It’s Good to Talk: Speaking Up for Oracy in the Management Classroom
Beverley Hill Senior Lecturer in Marketing
School of Management
Oracy refers simply to the ability to speak well. Although it is a term that is rarely used in management education, much of the work we do to manage relationships and to negotiate knowledge in organisations is achieved through talk. As such it is one of the most essential communication skills that our graduates should seek to master. The term ‘oracy’ derives from the work of education scholar Andrew Wilkinson, who sought to draw attention to the neglect of oral skills in 1960’s education- coining the term oracy to render spoken language skills comparable with ‘literacy’ and ‘numeracy’ (Wilkinson et. al, 1965). The term is revived here to support the contention that spoken communication continues to be marginalised in business and management education, where assessment more frequently emphasises the written word. As a consequence, while employers rate oral communication as one of the most important graduate attributes, they complain that this skill is lacking in new graduates (Brink and Costigan 2015). At the same time, when graduates in the workplace are surveyed on their communicate abilities, they admit to lacking competence in particular in speaking skills (Jackson 2014). Today’s business school emphasis on work-ready graduates and entrepreneurship, with the focus on networking, negotiating and articulating ideas, points to a greater need for oracy in the curriculum in order to redress the balance between written and spoken communication skills. The purpose of this paper is to review an attempt to develop oracy amongst students by focusing on spoken communication in the teaching and assessment strategy for a postgraduate management module.
A case study is presented to demonstrate how Freire’s dialogical pedagogy was adopted to encourage management students to engage in ‘critical and transformative reflection’ (Ciampaglia 2014, 360) on the topics selected, articulating their experiences as consumers to personalise knowledge. The case reviews the introductory run of the module, incorporating observations and challenges from educators and students and discussing some unexpected assessment results. To conclude, practical guidelines and extension activities are provided for educators interested in developing oracy skills in their own teaching. The case contributes to the conference theme through its discussion of student development as they become engaged in the remaking of knowledge through dialogue and the articulation of personal experiences.
The presentation commences with a review of the communication skills required for careers in management today, in a world of global competition and knowledge sharing.
Reasons for the relative paucity of spoken communication skills amongst new students joining university are explored and an argument is presented for the renewed adoption of the term ‘oracy’.
Current approaches to building communication skills at university are reviewed, including those which focus specifically on teaching and assessment approaches for building spoken competencies. Consideration is given to the reasons why many consider oral communication difficult to assess.
Freire’s dialogical pedagogy, in which students and teachers work together as equals, is examined and the implications for the student/teacher relationship are discussed.
Details of both the teaching and assessment approach are presented.
The case goes on to consider feedback from tutors and students, to identify the main challenges and to comment on the assessment results.
The case presentation concludes with practical guidelines and extension activities for developing oracy in teaching and assessment.
Oracy, spoken communication, management education, dialogical pedagogy
- Understanding of the increased need for oracy in contemporary management education.
- Suggestions for building spoken communication skills
- Awareness of the teaching and assessment challenges and ways to address these.