Engaged Communication for PhD Students

April 1, 2022
Engaged Communication for PhD Students

Teaching is an act of scholarly communication, and developing communication skills is an important component of professional development. We offer programs in teaching and scholarly communication for PhD students at every stage, from newly matriculated students who want to develop strategies to more easily explain their work, to dissertation-stage students preparing to share short versions of their research on the Sanders Theatre stage. This year we focused on communicating in person (both with masks and without) after more than a year of being confined to a small square on Zoom, and getting used to a hybrid academic world where it is important to be a compelling teacher and communicator both in person and on Zoom. Our programs prompt students to consider how to set goals, structure their content, and use their voice to keep their audiences engaged. We are excited to share that we have compiled our key communication resources into a new module, Engaged Communication, on our Hit the Ground Running site.

Much of our expertise in communication is built on our familiarity with foreign language pedagogy, and specifically the components of oral English language proficiency that we teach through the Professional Communication Program for International Teachers and Scholars. In Sarah Emory’s fall seminar, Enhancing Fluency: Speaking and Listening for International TFs, it was especially apparent how things like eye contact and getting comfortable interacting in person again are as crucial to successful communication as are clear speaking skills. After a year of living remotely, students have been more grateful than ever for the opportunity to learn, practice, and get feedback on their speaking skills in person. As one student noted, “Learning the strategies for general organizing structures and having chances to meet and talk with other students across the campus in English helped me improve!”

Last fall we invited our colleague Erika Bailey, Head of Voice and Speech at the American Repertory Theater and Lecturer on Theater, Dance and Media, to speak at the Fall Teaching Conference on Teaching with Presence, as we all wondered what it would be like to use our voices and bodies in person again, especially as we got used to teaching while masked. We continued this exploration in Pamela Pollock’s Bok Seminar, Engaging Audiences in our Professional Stories, where we practiced communicating our research and giving talks in person, but also on Zoom, to compare how our strategies change and what adjustments we need to make based on our communication medium. As one student noted, “It was great that we were able to reflect as a group on our communication and other scholarly practices!”

Finally, we have been working hard this spring to prepare the 2022 Harvard Horizons Scholars to present their research on the Sanders Theatre stage on April 12. The Bok Center has supported the Harvard Horizons program since it launched in 2013. Building on all the skills we teach in our seminars and workshops across the Center, we work with the scholars intensively as they grapple with important questions in their research, decide what story to tell, develop compelling visuals, and engage their voice and body in the crafting and delivery of short talks about their dissertation research.

We hope to see you in Sanders on April 12! If you would like to learn more about any of our programs for PhD students, please contact Pamela Pollock, Director of Professional Development.