James C. McCroskey

The merits of the teaching of speech have been attacked and defended since the days of Aristotle. While enjoying a comparatively prosperous period, speech in general and forensics in particular receive considerable criticism at the present time from administrators and our colleagues in other academic areas.

When confronted with this criticism, speech people rise in eloquent, albeit not always adequate, support of their field. Most of the arguments in support of our field fall into four areas: 1) speech as training in the democratic processes; 2) speech as training for various vocations; 3) speech as a method of personality development; and 4) speech as a factor in educational development.

Many statistical studies, surveys, and philosophical articles have been written to establish the first three arguments. The fourth argument has also received considerable attention from scholars in our field. However, in the articles which refer to this area, little statistical evidence of a relationship between speech training and general academic achievement has been reported. The writer located four studies concerning the relationship between speech training and academic achievement on the high school level.

Loretta A. Wagner determined that "the speech course tends to improve the general scholarship and the English average of high school students."1 Kathleen G. Stahl found that speech training as evidenced in increased fluency in speaking had a positive effect on the general academic level of the high school students involved.2 Patricia J. Smith reported a high correlation between attainment in a speech performance course and general academic average as evidenced by teacher's marks.3 As a result of his study which compared the marks of speech students before they had speech training with their marks after such training, Roosevelt Basler concluded that there is a high correlation between speech training and high school marks.4

While these studies provide considerable support for the argument that speech training improves the general academic achievement of high school students, this writer was unable to locate studies which would indicate whether this is also true on the college level. As a result, a study was undertaken to determine whether college speech training has a statistically significant effect on college achievement as evidenced in students' mark point averages at graduation.5 The purpose of this paper is to report the results of this research.

The method of procedure for this study was divided into the following areas: 1) locations of the students involved in the study; 2) pairing speech and non-speech students; 3) division of data; and 4) statistical procedure.

The 246 cases examined were selected from graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education of the State University of South Dakota during the period from the Summer School of 1948 to the Spring semester of 1958, inclusive.

The students were paired on the basis of the presence or absence of speech instruction, scores on the American Council of Education Psychological Examination, sex, dates of attendance, and school or college in which enrolled.

Each speech student was mated with a non-speech student. A speech student was considered to be a student claiming a major in speech with emphasis in radio-television, or a student claiming a major in speech with emphasis in public address and some experience in forensics, a student claiming a minor in speech with some training in argumentation and debate, voice and diction, and interpretation. Students who had some work in public address and/or forensics but claimed neither a major nor a minor in speech and students majoring in the field of drama were excluded from the study. The non-speech students were those who had no speech work other than the required fundamentals course.6

A variation of not more than two points was allowed in the ACE R scores in the mating process.7 If one mate's score was two points lower than the speech student's, there was another instance where the reverse was true. This was done to insure against disturbing either population.

Each male speech student was paired with a male non-speech student. The females received like treatment. Each speech student and mate started at the University during the same year. They did not always graduate at the same time because some did summer school work. These cases, however, were few in number.

Each student enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences was mated with a student from that College. Students enrolled in the School of Education were mated with others in the same School. Students in other areas of the University were not used either as speech students or as mates.

For the purpose of establishing whether there was a difference between the accomplishment of speech students with different emphasis in respect to their mates, the study was divided into four sections. These were: 1) speech majors with some forensic experience, other than those with radio-television emphasis, and their mates; 2) speech minors and their mates; 3) speech majors with radio-television emphasis and their mates; and 4) the total speech group and their mates.

The statistical procedure in this study involved three steps: 1) determining each speech student's and each mate's mark point average at graduation;8 2) determining the mean mark point average of the speech students and their mates in each section of the study; and 3) determining the statistical significance of the difference between the means of the populations. In determining this significance, the "t" - ratio was used.9 The results are summarized in Table I.


Summarization of Results

Division of Study
Mean of Speech Students Mean of Non-Speech Students

Difference in Mean

1 - Speech Majors with

Radio-TV Emphasis

2.828 2.669 .159 .20
2 - Speech Minors 2.737 2.440 .297 .10
3 - Speech Majors with

Public Address Emphasis

2.883 2.445 .438 .01
4 - Total Speech Group 2.801 2.515 .286 .01


The statistical significance of the describable difference in final mark point averages between the four speech populations and their non-speech mates is summarized in Table I. Of the three smaller divisions, which make up the fourth group, the radio-television group was least different and the difference was least significant. The public address group demonstrated the greatest difference and the greatest significance. The speech minor group was approximately midway between in both difference and significance.

If a difference in the means of two population samplings appears, as it does in this study, there should be reasons discernable for this difference. This study was designed to determine, first, if there were such a difference, and second, to determine as nearly as possible whether speech training caused the difference. The difference does exist. One way to determine whether speech training caused this difference is to eliminate the other possible causes. If a sufficient number of the other causes can be eliminated, it can be inferred that speech training was, to some extent, responsible for the difference.

Possible causes fall into two areas: 1) those which affect the individuals within two groups; and 2) those which affect the total groups.

Factors which fall into the first category include years of attendance, sex, age and maturity, high school speech training, motivation, and special aptitudes. The second category includes size of classes, courses in which the various groups tend to concentrate, and departmental marking policies.

The average marks given in the various departments of the University fluctuate to some degree from year to year. Consequently, if a speech student did not attend the University during the same period that his mate attended, the marks he received could be substantially different. This factor was controlled in this study by mating students who enrolled at the University at the same time. The only variance allowed was in the date of graduation. Some of the students, both speech and non-speech, attended summer school and therefore graduated at an earlier date than did their mates. The incidence of this variation was small. Therefore, it is the opinion of this writer that this factor was controlled to a sufficient degree that it cannot be held responsible for the results of this study.

