Date of Award

Spring 1997

Document Type



Communication Studies

First Advisor

Brent Northup

Second Advisor

Mark Smillie

Third Advisor

Annette Moran


The purpose of this paper is to develop a blueprint for modifying and improving the teaching of basic speech at the college level by applying methodologies used in college forensics coaching. Forensics coaching is too broad to serve as a model. Instead, one specific approach to Forensics coaching will serve as the paradigm for this research: the Personalized System of Instruction (PSI) model in the Forensic laboratory. Although both speech communication and competitive college forensics programs have existed side by side for decades, surprisingly little effort has been made to incorporate the successful forensics coaching strategies into the college speech classroom. This is unusual when one takes into consideration the notably high level of speaker competency that forensics participants possess. It is also important to note that forensics participants generally do not begin at an accelerated level; they gradually improve over time within the forensics program. However, before the incorporation of forensics into a basic speech course takes place, we must establish that it would indeed by a successful marriage. The forensics laboratory employs the PSI, a flexible, innovative model that can be adjusted to fit almost any classroom. Additionally, application of the PSI model allows a classroom to retain its original course goals while pinpointing and correcting trouble areas.An examination of the current basic speech course reveals three distinct problems: students seldom have the chance to incorporate and utilize instructor evaluations into their performances; fundamental speaking skills are neglected; and the course seldom reduces the varying degrees of student apprehension and anxiety that are typical of the basic speech class. These problems can be remedied using forensic tactics and the PSI model. Boylan (1980) identifies the three paramount characteristics of the PSI model as “individualized instruction, highly personalized relationships, and the reinforcement of basic learning.” These attributes of the PSI model correspond closely with the three most prominent weaknesses in the current speech course. The PSI model is, therefore, an ideal corrective to improve the basic speech course. The combination of the forensic laboratory and the PSI model create a powerful cure for the basic speech course problem areas. First, the forensic laboratory emphasizes repetition and practice, two factors that are noted for their importance in creating competent speakers (Zarefsky 1996). Second, the PSI model employs the component of mastery. Mastery refers to the required demonstration of basic skills by the student, an important component when one considers the neglect of basic skills in the speech classroom (Gibson, Hanna, and Huddleston, 1985; Johnson and Szczupakiewicz, 1987; Most, 1994). Finally, the laboratory setting has proven to be one of the most successful combatants of apprehension and anxiety. The purpose of this paper is to design an improved basic speech course using the PSI model and strategies from the forensic laboratory. The inspiration for that goal is the forensics program here at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. I have been active in forensics for the last eight years and I plan on teaching and coaching speech at San Diego State University in the fall of 1997. This paper is in preparation for my career, with the hope that I can provide the best foundation possible for my basic speech students.