UHV associate professor publishes new public speaking textbook

Mark Ward Sr., an associate professor of communication at the University of Houston-Victoria, has authored a new textbook on public speaking that brings a different approach to a course millions of college students take as part of their general education.

“Introduction to Public Speaking: An Inductive Approach” was published in December by FlatWorld, a leading Boston-based publisher of college textbooks. Four years in the making, the book represents a complete rethinking of how public speaking is taught, Ward said.

Mark Ward

In his book, Ward likens the traditional deductive approach to public speaking to a murder mystery.

“The process starts with the final outcome, then works backwards from the clues to reenact the entire crime,” Ward said. “In a similar way, the traditional method to teach public speaking is for the instructor to describe all the parts of an entire speech and then have students reproduce entire speeches of their own.”

Yet in his own teaching, Ward found that the deductive method could be ineffective. Most students who are in their first year of college take speech only because the course is required, and are afraid of public speaking.

“When students are inexperienced, often unmotivated – and scared – then requiring an entire speech on their first attempt is a big ask,” he said. So, Ward switched to an inductive approach.

“It’s like constructing a building one block at a time,” he said. “The inductive method breaks down the components of a speech and teaches them one at a time. Students then build gradually toward a full speech, mastering one skill at a time until they can assemble it all together.”

By breaking down a speech into small, manageable chunks, Ward discovered that students could begin with short segments – only a speech introduction at first, then a speech conclusion, and so on. By starting with short one- or two-minute segments, students experienced initial success and thus gained confidence and reduced anxiety. And because skills were mastered one at a time, students retained what they learned.

Kyoko Amano

“I have never been comfortable with public speaking myself, so I really appreciate Mark Ward’s work in demystifying public speaking,” said Kyoko Amano, dean of the UHV College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences. “I am so proud of the work he has done.”

Ward joined the faculty in 2010 when UHV expanded into a four-year institution and offered freshman and sophomore courses for the first time. He was tasked with developing the general-education course in public speaking required for all UHV students.

“When I taught public speaking as a doctoral student at a selective university, most students came from privileged backgrounds,” Ward said. “UHV students are just as smart, but they often don’t have the same advantages for becoming college-ready. Many are the first generation in their family to attend college. Then, too, most students today are accustomed to oral communication in short bites and haven’t had much exposure to actual speeches.”

To work with UHV students “where they’re at,” Ward in 2017 piloted an inductive approach to teach public speaking. Students commented in surveys that the inductive method is “incredibly beneficial” and “a spectacular way to learn public speaking,” is “easy to follow” and “made the course more readily understandable,” and “lowered my apprehension” and “helped me gain an enormous amount of confidence.”

Encouraged, Ward approached FlatWorld, publisher of “Organizational Communication: Theory, Research, and Practice,” an earlier textbook that Ward coauthored. The company was enthusiastic about “Introduction to Public Speaking: An Inductive Approach” and now markets the volume as a “fresh and common-sense strategy to teaching and learning public speaking.” A pioneer in digitized textbooks, FlatWorld has priced the book affordably at $29.95 for online access and $54.95 for the printed version.

“More than 2 million students enter college for the first time each fall, and most are required to take a general-education course in oral communication,” Ward said. “So, the opportunity is great for a new public speaking textbook to impact a whole generation of students, equip them with a vital and marketable life skill and catalyze a new approach to speech instruction.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Amber Aldaco