The Assessment of Engineering Student Public Speaking Ability: What, How and Issues

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This paper discusses the assessment of public speaking as a generic skill in engineering students. The assessment is far from a new topic however there are a few fundamental questions surrounding this generic skill that remain unclear and subject to a number of measurement issues. The paper commences on the premise that public speaking is actually a meta competence which sits in the middle of a hierarchy of skill definitions under the general umbrella of communication. Below it are skills such as: the ability to convey a technical subject to a lay audience; the ability to convey a technical subject to a technical audience; and a number of other variants. The paper then considers some of the issues with measuring it as a skill starting with why, as academics, we should measure it and what any statement of ability means. It looks at issues of measurement reliability and validity and some of the common sources of conscious and unconscious measurement bias. The paper will draw on the findings of 3 years experimental research at the University into the use of a marking rubric and how effective this is compared to the more common overall assessment methods. It will also report on the need for assessment of how well the student can defend their presentation and the more controversial question of whether, if a student shows complete incompetence in being able to defend their presentation whether they should pass or fail the overall presentation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2016
EventInternational Conference on Engineering Education and Research - Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 21 Nov 201624 Nov 2016


ConferenceInternational Conference on Engineering Education and Research
Abbreviated titleiCEER2016
Internet address


  • Engineering Education
  • Public Speaking
  • Assessment
  • Assessment bias
  • Students

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