Diversity and Inclusivity Innovation for COMM 210: Fundamentals of

Diversity and Inclusivity Innovation for COMM 210: Fundamentals of Public
Caleb Green, Graduate Assistant, Department of Communication Studies
As graduate assistants, our focus is on teaching the twice-a-week lab sections of COMM
210, made up of 20 students each. Traditionally, we use these lab sections to enable the
students to apply the larger and more abstract concepts they learn from the large lecture
sessions on Monday to their own ideas and practices. These lab sections are also where
students actually give their speeches. There are 4 speeches throughout the semester, each
requiring the student to provide more content and speak in front of the class for longer
periods of time. The units of the class are based on the four different speeches and end
with the speeches themselves. This structure is fairly tight and provides little room for
alteration, however, I have found a way to slightly reorganize one of the units and refocus
it toward new goals.
To prepare students for their second speech: The Informative Speech
To allow student’s to focus on their identities as speakers
To promote universal participation in activities and speeches
To alleviate anxiety and communication apprehension
I have selected the Informative speech, which is the second speech of the class, because it
is actually the first speech that really requires students to apply the knowledge of the
class. The first speech of the class, the Demonstration speech, is simply designed to get
students in front of the classroom by themselves as quickly as possible. The unspoken
goal of this speech is to allow students to get through the experience without any major
anxiety attacks. This is accomplished by allowing them to speak while doing an activity
that they are familiar and comfortable with. The Informative speech is the first speaking
opportunity where students are required to select an organizational pattern, making them
responsible for gaining and holding the audience’s attention, making sure structure is
clear, and delivering the speech in a dynamic, yet appropriate way.
The specific innovation that I have chosen to implement is to make the focus of this unit
as student-centered as possible. I have chosen to do this by removing a day that focuses
on outlining and structure to place it earlier in the semester and replacing it with a day to
discuss language usage. Further, these lessons will be structured in a way to allow
students to think about their individual identities and encourage everyone to participate.
The unit will be structured in the following way:
WEEK ONE: Audience Analysis and Language
WEEK TWO: Delivery
WEEK THREE: Informative Speeches
DAY ONE: Audience Analysis
In the past, we have focused on making this day about explaining that only making
choices based on the demographic make-up of an audience is bad and stress that students
should focus on more situational analysis. I have decided to take this concept a step
further by leading a class discussion on why it is bad and how we can avoid it. After
explaining the two types of analysis, I will show commercials that employ demographic
audience analysis in ways that lead to stereotyping. I will then lead a class discussion on
why this is wrong and what kind of audience analysis questions the advertisers could
have asked to focus on more situational and responsible advertising. I will then break up
the class into groups and give each group a product to develop audience analysis
questions for. I will then bring the class back together and ask a few groups to share their
Outside of class, students will be asked to come up with as many audience analysis
questions to ask our class as possible, hopefully allowing them to think of their topic for
the upcoming speech. This will also require the students to think of their classmates and
the differences and similarities between them. Hopefully, the students will avoid
depending on stereotypes and actually learn about their classmates
This day has two goals: to get students to think creatively about the way that we use
language and to realize that language presents certain biases. I will focus be asking the
students to break into groups. I will give each group an item and ask them to come up
with as many different words to describe the item on their own. I will then ask them to
pull their lists together as a group and then share them with the class. My goal is to get
the students to see that they each think of different details and words to describe the same
object. I also hope to put a focus on how our identities are reflected in the way we use
The second goal will be achieved by telling a story about a doctor without using any
gender pronouns. The students typically assume, incorrectly, that the doctor in question is
a man instead of a woman. I then ask them to write down words to describe a sexually
promiscuous male and female and we discuss which words are positive and which are
negative, as well as which gender has the most names. Females usually have more names
that are generally negative, while males are given a few labels that are generally positive.
As an out-of-class activity, students will be asked to come up with words and labels that
they hate hearing. Students will be asked to share one of these items at the beginning of
class next week. Students will be asked to avoid obvious racial slurs, such as the “Nword,” and, I will make it a point that I trust them to know that this kind of language is
not appropriate. This will allow the students to inform their classmates of their dislikes,
as well as make all students aware of words and language that is upsetting or offensive to
their classmates, which will hopefully allow our students to better understand themselves
and each other.
We will begin with the discussion of language that we do not like. I will sit down in a
circle with the students and ask them to provide a word during role call. We will then
spend however long we need to discuss these words and how to respect each other’s
feelings in regards to language. To practice delivery, I usually allow students to get in
front of the class and actively participate in activities to loosen them up and allow them to
practice their delivery. This has historically been more difficult for students that are shy,
which tend to be students that come from less populated areas and have petite bodies. I
will attempt to refocus these activities on making everyone comfortable by making
myself a more active participant in these activities, as well as attempting to level the
physical playing field. On the first day, we will participate in “speech crimes” in which
the students are given certain delivery mistakes (looking at the floor, playing with hair,
etc.…) and a topic to talk about while acting these out in front of the class. In order to
promote comfort and participation, I will give each student a “lifeline” by allowing them
to ask me to act out the speech crime, but, only after they have tried to act out the
situation for AT LEAST 15 seconds. This will hopefully provide the students with an
appropriate safety net and alleviate the anxiety of participation. This activity can also
occur on day two if we need more time to discuss language.
Outside of class, students will be asked to prepare a skeletal outline of their speech,
employing the information that they have gathered about their class from week one.
The last activity that I employ to practice delivery is called “Save the World.” In this
activity, students write down one item and one problem, and swap them randomly. They
are then asked to construct a short speech about how they can use their item to save their
problem. Students usually come up with general problems such as world hunger and use
items that they see in the room or that the teacher provides. I will refocus this activity on
the students by asking them to come up with a problem that directly affects them and to
provide an item that they have in their own bedrooms. This will allow students to provide
elements of their identity to class, highlighting their individuality. Also, instead of being
forced to give this speech in front of the class, students will be asked to give this speech
from their seats, which will be arranged in a circle. This will hopefully allow for all
students to feel welcome to participate, as I will hopefully eliminate any advantages that
students with more expressive bodies and confidence have when attempting to foster
participation and communication with the class.
Outside of class, students will be expected to finalize their speeches and asked to practice
them in some way at least twice.
This week will serve as the evaluation point for the unit, determining if students were
able to put all of the tools together that will allow them to presents their identities in a
public speaking context in a way that also considers their classmates’ identities and
feelings. The speeches will be graded by the rubric that all graduate assistants are
required to use in the course.