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Oral Communication Competency 2015-2016

The Office of Institutional Assessment and Studies coordinated the 2015-2016 oral communication competency assessment. A faculty committee composed of representatives of the undergraduate schools plus the Library provided oversight for the process, from establishment of the learning outcomes and standards for the assessment to the determination of findings and recommendations.

2016 Oral Communication Report


The Undergraduate Oral Communication Competency Committee defined oral communication as “a lightly prepared, purposeful 3-5 minute presentation designed to increase knowledge, to foster understanding, or to promote change in the listeners’ attitudes, values, beliefs, or behaviors.”

Student Learning Outcomes

A graduating fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Virginia will be able to prepare and deliver a brief presentation employing:

  1. A precisely stated, memorable, and strongly supported central message.
  2. Clear grouping and sequencing of ideas and supporting material.
  3. Language—e.g., vocabulary, terminology, and sentence structure—that enhances the effectiveness of the presentation.
  4. Polished and confident delivery.
  5. Supporting materials—e.g., ideas, explanations, and examples—that support the principal ideas of the presentation


The following standards were established for graduating fourth-years:

  • 10% of undergraduates are expected to be highly competent;
  • 70% competent or above;
  • 90% minimally competent or above.



A representative sample of fourth-year students was invited to the Robertson Media Center in Clemons Library to participate in the assessment. Upon arrival, the 184 students who participated received a menu of prompts aimed at encouraging authentic and engaging speaking. Students were each given approximately 20 minutes to choose a topic, read suggestions for assembling a talk, and prepare a 3-5 minute presentation. Subsequently, they video-recorded themselves delivering their presentations in a recording studio. The participating students represented five undergraduate schools at the University (Commerce, Engineering, Nursing, Architecture, and the College of Arts and Sciences). No students from the BIS program of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) participated.

Scoring Rubric

A faculty committee adopted and modified the AAC&U VALUE Rubric for Oral Communication to assess oral communication. The modified rubric addresses central message, organization, language, delivery, and supporting material. The committee added two items for review: topic selection and overall quality.


Students were asked not to identify themselves on the recordings. Raters perused lists of participating students to identify those whom they knew; raters were assigned to assess recordings only of students they did not know. After norming sessions, raters assessed each student’s recording by applying the rubric. Each recording was assessed independently by two raters; if ratings differed substantially, a third rater assessed the specific recording.

Confidentiality and Compensation

Only students who consented to participate voluntarily were assessed. Those who participated were given a $20 gift certificate to

List of 2015-16 Committee Members

  • Catherine Baritaud, School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Kate Burke, College of Arts and Sciences—Drama
  • Jennifer Kastello, School of Nursing
  • Melissa Levy, School of Education
  • Aaron Mills, College of Arts and Sciences—Environmental Sciences
  • Marcia Pentz-Harris, McIntire School of Commerce
  • Dennis Proffitt, College of Arts and Sciences—Psychology
  • Kathy Soule, University Library
  • Daphne Spain, School of Architecture