SpeakThe final major learning objective of the QEP is improving effective oral communication. UMW’s FSEMs are designed to meet this goal by teaching students the basic theories and principles of oral communication and how to apply these principles in order to communicate effectively in a variety of settings, including public speaking and group discussion.

The Speaking Center is the main academic center that engages students and assists them in developing effective oral communication skills. Students can make appointments at the Speaking Center for help on group projects, class presentations, interviews, and other communication-related assignments and endeavors. Below is a list of helpful Speaking Center links:

Speaking in FSEMs

Instructors—Do you need an idea for integrating speaking projects into your course? Are you simply curious about what other professors have done in their seminars for this component of the QEP? Most FSEMs engage in regular class discussion and at least one large speaking assignment, typically accompanying a final research paper or project. Here you will find a select list of speaking projects employed in FSEMs.

FSEM 100A4: Autism in Contemporary Literature and FilmDiscussions

  • Class Discussions: “Discussion, rather than lecture, is my primary method of delivery, precisely because I see it as the best means of fostering an environment in which process and multiplicity are encouraged (as well as an excellent means of honing one’s ability to think critically and to express oneself clearly and accurately). I offer a variety of discussion-based formats: instructor-led large group discussions, student-led large group discussions, small group discussions, and electronic discussion forums.”

    If any of this discussion is to be successful, you must believe that I value your personal opinions and that I value discussion which does not seek to close itself off by deducing or producing the correct answer. You must come to see that there are very few easy answers and that working to complicate rather than complete questions often times is more intellectually satisfying, if also more challenging. You must be free to disagree and comfortable enough to chance a potentially off-the-wall idea even if you end up feeling a little foolish about it later, or as a class we may lose too many opportunities to move beyond answers one may simply memorize to a more complex consideration of multiple possibilities. You must be willing to explore questions without any pressure to decide upon final answers until later—sometimes as late as the final examination, or even beyond the end of the course.

FSEM 100J3: True Crime America’s Most WantedTrue Crime TV Project

  • TV Project: “Two times over the course of the semester each student will work as part of a group to produce a True Crime show reporting on the crimes we have read in a particular fashion. You all will be expected to write, produce and broadcast these shows; they can interview contemporary scholars, create satires, or generally engage the material in interesting and creative ways. Each group will produce two such shows, one at the midterm period and another during the final period. In addition to the Wikipedia project, that will be a reflection of your thinking about the material, your research, and a generally familiarity with the course themes. More technical information on producing this project to follow.”

FSEM 100RR: When Americans Came Marching HomeInterview Project

  • Interview Project:”Each of you will need to interview an American veteran, following the guidelines established by the Veterans History Project at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/vets/vets-home.html). You will then use that interview as the basis for your second paper. You must turn in your interview notes with the second paper. [For extra credit, you can also submit your interview to the Veterans History Project, something I encourage each of you to do.]”

FSEM 100E4: Cryptology Group Projects

  • Making and Breaking Ciphers: “One major part of this course will involve the actual making and breaking of ciphers. This process will take place as a collaborative exercise. More details will be provided as the topics are introduced. With the Vigenère cipher, for instance, your group will create a stream of ciphertext, and another group will be challenged with breaking your cipher.”

FSEM 100G5: InfographicsInfographics Tool

  • Exploration of Infographics: “The first phase of the course will consist of exploration activities where students will discover and develop meaning for themselves about the cognitive, communication and aesthetic aspects of information graphics. Each of these activities will include an oral report by one group member and a blog post by another to share their groups’ discoveries. Each group activity will be followed by one group researching that aspect more fully and presenting their findings to the class. The follow-up research will include a presentation where the group provides additional information and resources as well as a homework activity for the students to practice applying what they have learned.”
  • Infographic-of-the-Day: “Following the exploration activities students will take turns presenting an infographic-of-the day and will lead a class discussion on how the designer of the graphic used the different aspects of infographic design. . . . These presentations will continue throughout the rest of the semester so that each student presents two different infographics.”
  • Demonstration of Infographic Tools: “In the next phase of the course, each group will investigate a different infographics tool and will provide a demonstration with instructions on how to use it. They will also create a homework assignment for the rest of the class to practice using the tool. During this phase of the course the class will develop a rating rubric to evaluate infographics. The process will begin as a class discussion about what should be included in the rubric.”
  • Group Project #1: “The first group project will follow the presentations of the infographics tools and development of the rating rubric. Students will be given data and asked to prepare an infographic with a specific goal for a specific audience.”
  • Group Project #2: “The last phase of the course will consist of the second group infographics project. For this project students will collect their own data and prepare infographics to present to the class. These projects and their presentations will serve as the final exam for the course. In addition to presenting their graphic, each group will describe the purpose of their graphic, the source for their data and the design choices made to create the graphic.”

