Communication Apprehension and Public Speaking Among College Students

Communication Apprehension and Public Speaking Among College Students

Communication apprehension is a critical aspect to a student’s public speaking capabilities and consequently employability (Clokie & Fourie, 2016). McCroskey (1980) defined communication apprehension as “an individual’s level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated (oral) communication with another person or persons” (p. 109). According to Reinsch and Gardner (2014), communication abilities of an individual are significant factors in making hiring and promotion decisions. The perceived communication competence among college students significantly influences how they make choices (Croucher, Rahmani, Sakkinen, & Hample, 2016). On the other hand, the willingness to communicate or fear of communication influences the perceived communication competence among college students (Croucher et al., 2016; Teven, Richmond, McCroskey, & McCroskey, 2010). Broeckelman-Post and Pyle (2017) emphasize on the rising need for college students to develop strong communication skills. In particular, college students should work more on improving their oral communication skills to enhance their employability once they complete studies (Westwick, Hunter, & Haleta, 2016).

In today’s competitive business environment, organizations are increasingly spending large amounts of money in trying to reach out to all stakeholders (Zerfass, VerÄiÄ, & Volk, 2017). As such, the communication competencies of employees are critical in ensuring the success of the organization. Organizations are most likely to prefer employees who exude confidence in public speaking to those who have communication apprehension. According to Rajmohan (2015), the success of an organization largely depends on coordination levels of employees and their ability to communicate. Poor communication among organizational members could be a predictor of poor performance. Communication competency is one of the major basis for evaluating promotion decisions in organizations (Reinsch & Gardner, 2014). Employees having higher levels of communication competency are likely to receive promotions and experience career growth.

College students receive instruction in public speaking as a way of improving their communication skills. Such courses center on basic skills training to improve communication competencies. According to Baccarani and Bonfanti (2015), training courses can help improve the public speaking skills among employees. Introductory communication courses are the most common among college students (Broeckelman-Post & Pyle, 2017). These are of two types: public speaking course, which are the most popular with 61 percent popularity and hybrid courses with 27 percent popularity in schools (Broeckelman-Post and Pyle, 2017). Available research findings indicate that public speaking courses can significantly reduce communication apprehension and public speaking anxiety (Broeckelman-Post & Hosek, 2014). Mixed findings exist on the impact of communication courses to self-perceived communication competence (SPCC) levels among individuals (Westwick, Hunter, & Haleta, 2016). Hunter, Westwick, and Haleta (2014) find strong evidence indicating that basic communication courses can help in reducing public speaking anxiety, while applying standard measurements to evaluate student improvement. Further, the study highlights gender differences in improving students’ levels of public speaking anxiety.

Communication course offered during the first-year of studies in most colleges may not be enough to prepare students for employment (Clokie & Fourie, 2016). Students need higher-level competencies in the employment sector compared to what they learn during the first year of joining college. Low skills among training assistants also pose a great challenge in graduate education (Boman, 2013). This may lead to poor training in communication skills among the first-year students, which negatively affects the development of communication competencies. Hunter, Westwick, and Haleta (2014) identify gaps in assessments concerning public speaking anxiety. Their main findings are that there is need to improve on the current basic speech course as well as the methods of assessment. Assessment methods are critical since they allow instructors to improve on the instructional practices as well as the outcomes of the teaching-learning process (Morreale, Backlund, Hay, & Moore, 2011). Thus, by improving on the teaching and assessment methods, it is possible to reduce public speaking anxiety among college students.

An individual’s communication competence levels significantly affect self-perceived communication competence (Teven et al., 2010). There are limited studies examining the nature of the relationship between communication apprehension and self-perceived communication competence. Although the major focus on this study will be on the effectiveness of communication course in reducing public speaking anxiety, a part of the study will be an evaluation of the relationship between communication apprehension and self-perceived communication competence. The study will also focus on the impact of public speaking anxiety to a student’s employability levels or chances of getting into the labor sector. The findings of this study will enable instructors at the college level to assess the effectiveness of offering the first-year communication course to students. In particular, the study findings will inform on whether there is need to introduce additional communication courses in subsequent academic years.


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