Scholarly Context

The PASS has been created to align pedagogies of academic speaking with established writing pedagogies, and to promote the equitable teaching of speaking.

Writing scholars have clearly shown the negative effects of a “skills-based” approach to the teaching of writing (see Eaton, Giltrow). They have shown that a focus on grammar, rules, and “proper” writing situates writing instruction as a response to deficiency (Graves) and disadvantages marginalized students in particular. These scholars have repositioned writing as a process or “social action” (Miller), changing the focus from how to write without error to how to “get things done in a particular context” (Paré).

Importantly for the PASS, this scholarship frames the particular context of academic work as a “social, conversational act” (Graf & Birkenstein). Students are invited to think about writing as an opportunity to engage in dialogue with other writers. In their widely-used textbook Academic Writing, Giltrow et al. use the metaphor of “orchestrating voices” when they discuss how to cite scholars in research. A more recent textbook Joining the Dialogue by Bettina Stumm builds on this discussion and takes as its premise the idea that “academic research and writing are acts of communication.”

Speaking is, of course, also an act of communication—it is social, conversational, and dialogic—and yet speaking pedagogy remains less discussed on these very terms. Indeed, many instructors and pedagogical resources take a skills-based approach to teaching speaking where students are given “tips” or “tricks” for success. Current paradigms for oral presentations often uphold prejudices toward “proper” language use and introduce new ones specific to oral communication—around tone of voice, appearance, and accent. Fernando Sánchaz, for instance, explores how public speaking textbooks’ “discussion of voice and professional dress privilege[s] cisgendered bodies.” Rosina Lippi-Green observes the disadvantages experienced by second-language speakers, noting that some presenters will be stigmatized based on how they speak English, even as their spoken English “cannot predict the quality and effectiveness of any given utterance or that person’s worth as a communicator.”

Our goal with the PASS is to offer resources for implementing a process-based, discipline-centred approach to teaching speaking—by offering easy and guided access to spoken precedents. Students are frequently exposed to precedents for academic writing, but oral precedents can be harder to find. Our “precedents archive” features examples of students speaking in academic settings. In topic-oriented guides, we break down the fundamental parts of scholarly speaking with archived examples for each. Everywhere on the site, we frame these oral academic precedents not as models to be emulated, but rather as examples to be evaluated according to how effectively they respond to the audience’s needs in a given situation. We aim to offer a deep and flexible archive so students can see a range of speakers and speaking styles—to see that there are many ways for speakers to “get things done” in academia. As Tara Goldstein has written, it is crucial that we give our students the opportunity to “watch how other people do it” as they develop their own scholarly voices.

Many scholars are doing important, progressive work on communication pedagogies and we hope the PASS incorporates and advances those efforts. The PASS is indebted to work in Communications by Deanna P. Dannels who has written extensively on the Communication Across the Curriculum (CXC or CAC) approach to speaking pedagogy. With her collaborators in the 2017 teacher’s guide Oral Communications in the Disciplines, for example, Dannels writes that we must “help [students] understand communication within the disciplines, rather than communication as a generic skill that works in the same way in every situation” (14).

Our approach to scholarly speaking pedagogy is informed by Dannels’ work as it also promotes the commitments of “critical communication pedagogy,” defined by Deanna L. Fassett and John T. Warren as “teaching and research addressed toward understanding how communication creates and may, therefore, challenge sociocultural oppressions.” Our intervention combats classroom inequities by promoting linguistic diversity and “linguistic social justice” (Lee). We believe that speaking instruction can be used to make the university more equitable and inclusive, and that to do so we must be especially careful to focus not primarily on addressing student “performance” in our teaching (instructing students to “speak clearly,” “dress professionally” as in the “tips” model noted above). We should instead take what has been called a “communication-oriented” approach to public speaking (Motley & Molloy). This involves a de-privileging of the skills-narrative that produces “performance-oriented” speakers (concerned, as Motloy & Molloy note, on executing a “flawless” delivery) and attending instead to the value of the oral exchange of research. It will involve, that is, helping students to see the scholarly speaking situation as dialogic—and highly contextualized—with responsibilities for effective communication shared between the speaker and audience.

As we continue to develop the PASS, we hope this process, too, will be dialogic. Please get in touch with us if you would like to discuss anything you see on the site. If you would like to read more about our approach to scholarly speaking pedagogy, see our essay “Speaking Against Inequity in the Writing Classroom” published in Discourse and Writing/Redactologie. 


Dannels, Deanna P., Palmerton, Patricia R., and Amy L. Housey Gaffney. Oral Communications in the Disciplines. Parlor, 2016.

Eaton, Christopher. “What Can Students tell us about Skill Building in Canadian Writing Studies?” Canadian Journal for Studies in Discourse and Writing/Rédactologie. Vol. 30, 2020, pp. 314-332.

Deanna L. Fassett and John T. Warren. Critical communication pedagogy. SAGE, 2007.

Giltrow, Janet. “Writing at the Centre: A Sketch of the Canadian history.”Canadian journal for studies in discourse and writing/Rédactologie, vol. 26, 2016, pp 11 -24.

Giltrow, Janet, Gooding, Richard, Burgoyne, Daniel, and Marlene Sawatsky. Academic Writing: An Introduction. Broadview, 2014.
Graf & Birkenstein. They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. Norton, 2005.

Graves, Roger. Writing instruction in Canadian universities. Winnipeg, MB: Inkshed, 1984.

Lippi-Green, Rosina. English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States. Routledge, 2011.
Miller, Carolyn. “Genre as social action.” Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 70, 1984, pp. 151-167.

Motley, Michael T. and Jennifer L. Molloy. “An Efficacy Test of a new Therapy (“Communication-Orientation Motivation”) for Public Speaking Anxiety.” Journal of Applied Communication Research, vol.22,1994, pp. 48-58.

Paré, Anthony. “What we know about writing, and why it matters.” Compendium2: Writing, Teaching, and Learning in the University, vol. 2, iss. 1, 2009, pp. 1-7.

Sánchaz, Fernando. “Trans Students’ Right to Their Own Gender in Professional Communication Courses: A Textbook Analysis of Attire and Voice Standards in Oral Presentations." Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, vol. 49, iss. 2, 2019, pp 183-212.

Stumm, Bettina. Joining the Dialogue: Practices for Ethical Research Writing. Broadview, 2021.