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On teaching public speaking skills: Overcoming Americas #1 Fear

An extended research project by: Benjamin Abrams 2013

W.M. Davies Career & Technical HS

Located in Lincoln, RI
Most students come from Pawtucket & Central Falls Total enrollment: 816 (55% Male) Eligible for free or reduced lunch: 66% State test performance index: 79.4
10 Shops Automotive Biomanufacturing Carpentry Cosmetology Electrical Electronics Graphic Arts Health Careers Hospitality Machine

A call for action:

Genetic Disorder Project Presentations
10 of 24 students REFUSED to present; Average score of 47%

Undiagnosed and untreated social anxieties

Fear of public speaking can exist in isolation with no fears manifested in personal relationships or other social situations (Hancock et al. 2008) Social anxiety disorder as often undiagnosed and untreated. Individuals fear and avoid anxiety-inducing situations, which only strengthens their negative and irrational beliefs (Hindo & Gonzlez-Prendes 2011) Public speaking anxiety peaks between 13-17 years old, and remains relatively stable throughout the lifetime, unless there is an early intervention (Rickards-Schlichting 2001)

Rationale: Why this intervention is important

According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. Jerry Seinfeld

1. Rhode Island performance-based graduation requirements

2. College & career readiness

3. General life skill

Rhode Island graduation requirements:

Performance-based diploma assessments




College & career readiness

2010: 63% of students taking remedial courses at CCRI
By 2018, 61% of Rhode Island jobs will require some postsecondary education -Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

Rhode Island Salaries:

No high school diploma $20,000 High school diploma $30,000 Bachelors $45,000

Class information & Student demographics

10th Grade Biology 9:00-9:45 am, daily 24 Students (11 females, 13 males)

Abrams Biology
10% 20% 40%

Davies HS
11% 4%

Rhode Island
7% 8%


36% 49%


White Black




The 2011 graduation rate for Latino students in Rhode Island is 10% lower than the overall graduation rate and 15% lower than that of White students

My intervention: Three (3) essential components


Presentation Critiques

Frequent Opportunities to Present

Combination of methods is the most effective treatment

(Rickards-Schlichting 2001)

Intervention #1: BioBulletin Presentations

The Lefkoe method (Cunningham et al. 2006) Shorter exposures (Seim et al. 2010)

BioBulletin presentation rubric:

Authentic, thorough feedback (Finn et al. 2009)

Intervention #2: Presentation Critiques

(Rickards-Schlichting 2001)
Example Presentation
Presentation Critique Template

Light bulb critiques

Final critique: Types of Birds

Intervention #3: Frequent presentations

Over the course of ~12 teaching weeks: 1. BioBulletin 2. Genetic disorder project 3. Evolution lab demonstrations 4. Evolution concept maps 5. Evolution misconceptions 6. Biome Brochure
The research
The Lefkoe method (Cunningham et al. 2006) Exposure therapy (Finn et al. 2009) Multiple exposures (Vasey et al. 2012) Task avoidance (Hindo & Gonzlez-Prendes 2011)

My five (5) tips for a solid presentation

1. Eye contact! 2. Keep reading to a minimum. Notes should be there to organize your thoughts, not dictate them 3. Slow down. Even though you know what youre talking about, your audience doesnt 4. Project your voice 5. Fluency (organization): Your presentation should flow like a narrative. It should have a clear beginning, middle, & end

Video of Biome Brochure Presentation

1. Eye contact! 2. Notes 3. Pacing 4. Voice 5. Fluency

Video of Biome Brochure Presentation

1. Eye contact! 2. Notes 3. Pacing 4. Voice 5. Fluency

Results: Increased participation & efficacy

Abrams Biology Student Presentation Scores



All students presented their Biome Brochures!




Average for BioBulletin: 79.3%

Genetic Disorder Biome Brochure

Future directions
Continue BioBulletin presentations
Modify tips for a solid presentation for each class Have students model their own presentations

Works Cited
Cunningham, V., Lefkoe, M., & Sechrest, L. (2006). Eliminating fears: an intervention that permanently eliminates the fear of public speaking. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 13(3), 183193. Finn, A. N., Sawyer, C. R., & Schrodt, P. (2009). Examining the effect of exposure therapy on public speaking state anxiety. Communication Education, 58(1), 92109. Hancock, A. B., Stone, M. D., Brundage, S. B., & Zeigler, M. T. (2010). Public Speaking Attitudes: Does Curriculum Make a Difference? Journal of Voice, 24(3), 302307. Hindo, C. S., & Gonzlez-Prendes, A. A. (2011). One-session exposure treatment for social anxiety with specific fear of public speaking. Research on Social Work Practice, 21(5), 528 538. Rikards-Schlichting, K.A. (2001). A self-modeling intervention for high school students with public speaking anxiety. (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (Accession Order No. [304689906]) Seim, R. W., Waller, S. A., & Spates, C. R. (2010). A preliminary investigation of continuous and intermittent exposures in the treatment of public speaking anxiety. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 6(2), 8594. Vasey, M. W., Harbaugh, C. N., Buffington, A. G., Jones, C. R., & Fazio, R. H. (2012). Predicting return of fear following exposure therapy with an implicit measure of attitudes. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 50(12), 767774.

Thank You!
Dan Bisaccio Janet Butler MAT friends Tom Weaver Deb Taute Doug Le Thank you for all your support, guidance, and patience! I couldnt where Id be without you Whenever youre feeling nervous, unsure, or scared just remember-