Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Investigating patterns and possibilities in an academic oral genre

Trained in a distanced and distancing style of writing, students on the threshold of graduate study find oral presentations challenging. Although they worry about presenting themselves (will I sound like a competent scholar?) and presenting information (will they think I know what I’m talking about?), their success depends largely on linguistic choices that affect the degree of social distance between speaker and listener, and the degree of abstraction in the message itself. I have collaborated with archaeology lecturers to help their Honors Year students focus on the language of oral presentations and found, through participant-observation in the departmental seminar, that effective communication in this setting was related, in part, to choices about “oral” grammar. I drew on functional grammar and the sociology of scientific discourse to understand my observations, and offered these insights to the Honors students planning their presentations.

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Kate Chanock
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Communication Education, 54 (1), 92-99
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