Assessing Undergraduate Business Students' Oral Communication Apprehension: Implications of Stakes and Situations
Matuszak, Steve C.
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Modern businesses place a premium on employees' oral communication skills. Business schools are meant to develop future employees and leaders with the requisite skills for success. Industry representatives, however, consistently express dissatisfaction with business graduates' oral communication skills. There appears to remain a gap between business students' oral skills and marketplace demands. Research demonstrates that among many possible factors, oral communication apprehension (OCA) appears a significant contributor to ineffective oral communication. OCA may also significantly impede oral skills development by impacting the core aspects of spiral curriculum, an educational theory aimed at the processes of higher education. The PRCA-24, the most utilized OCA measurement tool, assesses individuals' trait-like OCA levels across common oral communication settings (e.g., public speaking, interpersonal, group, and meeting) as well as their context (e.g., state) OCA levels within each setting. This study examines whether OCA is significantly sensitive to situational variables and therefore operates as a state. If so, acquiring business students' situational OCA may benefit educators as complimentary data to PRCA-24 assessments. This study also examines business and non-business undergraduates' self-reported OCA levels across general public speaking, interpersonal, and group/meeting oral communication settings as well as those in respective high (and low) stakes situations meant to reflect the stress-inducing scenarios they will likely experience on the job after graduation. Results indicate OCA is significantly sensitive to situational variables (e.g., stakes). Results are discussed in the framework of providing more relevant measurements of business students' OCA levels to help educators fill the oral skills gap.
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