The sex of the individuals studied could have an effect on their eventual mark point average. This factor was completely controlled in this study. Each student was mated with another student of the same sex.

The next item which could have some effect on a study of this type are age and maturity. The mental and emotional maturity of the individuals in the group could not be determined.10 An effort was made, however, to control the chronological age in the mating process. With a group of this size, it is highly probable that the average maturity was nearly the same for both groups. The possibility is very remote that this factor could have been a significant factor in the results.

Since it has already been established in earlier studies that speech training on the high school level improves academic marks, if a sufficiently large number of students in the study had a considerable amount of speech training in high school, this training could have produced the results observed. This factor cannot be completely discounted because no non-speech students had such training and some speech students did have it. This factor most probably contributes to the results. Most of the speech students, however, did not have high school training. Consequently, the effect that such training had would necessarily have been small.

The motivation of the individual could have been an important influence on the results. This factor was impossible to control. It is possible that the speech students would have been better students than their mates even without the speech training they received because they were motivated to a higher degree. It is equally possible, however, that the motivation could have come from the speech training. Another possibility is that with the tools they obtained through speech training, they were able to attain better marks with the same amount of motivation. Which of these possibilities is the case, if any, the writer could not determine.

The particular aptitudes of the individual students could also make a significant contribution to the results of a study of this type. These aptitudes are among the factors which are difficult to control. Complete testing in this area would help, but no such test results were available. Students in both groups came from the same areas of the University. Their general aptitude for college work as indicated by their ACE scores was one of the bases for mating. Many in both groups were majors or minors in the same areas. For these reasons the writer believes that the influence of the aptitude factor was probably not significant.

In the area of factors which could affect the entire population of speech or non-speech students, the size of classes is an important consideration. If the classes of either group were appreciably smaller than the other, it is likely that the students would have received more individual attention, hence improved marks. At the University, however, that size of classes from department to department does not vary to a marked extent. As a rule the lower division of most departments are more heavily populated than the upper division classes. Since all students in both the speech and non-speech groups took a nearly equal amount of upper and lower division classes, this factor could have had no significant effect on the results.

The departmental marking policies in the subject matter areas in which the two populations tended to concentrate could have a decisive effect on the results of the study. If the Department of Speech marked appreciably higher than the average of the College of Arts and Sciences, this by itself could produce the results. If other departments in which the speech students tended to concentrate marked high, this could have a similar effect.

For the purpose of determining whether this was the case, the writer re-checked the entire population of both the speech and non-speech students to determine in what fields each group tended to concentrate. The departmental marking policies were also explored by the writer. It was found that the Department of Speech and the other departments in which speech students tended to concentrate marked slightly below the average for the College of Arts and Sciences while the non-speech students tended to concentrate in departments which marked slightly above the norm.

From the preceding information it can be determined that the departmental marking policies in the subject areas in which the two populations tended to concentrate did not produce the results of this study. In fact, it could be inferred that because speech students tended toward areas which marked lower while non-speech students tended toward areas which marked higher, the difference which was found appears more significant.

Since the previously discussed factors appear to have not produced the results of this study, it may be reasoned that the remaining factor, speech training, most likely produced these results. This would infer that a "transfer of training" is produced by instruction in speech which carries over to other fields of academic endeavor.

In examining the possibilities of such a process occurring, we find that it has been accepted in educational circles for many years that "learning in one field can be and often is transferred for use to another."11

Transfer of training is "the process whereby a capacity for or tendency toward behavior (i.e., a concept, skill, or resultant ideal, attitude, or appreciation) developed through interaction with one situation or a series of situations later enables one to behave or to react successfully and satisfactorily in other situations more readily than would have been possible otherwise."12

The final conclusion of this study is that concepts, skills, or resultant ideals, attitudes, or appreciations which are learned through speech training enable students to do better academic work than would have been possible if they had not had such training.


Mr. McCroskey (M.A., South Dakota, 1959) is director of forensics at the Norfolk College of William and Mary in Norfolk, Virginia.

1. Loretta A. Wagner, M.A. thesis, State University of South Dakota, 1932.

2. Kathleen G. Stahl, M.A. thesis, New York University, 1937.

3. Patricia J. Smith, M.A. thesis, State University of Iowa, 1953.

4. Roosevelt Basler, M.A. thesis, University of Washington, 1936.

5. This study was completed as an M.A. thesis at the State University of South Dakota in 1959.

6. The fundamentals course as described by the University catalog is, "An introduction to the study of speech. Emphasis on the speech fundamentals. Frequent practice in reading and speaking."

7. The ACE test estimates probable college success. For further information on this test see Lee J. Cronbach, Essentials of Psychological Testing (New York: Harper, 1949), pp. 174-186. The ACE R scores, raw scores, were used to avoid the possibility of errors which might result from frequency distribution of percentile rankings.

8. Students at the University receive four points for an A, three for a B, two for a C, one for a D, and none for an F.

9. The "t"-ratio is a method of comparing the means of two samples in order to determine whether the difference between the two means is statistically significant.

10. No uniform test of mental or emotional maturity was given by the University during the period of this study.

11. Thomas H. Briggs, Secondary Education (New York: Macmillan, 1933), p. 480.

12. Roy O. Billett, Fundamentals of Secondary-School Teaching (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1940), p. 159.

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