The R-MC Speaking Center is primarily a peer tutoring facility. Trained students help other students with presentational or small group communication. These trained students, however, are not experts. They can view oral communication objectively; they have a higher level of sophistication with regards to presentations and group work than the average student and, therefore, are peers who can offer generally good advice. But their expertise is limited. They know that. Both their clients and the faculty need to know that.
Peer tutoring is limited in what it can achieve. If a student is severely deficient in oral communication skills, the Speaking Center can only help a bit. Such a student should be advised to enroll in a speech communication class.
However, peer tutoring has a marked advantage over tutoring by experts. Students, especially those who are highly oral communication apprehensive, can relax in the less threatening atmosphere peer tutoring provides. They can approach a practice without the fear of the expert’s evaluation. And, no matter how “nice” faculty are, faculty have an aura that can transform a low-risk practice into what students perceive as a high-risk one. So, we choose peer tutoring, not because it’s more economical, but because it facilitates practice sessions that are beneficial.
The Speaking Center is located on the second floor of the Neville House on East Patrick Street (across from the main entrance to Haley Hall). To reach the Center, come up the main stairs and turn right. Services for students with disabilities are also available by indicating the need at the time an appointment is requested. The Speaking Center is staffed by a trained group of peer consultants. Hours are announced at the start of each semester, and online appointments are available by following the links on the HAC website.
The Center consists of three separate spaces:
Consulting Space where Speaking Center tutors/peer consultants can meet with students who need help finding a topic, generating material, or organizing the material they have. Resources—books, handouts, the SAC website, other schools’ SAC or Speaking Center websites—are also available in this space.
An Individual Studio where students can practice high-tech and low-tech oral presentations. Their practice run can be videotaped. They and peer consultants will sit down together, view the tape, and discuss how the presentation might be improved.
A Group Studio where group communication activities, be they group presentations or discussions or meetings—can be videotaped. Group members and peer consultants can then view the tape and discuss how the presentation might be improved or how the group might work better as a discussion group or a task group.
Tutors/consultants can help students with the following:
Finding a Topic for a PresentationGenerating IdeasOrganizing IdeasPracticing; Receiving FeedbackPracticing Group Work; Receiving Feedback
Most sessions will probably be practices. For these, whether they are for individual presentations, group presentations, or group work, the student/s will be videotaped. Then, the tutor/consultant and the student/s will watch the videotape together. Just watching should alert the student/s to what he/she/they do well and do poorly. That viewing will also serve as the springboard to the tutor/consultant’s critique and advice.
The Speaking Center is managed by Theodore F. Sheckels, Director of Speaking Across the Curriculum. In this capacity, he is available to consult with faculty on any aspect of oral communication instruction. Call him at 7288 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Sheckels can help faculty incorporate oral communication into their classes in ways that meet their courses’ goals (in addition to improving communication skills).