Reducing Communication Apprehension to Improve Self-Concept: An Adaptable Public Speaking Curriculum for Secondary School

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Peter Taylor


Both middle and high school students today are confronted with social and biological changes, which can negatively impact on their self-concept. Many students have, in particular, a low public speaking self-concept causing them to avoid public speaking circumstances or causing them to have high levels of anxiety in speaking situations. Students need positive experiences in secondary school, but unfortunately, many are not taught public speaking until the college level and consequently have a high communication apprehension level. In this paper I cite research that shows that my public speaking course taught at the secondary level designed to decrease communication apprehension will improve students' public speaking self-concept. In turn encouraging students to participate and succeed in more public speaking opportunities, leads to a better overall self-concept. After presenting research, which shows the causes, consequences and treatments for communication apprehension, and illustrating the inverse relationship between communication apprehension and self-concept, I provide a complete public speaking curriculum for secondary teachers. The curriculum is designed to lower communication apprehension and improve students' public speaking self-concept so that students at the secondary level can have power over their public speaking fears and develop a better overall self-image. This adaptable public speaking curriculum lowers communication apprehension in five ways. First, the curriculum explains how to create a safe environment with established ground rules. Second, once the environment encourages students to take risks this curriculum prepares speakers to write and deliver their speeches. Samples of monologues, famous speeches and poems are included in the curriculum to give teachers a wide variety of speech material from which to choose. Third, this curriculum teaches students metacognition and ongoing self-assessment so that, students can determine focus areas for work and measure their improvement. Fourth, the curriculum empowers students with the ability to lower their own communication apprehension through various activities such as visualization, drama exercises and systematic desensitization. Last, this effective public speaking curriculum presents several non-intimidating evaluative measures for the teacher and students to use at the end of the project. This curriculum has been successfully tested in various classrooms. Both teachers and students have reported an apparent reduction of communication apprehension and an improved self-concept.


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