FSEM 100J4: The Art of [Life’s] WarSpeeches

  • Impromptu and Prepared Speeches: “Each topic will include relevant assignments designed to develop your technical writing and public speaking skills. Given that writing and speaking are skills that will be utilized throughout your life in various situations, assignments will focus on basic business communication skills that are in demand in current organizations. Assignments will include writing formal memos, business letters, project reports, question formulation and delivery, impromptu speeches, and prepared speeches. The topics will vary throughout the semester.”

FSEM 100MM: Pirates, Liars, and Pigeons (Not Your Typical Math Course) Speaking Assignments

  • Assignments 1-3: “These require you to present the solution to a problem to the class. All problems are on a first-come, first-served basis and once a problem is presented it is no longer available for presentation by anybody else in the class. When presenting a problem to the class, it is important to include each of the following: a careful statement of the problem, defining any terms that are not common, an explanation of how you attacked the problem, [and] a complete solution. There is no requirement for when you present, except that everybody must have at least two presentations completed before fall break. If your first presentation is deemed “unsatisfactory” by me, I may offer to allow you to present again and have the first presentation ignored.”
  • Assignment 4: “This is very similar to the first two speaking assignments, except that it will be completed as a group. This project will be more topical as well. Before spring break, you will receive a list of potential topics for this speaking assignment. You will have time to work with your groups to develop the topic a bit, discuss the problem(s), and prepare a 10-15 minute presentation about your ideas.”
  • Assignment 5: “This assignment will have you presenting the results of your final project to the class. Expected length: 10-15 minutes.”

FSEM 100E1: TED.com – An Exploration of Ideas Worth SharingTED Talks

  • TED Talk Prospectus: “Students will turn in a 4-5 (staged—see the calendar) prospectus for their TED Talk. This paper will 1) provide a statement of the problem/issue to be addressed, 2) review existing literature providing a context for the talk, 3) offer a clear purpose/rationale for the talk and 4) anticipate things that will be needed to complete the talk successfully (e.g. data collected, infographics or images to be created, things to be built and/or experimented with, contacts to be made, interviews to be conducted, etc). It should include a thorough bibliography demonstrating effective information retrieval techniques using a specified style manual.”
  • Student TED Talks: “During the last weeks of the class students are required to give their own TED talk. The focus of this talk is your own original idea worth sharing. This is 8-9 minute talk with five minutes for postpresentation discussion with the class. Students must create a typed bibliography using a style manual of their choice which supports the talk. In the spirit of TED, we will be tight with the clock.
    As part of this assignment, students are required to visit the Speaking Center twice. The first visit should be a consultation on the shape, nature, and tone of the talk. The second should be a complete dress rehearsal for the talk – at least one week prior to the due-date. These visits are required to successfully complete this assignment.”

FSEM 100C6: Toys as History Discussion and Interviews

  • Discussion Leaders: “On the days that we are discussing readings, we will have two students who will lead our discussion, introducing key questions and sharing their own observations on the reading to get us rolling. Discussion leaders will be chosen at random at the start of class each meeting, so please be sure you have completed the readings and prepared questions ahead of our discussions.”
  • Interviews: “All students will conduct an oral interview with a person from a different (older) generation as a means to explore the experience of toys, both lived and as memory. We will conduct a workshop on skills in oral interviews, exploring and planning a set of questions to ask as well as methods to follow.”

FSEM 100C9: Science, Sound, and MusicInstrumental Performance

  • Your Own Musical Instrument: “You have two major projects this semester. Building your own instrument and explaining the science you employed to do so, and giving a group presentation . . . Bring it all together by designing, building and performing a musical instrument. This will be an individual and group project, with a written and oral presentation about said instrument and a public performance with the class.”

FSEM 100D5 / Honors 100D: Scientific Controversies in the MediaNews Presentations

  • News Story Presentations: “Besides learning to read and critique science news stories, it is also important to orally present these viewpoints. Each week, several students will informally present and explain the subject of one of their analyses and comparisons of these science reports to the class. It is your responsibility to be sure that you volunteer to present at least 2 of your selected news stories over the semester.”
  • CNN News Skit: “Small groups of students will investigate in-depth a current scientific issue of your choice. There will be TWO products to this effort. Each student will write an independent 4 page, well-referenced research paper on the selected scientific topic. Each part of the paper (proposal, bibliography, outline/draft, final paper) will be submitted by each student for review. In addition, you and your group members will create a skit in the style of a CNN news clip that will present the issue, background information, current controversy, etc. The 15-minute skit will be performed in front of the class.”

Learning Modules for Speaking


  • Communication Apprehension — More than 1/3 of incoming students at UMW experience communication apprehension. This module outlines strategies for dealing with communication apprehension and will help students prepare for discussions and presentations.
  • Effective Visual Aids — Visuals can make or break a presentation—this module will help students enhance their presentations by explaining the purpose of visual aids and outlining effective design and use of these aids.
  • Class Discussions — Discussions are a critical component of college courses—this module introduces students to students’ and professors’ perceptions of class discussion. It then gives students a guide to help them become successful participants.