A poetic/dramatic approach to facilitate oral communication

Kassab, L. J. (1984). A poetic/dramatic approach to facilitate oral communication (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA.

Abstract:

The purpose of the study was to examine the effects of a poetry/drama workshop on high school students’ oral communication skills. Twenty-seven sophomores from a rural public high school participated in a six-week workshop where they wrote and orally interpreted their own poetry. Results indicate that the poetry/drama sessions increased students’ willingness to communicate, improved students’ oral communication skills, increased students’ comfort communicating orally, and enhanced students’ self-confidence and self-image.

Key Findings:

Participation in the poetry/drama workshop:

  • Increased students’ willingness to communicate orally,
  • Improved students’ oral communication skills,
  • Increased students’ overall comfort with oral communication, and
  • Enhanced students’ self-confidence and self-image.

Significance of the Findings:

This study demonstrates that learning to write and then read one’s own poetry aloud in a supportive environment not only improves students’ communication skills and comfort with oral communication but has positive effects on self-confidence and self-image. This has implications for schools, teachers, and students in that embedding opportunities for students to speak in front of classmates and peers, particularly regarding their own creative work, can improve an academically and socially-relevant skill, as well as provide some personal benefits (i.e., improved self-image) that may carry over to other areas.

Methodology:

Twenty-seven sophomores from an intact English class in a rural public high school participated in a six-week poetry/drama workshop. The workshop was conducted by the researcher and consisted of five sessions per week, where the content was divided into three segments: (1) poetry composition, (2) voice exercise, and (3) oral interpretation rehearsal. Over the course of the workshop, students learned how to write and then orally present and interpret their own poetry. The researcher emphasized that the workshops operated as a supportive learning environment free from criticism or judgment.

The researcher used seven assessment measures that he developed to examine students’ willingness to communicate; their oral communication skills and feelings before, during, and after speaking; and their self-confidence and self-image. Students self-reported on four measures: the Profile Questionnaire, Initial Self-Report, Interim Reaction Report, and Final Questionnaire. The English teacher completed two measures: the Pre-workshop Student Assessments and Assessments of Final Presentations. The researcher provided Daily Instructor Observations and Interpretations.

Limitations of the Research:

One limitation of the study was the lack of a control group for comparison. An additional limitation was that the researcher was also the instructor of the poetry/drama workshop as well as the developer of the assessment questionnaires. As such, personal bias may have been introduced in the instruction provided, and could have influenced results by providing students instruction tailored to the assessment. Similarly, the researcher also provided data as an “observer” and his daily observations and interpretations of the students were included in the analyses.

Other limitations include the fairly intense nature of the workshop (i.e., daily for six weeks), which may not be feasible to carry out in a typical high school; the fairly small sample of students from a rural setting which limits the generalizability of the current findings; and the lack of data collected regarding students’ willingness to engage in speaking for other subjects/classes, or during other activities.

Questions to Guide New Research:

Would findings be similar for high school students from more varied backgrounds, such as urban or suburban settings? Would the poetry/drama workshop be effective for younger students in junior high or even elementary school? Would similar effects be achieved using less intensive instruction (e.g., weekly sessions instead of daily sessions)?