There are many SAC programs nationwide. Almost all are informed, as is R-MC’s, by the following four principles.
Some SAC programs begin with a three semester-hour course entitled something like “Principles of Public Speaking.” In fact, a policy statement on SAC adopted by the National Communication Association close to a decade ago insisted that a SAC program was sound only if it built upon an introductory speech communication class. At R-MC, we are not convinced that a full, separate course is necessary to establish a foundation for SAC. Thus, we have embedded a package of instruction, critiqued practice, and evaluated performance into each student’s First Year Course (FYC). If the hours are added up, it is closer to two semester hours than three, but the number of hours really is not the point. The point is that this package, offered under the direction of speech communication professionals, should bring students to the point where they are ready for SAC. Our assessment efforts thus far suggests that the package probably does.
Once the foundation has been established, it becomes the job of the faculty at-large to bring students to the point where they, at graduation, are competent. Speech communication activities, in both general education courses and in courses in the major or minor, should move the student from the point he/she is at the end of the FYC to the point where she/he meets the college’s stated curricular goal of “competence.”
Many SAC programs make this transition by requiring a number of speaking-intensive courses. Such courses must be carefully screened to make sure they provide the requisite instruction, critiqued practice, and evaluated performance. Other programs (fewer in number) make this transition by expecting a large number of courses to attend to speech communication. Since more courses are carrying the burden, these courses need not meet quite the same standards. In either case, a SAC director plays a crucial role, consulting with faculty colleagues so that they can handle the speech communication components in either of these kinds of courses well.
At R-MC, we have chosen the latter route: many courses attending to speech communication rather than a much smaller number labeled “speaking intensive.” Given R-MC’s size and given the amount of speaking that already seems to characterize courses across-the-curriculum here, this choice seems quite appropriate.
Speaking is a cognitively rich activity. In addition, it usually has a kinesic dimension. Thus, it is, mentally and physically, active learning. As such, it can be used to enhance the learning of history, chemistry, sociology, etc., content. Although faculty in a SAC program might occasionally add a speech communication activity to a course to help the curriculum as a whole reach its “speaking competence” goal, faculty should almost always include a speech communication activity only if it enhances the students’ learning of the course’s disciplinary content. Students will then be “speaking to learn” the literature, physics, economics, etc.
There is a tendency for faculty in a SAC program to think immediately and almost exclusively of presentations when considering ways to add speech communication activities to their classes. Although presentations are an important genre of speech communication, they are not the only one a SAC program should feature. In and out of academe, one-on-one and group communication activities are very important. And just as we know that reading and writing are symbiotic, so are listening and speaking. Many in academe may be more familiar with presentations than anything else; thus, one of the jobs of the SAC director is to provide information about other genres of speech communication as well as about listening.