Verbal communication skills

ADMINISTRATION   LEARNING & TEACHING   SUPPORT
(Not relevant to this topic)     Verbal communication skills in your UoS    University resources
    Discipline-specific skills   Examples for developing skills
    Preparing students for work placement    


The importance of communication skills

Good verbal communication skills are crucial not only for the students’ learning while at university, but also for their future as professionals in almost any career path they will pursue. Communication is considered one of the University’s generic graduate attributes.

For this reason it is essential that all undergraduate students acquire:

  • the ability to express ideas concisely and clearly
  • an awareness of discourse styles specific to their discipline or professional area
  • skills in verbal reasoning
  • listening comprehension skills that equip them to deal with varied situations, from note-taking in lectures to work placement situations.

University resources

The Learning Centre offers a range of Oral Communication courses. These courses are for students from both English and non-English speaking backgrounds, while some also cover pronunciation skills.


Verbal Communication skills in your unit of study

Verbal communication

Incorporate the development of verbal skills into your unit of study (UoS) activities.
Depending on your particular discipline area, learning focus and learning outcomes, you might, for example, get your students to:

  • give short, oral presentations or lead discussion in their tutorial groups
  • engage in role plays, and comment on each other’s skills or authenticity in the role
  • debate controversial issues in the field of study
  • conduct interviews and report on the findings
  • become ‘experts’ in various key areas of knowledge, and share their expertise with one another in small groups.


For teaching tips on how to develop your students’ oral communication skills see the Griffith University’s Oral Communication toolkit.


Discipline-specific communication skills

In certain disciplines, such as Law, Medicine, Education and Social Work, Nursing or Health Sciences, graduates will need to develop communication skills which can be very specific to their discipline area, and which are essential components for professional practice.

In many situations the professional graduate requires adaptive communication skills, such as:

  • the capacity to communicate information and knowledge in their area of expertise, and in a way that is relevant to the situation or audience
  • listening and comprehension skills that can adapt to various professional requirements
  • an ability to interact appropriately in different situations. For example, interaction with patients in clinical situations is quite different to interactions with lecturers or fellow students.
  • an ability to interact with cultural sensitivity and competence. For example, interaction with Indigenous Australians, or people from different cultural backgrounds.

Preparing students for work placement situations

Work or clinical placements are an opportunity for students to enhance their communication skills. However, some students may need help in developing the skills required before they are ready to effectively undertake work or clinical placements.

Even when written or verbal language skills are not an issue, students may have difficulties in situations in which they lack awareness of expected or appropriate behaviour in social and/or cultural contexts that are not familiar to them. In the multicultural contexts in which almost all of our students will be working, developing intercultural sensitivities and competences will be essential.

As coordinator of the unit, you can highlight the importance of developing these skills.

  • These skills are often best learned through observation, practice and experience and there are ways to practice skills in classroom situations through interactive learning tasks as described above in the topic ‘Verbal communication skills in your unit of study’.
  • If you are fortunate enough to have a mix of international and local students in your class, or local students from diverse cultural backgrounds, encourage them to share their expertise about expectations on what constitutes ‘normal’ interaction in the context in which they’ll be working.
  • When students undertake a work placement, ensure they receive explicit and constructive feedback from their workplace supervisor on this aspect of their performance.
  • The Careers Centre runs a series of workshops to prepare students for work placements including a workshop entitled “Interpersonal Communication in the Workplace”. The full range of workshops are listed on their website. Please encourage students to participate in their workshops prior to starting a placement.
  • If you consider at any point that a student needs particular assistance in transitioning into a workplace environment, an individual appointment can be made at the Careers Centre for that student.
Verbal communication

Examples of discipline-specific programs for developing skills

Group work or collaborative activities can be used to encourage students to work together to improve their professional performance.

  • This can happen on a more informal level as part of your general UoS activities, and therefore can be implemented quickly and easily. One example of this is used by Lorraine Smith in Pharmacy: her students video each other performing as professionals, and then view play-backs so that individuals can get direct feedback on their own performance.

Student Support Services, through the Career Centre, can work with staff from particular Faculties to develop programs that support the work placement readiness of their students.

  • These programs can be tailored to the specific requirements of the discipline and one focus can be on developing communication skills required for professional practice in that discipline area.

Discipline-focused support programs can be designed to enhance communication skills in professional practice and implemented across the faculty.

  • The Faculty of Nursing has developed resources which use enhanced multimedia approaches to teaching, modelling and hence improving student communication skills. Verbal and written communication skills are key requirements for registration under the national accrediting body ANMAC (Australian Nursing & Midwifery Council). Consequently the faculty uses a variety of approaches to embed these skills through all clinical and non-clinical units of study within pre-registration degrees. Much of healthcare delivery rests on communication in all formats/modes and the issue around reducing patient harm/risk is paramount. These skills are assessed both on-campus and off-campus in a variety of situations/contexts. Attributes and competencies are written into UoS outlines as learning outcomes, and then assessed through a range of strategies, particularly through clinical practice assessments. When students attend clinical placements, off campus, this is a key factor of their practice and skills development. Feedback loops and consultations enable students to get feedback, and then to practice or rehearse further so that they can consolidate, refine and extend their skill base. The aim is to make them ready for practice on graduation and registration.
  • Some specific programs and Learning & teaching improvement projects in Nursing include:
    1. The Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Program. This program is inclusive and self-selecting – students do not have to come from a CALD background. Since the program began, Nursing staff can report that student feedback is always positive.
    2. Watch, Learn, Go: Developing multi-professional learning resources to support clinical and communication skills development for health professionals (TIES Large Project, 2009). This project used video vignettes.
    3. The Question is the Answer: Facilitating critical thinking through higher-level questioning in the Bachelor of Nursing (post-registration) program (TIES Large Project, 2009). In this project online interactive modules where developed in response to the relatively passive prior learning context which, in the past, had been the experience for most students. It has been piloted in 2011 with students for a roll out in 2012.