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Intelligibility-Based Oral Communication: Resources for Teaching Non-Native English Speakers

Oral Communication book cover
Because the book contains many interactive elements and audio recordings, we recommend accessing this open textbook digitally rather than printing it.

The purpose of this project was to create an OER—an interactive ebook—to aid in the teaching of pronunciation to International Teaching Assistants (ITAs). The OER includes five chapters: Segmentals (consonant and vowel sounds), Word Stress, Prominence, Intonation, and Thought Groups. These five areas were highlighted by the ENGL 180 instructors, as well as OECT raters, as being one set of features that prospective ITAs need assistance with.

Transformative impacts on teaching

The OER had an interesting impact on the teaching of ENGL 180. Previously, the ENGL 180 courses did not have a textbook, which was one of the main reasons for developing one. Because there was no textbook previously, the courses had been designed and implemented using materials created by the ENGL 180 instructors, which had been housed in Cybox. Now we had a textbook, and the courses needed to be re-designed to include a textbook that now housed most of the previous materials. ENGL 180A (which is the beginner-level course) was the first section that the textbook was incorporated into. It was used mostly as an additional reference source on top of what was already there in ENGL 180A. That is, it was not fully integrated into the course that had already been developed but was added to it as an additional layer of support. This seemed to work well for the students in this course, as they often need more instructional time than other sections of ENGL 180.

However, in Spring 2021, COVID had shifted all the ENGL 180 sections to an online/hybrid format. The only course up until then that had been online was ENGL 180A. The second section that the ebook was used for was ENGL 180C (the upper-intermediate level), which was re-developed over winter break to be an online course. Because of this massive change, we were able to integrate the ebook into the lessons for each week, rather than as an additional layer of support. What we learned from this experience is that the ebook was relatively effective in either capacity. This could be due to the nature of the students who typically take ENGL 180—these are typically intrinsically motivated students who want to become standalone TAs. Therefore, the ebook would be useful to these students in any capacity because they have their own motivation for taking the course (ENGL 180 is not a required course, nor does it provide credit that can be used towards a degree).

Continued use

The OER will continue to be used in the ENGL 180 courses for the foreseeable future, as well as in English Speaking Consultations offered by the Center for Communication Excellence. We are also working on incorporating the OER into the training program for new English Speaking Consultants, both as a training material and as a material to use with learners.

Kochem, T., Ghosh, M., Compton, L., & Cotos, E. (2020). Oral Communication for Non-Native Speakers of English. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Digital Press. DOI: