Tom Stewart is one of our Featured Teachers for the Spring 2018 semester. He is a Lecturer in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Join Tom in a roundtable discussion about his ideas and how you might adopt or adapt them:

 May 9 from 2-3 p.m.
300 Younkin Success Center


I am now a Lecturer in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences here at The Ohio State University, but my background and experiences working for 30 years in radio are far from the academic world. These days I teach Public Speaking and Public Relations classes. Public Speaking is the most feared activity in the United States today, even more than death, according to the National Institute of Mental Health! Not coming from an academic background and teaching a class that most people are loath to take created an especially daunting set of circumstances for me as I began my work as a Lecturer at Ohio State. I am more than excited to be a Featured Lecturer for Spring Semester of 2018 and to share some of the successes I’ve experienced.

There are limited, and I do mean limited, life pathways that will not require the ability to be a presenter somewhere along the way. My class, when challenged to identify such a life choice came up with one: taking a “Vow of Silence” and becoming a monk! With that in mind, I teach more than just a life skill of public speaking, but how to prepare for a presentation, how to write a presentation, and how to deliver a presentation.

How do I accomplish this? Even in my large (125 students) classes, there are opportunities for all students to speak to the entire class.  Participation is strictly voluntary but I would guess nearly 90% of those enrolled take advantage of that opportunity by the semester’s end. We really only have one rule in the classroom and that is only one person speaks at a time. Other than that, the class is very interactive with students speaking out about the topic of the day, their own experiences with that topic and also current events as it relates to Public Speaking. I feel it keeps the class engaged when we have more of a dialogue than a lecture format.

To encourage class participation, my GTAs and I offer a “Buckeye Leaf Sticker” for their “helmet” throughout the semester. Answering a question by the instructor (whether right or wrong), stating an opinion or feeling about a topic, etc. are all examples of a student getting a sticker. The concept works really well in the Fall with football being on people’s minds, but we also use it in the Spring Semester by popular demand. The person with the highest number of stickers at the end of the term gets a special prize of their choosing (within reason) on the last day of class. Some of the prizes requested have been heartwarming such as helping a fellow student with an issue, to more fun like taking the winner and his/her significant other out for dinner.

Whatever the prize, the key here is that this works because we enjoy ourselves and yet we are learning all at the same time. This philosophy is especially important for a course where student anxiety and apprehension is readily apparent. I have seen people move from being visibly shaken to stand up and speak to becoming very confident and at ease in front of a group of others. I am totally gratified by the way I see students’ progress from day one of the semester to their final speech presentations given in class.