading this research, we think that body
language is a good means of interaction with listeners and in body language;
eye contact has become our concern. In the second research, the author has
introduced some hints to help students deliver their speech well, including
using body language but he has not pointed out why body language in general
and eye contact in particular can make presentations more effective. The third
researcher has given a lot of causes of students’ anxiety when they make
presentations but we see that weak eye-contact skill, which partly leads to little
interaction with audience, is another cause of their fear. It is necessary to figure
out the ways to help students overcome this fear.
From the gap we have found in the above-mentioned research, we come to
address the following questions in this study:
1. Why are students weak at using eye contact in their presentations?
2. Compared with clarity of speech, voice quality and correctness of
language, how important is the role of eye contact in effective
3. What are the best ways to improve students’ eye contact skill?
Hopefully, this study can pinpoint the problems related to eye contact skill that
several students are facing and can introduce some useful strategies to help
them overcome their weakness.
In this study, an investigation of the position of eye contact in good oral
presentations is carried out. The participants are surveyed with a questionnaire.
Their eye contact skill is also observed during their presenting performance.
The data then is analyzed to see the role of eye contact in an effective oral
* Participants
Participants are 40 second-year students and 80 third-year students majoring in
English in Hue College of Foreign Languages. The 40 second-year students
attend the same speaking class, group 8 in the academic year of 2008-2009.
The 80 third-year students participated the “Public Speaking” course in the first
semester of the academic year 2008-2009. There are various levels among these
* Apparatus
We use a questionnaire which aims at finding out the students’ attitude towards
eye contact skill and their judgment about the role of eye contact. We also use a
checklist as an observation sheet, which consists of a list of criteria making up
an effective oral presentation. This checklist is sourced from Yamashiro and
Johnson’s checklist (Yamashiro & Johnson, 1997). When observing, we apply
this observation sheet to confirm the data and the information we get from the
* Procedure
120 copies of the questionnaire are distributed to all the 120 students. Class
observation is also carried out in English speaking class, group 8. There is one
presentation on a particular topic each week and the students are observed by
the researchers with the checklist during their oral presentations.
After collecting the information in the questionnaire and classroom
observation, we analyze the data to clarify the level of importance of different
criteria involved in a good presentation.
* Data analysis
The research is based mainly on the qualitative approach. The results are
presented in numbers and tables. All the data collected from these sources are
analyzed according to statistical percentage and frequency.
Table 1: Why are students weak at using eye contact?
Students’ opinion
Students Percentage
Lack of confidence
Lack of preparation
Lack of eye contact practice
This table indicates that there are three main reasons of students’ weakness
in using eye contact in oral presentations. Among them, the lack of eye contact
practice is the most important reason (51.3%). The next position belongs to the
lack of confidence (38.5%). The third one is the lack of preparation (10.2%).
And no students points out other reasons.
Table 2: How is speech without and with a little eye contact?
Students’ opinion
Students Percentage
Very boring
A little boring
Very interesting
A little interesting
Neither boring nor interesting
This table shows that most students are aware that a presentation without
or with a little eye contact is very boring (38.5%) and a little boring (38.5%). It
means that students seem to realize the importance of eye contact in
presentation. The others (23%) think a presentation is neither boring nor
interesting without using eye contact. To them, they do not pay attention to
using eye contact in presentations. However, it is fun that no student considers
a presentation to be interesting or a little interesting without using eye contact.
No different opinions are given from the participants.
Table 3: How important is the role of eye contact compared to other
factors in a good presentation?
Students Percentage
Clarity of speech and voice quality
Correctness of language
Eye contact
Looking over the table, we know that the importance of these three factors in a
good presentation is fairly similar. Correctness of language is ranked at the first
position (38.5%). Eye contact just stands in the second one (35.9%). Coming
last is the clarity of speech and voice quality (25.6%).
As you can see, having a good oral presentation consists of a numbers of
factors. In our research, we focus on three factors: clarity of speech and voice
quality, correctness of language and eye contact. We use other factors to
compare with the effectiveness of eye contact and base on that to evaluate the
role of eye contact in a good presentation. The result of the research shows that
eye contact is the second important factor (35.9%), just after the correctness of
Moreover, we also realize the significance of using eye contact based on the
students’ opinions about a speech without or with a little eye contact. It is
interesting that most students are aware of the importance of eye contact in
good presentations. Most of them think that a speech is very boring (38.5%) or
a little boring (38.5%) if presenters do not use eye contact or just use a little.
No one thinks a speech is very interesting or a little interesting without or with
a little eye contact. However, a rather high number of students do not care
about eye contact (23%) because they do not have clear idea about this
problem. They just say a speech is neither boring nor interesting if eye contact
is not used. In general, there is no exaggeration to say that eye contact plays an
important role in good presentations.
The research also solves the problem that why students are weak at using eye
contact. Three main reasons are given and others are expected. The majority of
the students agree that lack of eye contact practice causes the students’
weakness in using eye contact (51.3%). Eye contact is a difficult skill as few
people are good at it. So students have to spend more time on practising it.
Lack of preparation and confidence also makes the students confused about
using eye contact in an oral presentation. Lack of confidence is considered to
have an influence on 38.5% of the participants while lack of preparation is the
accounts for 10.2%. Table 1 shows that despite your careful preparation and
your confidence, your presentations can fail with inadequate practice.
Eye contact plays an essential role in a good oral presentation. It is also a
difficult skill. However, practice makes perfect. But we should bear in mind
that it is necessary to practice eye contact in the right methods.
Ledbury, White & Darn (2004) thinks that eye contact is time and effort saving.
Like reading, listening or writing, this skill cannot be obtained and mastered
overnight. And success in achieving eye contact skill requires not only
teachers’ effort but also students’.
With regard to students, it is suggested that students should set up a habit of
making eye contact with the teachers and classmates. First, they can practise
their eye movement (with or without aims), then use their eye contact to serve
communication purposes. When practising speaking, students should put aside
the feeling that they are making some mistakes of vocabulary use, grammar,
etc. because paying attention to these errors is likely to distract them from using
eye contact. If they have difficulty knowing exactly how to make eye contact,
they can practise speaking in front of a mirror, or practise with another person.
This method can familiarize students with using eye contact in communication.
They are also advised to be aware that speaking in front of class is the best
opportunity for them to practise eye contact.
When giving oral presentation, students often suffer from anxiety that makes
them ignore to use eye contact. If they overcome cultural fixed beliefs and have
great confidence in their English proficiency as well as their subject matter,
they will be more focal on their eye contact. It is a widely-held belief that
students’ eye contact skill is strongly influenced by their self-confidence.
Therefore, before making presentations, students are encouraged to prepare
their speech well. Rehearsal is needed to help students be more confident.
Keeping calm in any circumstances and trying to get over psychological fear is
what students should do if they want a good presentation.
Teachers are believed to make a big impact on the success of students. It is
suggested that they should point out typical ways to deliver eye contact to help
students grasp the idea of this nonverbal communication. Teachers should
encourage their students to use eye contact while they are working together in
pairs or groups. They can start by training their students to listen to each other
using non-verbal responses. Besides, teachers should form a habit of making
eye contact with their students when they give lectures because this habit can
remind their students to use eye-contact.
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