Featured Partner | Dr. Kristen McIntyre | Speech Communication

Dr. Kristen McIntyreDr. McIntyre has partnered with the DRC for several years to ensure her classes are designed to be fully accessible from the ground up.  As director of SPCH 1300 and instructor of SPCH 3320: Advanced Public Speaking, her proactive stance has made it easy for students taking Speech Communication classes to enjoy seamless access, and for faculty in her department to embrace the diversity in their classes.

Three specific areas are explored here:

Accessible Materials
Attendance Policy


Advanced Public Speaking is a course Dr. McIntyre teaches, and for which she has a unique grading method. Instead of grades or points for individual and major assignments, students receive peer and instructor feedback on each part of the speech creation process throughout the course, revise work until competence is demonstrated, and then self-assess their ability to meet the course learning outcomes at the end of the course.  A 15-20 page paper is assigned in which the student can assert the grade they earned using a rubric that explains the criteria necessary to earn an A, B, C, and so forth.

student giving speech

Rebeka Dávila, Speech Communication major

Students must compile evidence throughout the course to support their self-evaluation, and build a portfolio.  Evidence includes the feedback they receive from their peers and instructor as well as the quality of the work they produce, the process they engage in to create their work, the feedback they provide others, and the professionalism of their communication. Students have options for constructing theirself-assessment portfolio – they can submit evidence via a video, website, paper, Blackboard, or, usually, a combination of these mediums.  By providing choices to students, no accommodations need to be put in place for a student with a disability.  This creates a positive and easy experience for both student and professor!  Access is seamless.

Students complete a midterm practice self-assessment and then conference with the professor to debrief the practice assignment. During this conference, the student and the professor discuss an action plan for moving forward to strengthen the portfolio. Specifically, students talk through the changes they’d like to make to how they’re approaching the class, how best to demonstrate their achievement of course outcomes, and improvements they can make to the supporting explanations and evidence of how each outcome and letter grade criterion was achieved.  There is no learning in a vacuum here!

Accessible Materials

Aimee Mullins TED Talk with captions "Today I have over a dozen pair of prosthetic legs."Dr. McIntyre plans ahead in choosing classroom videos and textbooks that work for everyone.  All required videos for the class, such as TED Talks, are captioned or subtitled.  By choosing accessible videos, she doesn’t have to scramble when a deaf student enrolls in her class.  Access is seamless.

When the department considers textbook adoption, Dr. McIntyre looks at such accessibility features as:

  • Is the book available as an e-book?
  • Is there good color contrast for the text and images?
  • Are there descriptions provided of the tables and images?

All things being equal, these questions tip the scales in her decision-making.  The end result is that there is a greatly-reduced chance of needing to make accommodations for textbooks.  Access is seamless.

Attendance policy

Flexibility is built into the attendance policy in Dr. McIntyre’s Advanced Public Speaking class.  The syllabus states that participating in class will help students be successful.  They are told that to earn a grade of A, only 2-3 absences are allowed.  However, she uses the concept of Karma.  Students can earn Karma for helping another student, putting in extra hours on their service project, or in some other way furthering their learning and meeting the course outcomes.  Karma can offset extra absences, and allows students to still make an A in the class, even if they had to miss more than the allowed number of absences.  For a disabled student who may need to be absent due to their condition, there would be no need to negotiate for leeway for absences because it’s built into the structure of the class.  Access is seamless.

For Dr. McIntyre, it all comes down to seamless access – a theme that runs through her teaching style in so many ways.  Thank you, Dr. McIntyre, for being a shining example of student-centered teaching, and of designing coursework with all students in mind!

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