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Oral Communication Focus Board

Continuation of "Introduction" (O hallmarks explanatory notes)

The Oral Communication Focus Board would like to call attention to some notable voices.

At the National Level  

In 1991 the report of the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) was published by the US Department of Labor. The Commission spent a year talking "to business owners, to public employees, to the people who manage employees daily, to union officials, and to workers on the line and at their desks" in order to ascertain what skills and knowledge our school systems should be providing our students so that they might succeed in the workplace. The Commission concluded that "all American high school students must develop a new set of competencies and foundation skills if they are to enjoy a productive, full, and satisfying life." It recommended that schools focus on developing five competencies and a three-part skills foundation. Among the five competencies are at least two that are directly relevant to an Oral Communication Intensive program requirement. The Commission recommended that students learn and develop their interpersonal skills their ability to work with others focusing specifically on the ability to a) participate as a member of a team; b) teach others new skills; c) serve clients/customers; d) exercise leadership; e) negotiate; and f) work with diversity. A second competency that the Commission stressed was the students' ability to acquire and use information, specifically a) acquire and evaluate information; b) organize and maintain information; c) interpret and communicate information; and d) use computers to process information. Among the foundation skills that the SCANS Commission advocates are effective listening, the ability to receive, attend to, interpret, and respond to verbal messages and other cues; and speaking skills, the ability to organize ideas and communicate them orally. Further skills that the SCANS Commission calls attention to include critical thinking, decision making, reasoning, and sociability skills. 

At the State Level  

Hawai'i is home to people from multiple Asian and Polynesian cultures that have strong oral communication traditions. Face-to-face interactions are valued as are the interpersonal and relational communication skills one needs to manage such interactions. An OCI program is consistent with and can accommodate the needs of such students. In addition, a large number of students from various Asian and Polynesian nations attend the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. An OCI program will allow these students to engage in oral communication practices that will contribute to their cross-cultural communication skills. 

In Professional Contexts  

An article in the Honolulu Advertiser (December 5th, 1999) reporting on the demands and expectations of businesses for university graduates stated: "College graduates with a high level of public speaking skills are among the most desirable job candidates" and "Employers are seeking solid communication abilities and leadership and teamwork skills. This year, employers also put more emphasis on public speaking and presentation ability." Likewise, in a national survey of 1000 human resource managers, oral communication skills were identified as valuable for both obtaining employment and successful job performance. Finally, a study of Hawaiian Electric engineers, funded by HECO and conducted by faculty from UH-M, concluded that "It is apparent that as an engineer progresses professionally the frequent use of communication also increases. In addition, the variety of communication activities requires an engineer to become adept at information presentation (e.g, explaining projects, assignments, new information) in multiple settings, relational management activities (relevant to boosting employee morale, damage control, and performance appraisal), and persuasion/influence (e.g., damage control). Engineers prepared to face the increases in the frequency and variety of communication demands will be most likely to find themselves in the position to progress professionally." 

At the University  

Level Data published in the Journal of Applied Communication Research shows that college students spend 69% of their communication time on speaking and listening, 17% of their time reading, and 14% of their time writing. As one researcher puts it, "We listen a book a day, we speak a book a week, read the equivalent of a book a month, and write the equivalent of a book a year."

Support for OCI program

A support infrastructure should be set up to provide faculty with the resources for developing classes to meet OCI criteria. This should entail, at minimum:

A permanent budget sufficient to support OCI personnel and staff, i.e., an 11 month tenure track research/service position to direct the program, a full time clerical position, one student worker, two graduate teaching assistants and one graduate research assistant; faculty development; program assessment; etc.

Facilities in which to house personnel and staff, i.e., a separate office for the OCI director, an office(s) to house clerical support, student support, GTAs and GRA.

A laboratory wherein students from OCI classes can practice, rehearse, get professional feedback; the laboratory would require audio/video recording capabilities and an observation room separated from lab via a one-way mirror.

There are at least three possibilities for housing and administering an OCI program:

  • Run the program out of the Speech department with an additional tenure track position devoted at least half time to administering the OCI program.
  • Housed and integrate the program with the Writing Intensive program, with a dedicated tenure track faculty member serving half time in the OCI program and half time in Speech (or, if need be, full time in the OCI program).
  • Establish the program as an independent entity with no structural relationship to the WI program or Speech department.


updated 10/12/01; report errors to

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