Do I Make Sense? Focusing on Message Clarity

Presented by Dr. Kristen McIntyre

Dr. Kristen McIntyre, Assistant professor in the Department of Speech Communication, presented an example lesson utilizing Kolb’s Cycle of Learning at the October 24th ATLE luncheon.

For each concept taught, Kolb’s Cycle of Learning focuses on four key components—feeling, watching, thinking, and doing. To address the feeling stage of the learning cycle, Dr. McIntyre incorporates either small group, large group, or both types of discussions centered on students’ experiences with the concepts.

The feeling stage of the learning cycle is followed with the watching stage by using a number of visual activities such as PowerPoint presentations or movie or television clips that emphasize key ideas.

Clear structure in each class is a key component to the thinking stage of the cycle. Dr. McIntyre says, “I do my best to make sure there is a clear structure to each class period. I structure activities, provide key definitions and explanations, and ask students to reflect, either orally or in writing, on how the concepts we’ve discussed relate to past concepts, upcoming assignments, and other classes they’re taking or have taken.”

For the doing stage of Kolb’s cycle, McIntyre provides relevant hands-on application experiences for students by including activities into every class. “Ideally, I try to round the cycle with each concept covered that day in class. I also like to make sure that each day we start at a different stage in the cycle, so things don’t get too monotonous.”

Kolb’s Cycle of Learning uniquely benefits the students by, “allow[ing] each student to get a little bit of what they prefer as a learner, but also provides them the opportunity to expand their understanding of learning as a process.” This teaching method provides students with their own means of assessing their learning. “My students often tell me they are grateful for the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas and to apply the
concepts in class.”

McIntyre credits Kolb’s Cycle of Learning with the added benefit of being able to assess students grasps of major concepts. “The activities and the reflections help me pinpoint problem spots and provide me the opportunity to review, clarify, or try again before students are held accountable for the material on an exam or major assignment.”

“Using this approach keeps me on my toes–I have to be very prepared for each class. I’m never really sure what students are going to share, what connections they’re going to make. Class is rarely boring!”

Dr. Kristen McIntyre

“It’s one thing to go into a classroom and teach. It’s a completely different, and humbling, experience to teach your peers. Being able to participate in the Teaching Demonstration luncheons was an exciting and important experience for me. What I do in the classroom is not unique or exceptional by any stretch of the imagination. Many of my colleagues use similar strategies to reach students. However, having to prepare for this experience provided me with the opportunity to really reflect on why I do what I do and how I can do it better. I was grateful for the opportunity to take my show on the road and receive feedback on it!”


Kristen McIntyre earned her doctorate in Communication at North Dakota State University in 2006. She spent seven years teaching as either a graduate teaching assistant or an adjunct instructor in the basic communication course at a variety of institutions: Iowa State University, Drake University, Graceland University, Des Moines Area Community College, and North Dakota State University. Incorporating service learning into the courses that she teaches is her newest passion and challenge.


Dr. Kristen McIntyre

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