Oral-Language Development in University Classrooms

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This article will discuss oral-language development in university classrooms when preparing students for the health professions. After the introduction, we outline the role of identity and self-knowledge in health communication followed by the use of a constructivist theoretical framework to educate for health. We provide faculty with the following five strategies to inform the implementation of a constructivist teaching–learning approach in the classroom: (1) Establish the value and use of oral communication in the classroom; (2) Establish a safe learning environment for speaking and listening; (3) Build background knowledge from the prior knowledge that learners bring to the classroom; (4) Use a pedagogy of engagement to boost oral-language development and improve speaking competencies; and (5) Use National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) to improve verbal and nonverbal communication skills. The third section of this article will focus on Implications, followed by a fourth section on Limitations. The communication bridge that students in the health professions travel between passive personal observations and active public discourse requires their philosophical attention and increasing efforts in the university classroom. Faculty who are committed to a constructivist theoretical framework will encourage more students to engage in knowledge-enriching constructive dialogs, including verbal exchanges between peers and informal conversations as colleagues. As a result, students in the health professions will be able to comprehend and enact the foundational work of oracy and literacy when they are called upon to construct their own understanding of transactional communication with a waiting public.