What can L1 classes learn from professional speaking courses?

Submitted by: Jordi Casteleyn
Abstract: Although research into the development and training of L1 public speaking is limited (Wurth et al., 2018), professional speaking courses are often quickly sold out. A specific type of such a course is an improv(isational) theatre program during which participants learn how to improvise short, comedic scenes. Recent research indicates that this improv theatre training might have an impact on the public speaking competence and public speaking anxiety of secondary education students (e.g. Casteleyn, 2018). However, these studies focus on interventions that are limited in time, whereas most L1 educators and students may experience that improving the public speaking competence can be a slow and distressing process, and that as a result this more resembles an upward spiraling step-by-step process than a straightforward development. In this respect, this paper adopts a more longitudinal perspective than other studies, and addresses the following research question: what is the impact of following an improv course on the public speaking competence and public speaking anxiety of its participants? Participants (n=40 in total) from three introductory improv(isational) theatre courses were tested every three weeks, which resulted in four test moments per participant. Public speaking anxiety was assessed via a self-reported questionnaire (Hook, Smith, & Valentiner, 2008). The public speaking competence was assessed via a speaking exercise during which participants were asked to give a 1-minute talk on a beforehand unknown but thought-provoking statement. These talks were videotaped and scored via comparative judgement (Lesterhuis et al., 2017). In addition, a qualitative analysis was implemented. Specifically, after completing the course, participants whose results deviated from the average scores, were invited for a semi-structured interview to detect factors influencing their scores. Moreover, a think-aloud protocol concerning their speaking exercises was conducted. This paper discusses how the public speaking competence develops during a professional speaking course and which factors may influence this process. The results may have a substantial impact on how the training of the L1 public speaking competence is organized.


Casteleyn, J. (2018). Playing with improv(isational) theatre to battle public speaking stress. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance. 
Hook, J., Smith, C., Valentiner, D. (2008). A short-form of the personal report of confidence as a speaker. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 1306-1313.
Lesterhuis, M., Verhavert, S., Coertjens, L., Donche, V., & De Maeyer, S. (2017). “Comparative Judgement as a Promising Alternative to Score Competences”. In: Cano, E. & Ion, G. (2017). Innovative Practices for Higher Education Assessment and Measurement. Hershey, PA, USA: IGI Global. DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0531-0.ch007
Wurth, A., Tigelaar, D., Hulshof, H., de Jong, J., & Admiraal, W. (2018). A literature review of feedback and teaching oracy in L1-classes in secondary education. Paper presented at ARLE (The International Association for Research in L1 Education), SIG Literacies & Oracies, Seminar Focus on Oracy. 2018. Leiden, Nederland.