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Communication lab earns national accreditation

CALL lab
April 15, 2013

The Communication Assessment Learning Lab (CALL) operated by ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences has become one of only eight communication labs to be a nationally certified mentoring program as identified by the National Association of Communication Centers. This means that students who visit the lab can be confident that mentors are well-versed in both public speaking and ethical peer mentoring practices.

Students enrolled in designated communication courses, such as Public Speaking or Communication in Business and the Professions, may use the lab to prepare, deliver and evaluate individual and group oral presentations. The recently expanded lab, which now includes a brainstorming room, a group presentation/conference room, and three recording rooms, is located in the Sands Classroom Building on ASU’s West campus

For students who serve as CALL peer mentors, the newly earned certification for the lab provides a credential that may enhance job or graduate school opportunities. CALL is unique to the ASU community and is one of the largest communication labs west of the Mississippi River.

“No matter what your major, it’s important to have strong communication skills,” said Bonnie Wentzel, a communication lecturer in New College’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and CALL’s faculty director. “For example, aspiring high school teachers must have engaging public speaking abilities to reach their students. If you need to gain financial partners to complete important scientific research, chances are, you are going to have to figure out a way to convey complicated concepts in accessible, public ways. That’s why we’re here – to help students find a voice to the important work they are about to do.”

CALL peer mentors are the lab’s lifeblood. A number of academic programs, including life sciences, education, business and communication studies, require or strongly recommend that students complete a public speaking course. CALL mentors reflect this wide range of disciplines which helps students understand how basic public speaking concepts apply to a number of topics. This spring, 10 new students from diverse majors joined seven returning lab mentors.

“Because peer mentors have already completed a public speaking class, they understand some of the challenges new students face – primarily overcoming the fear of speaking in public,” Wentzel said.

“I like to tell students that speech anxiety is something that everyone gets, but everyone can get through it, and so can you,” said peer mentor Cassie Roidique. “It’s such an enriching experience when students I’ve helped out leave the lab feeling a little more confident about their speeches.”

CALL peer mentors reinforce classroom instruction by providing feedback to each student by helping them to improve speech organization, strengthen verbal and non-verbal delivery, manage presentational aides, and employ successful persuasive strategies.

Typically, students come into the lab and present their speech while a mentor records and times their presentation. Then the mentor and student watch the speech together and look for areas of strengths and opportunities to improve. For the Communication in Business and the Professions class, students are filmed participating in a mock interview. By watching themselves on film, students can isolate those tendencies which either enhance or detract from their message.

“I recently had my first appointment with a mentee, and it was an amazing experience,” said mentor Brooke D’Adamo. “She gave her speech twice, once without being videotaped and the second time in front of the camera. It was astonishing how she used feedback and suggestions from the first time and radiantly improved in her second speech. The immediate progress and confidence made her not only excited and relieved, but also made me feel like a ‘proud parent.’”

CALL has established a social media presence including a Facebook page, CommLabASU, and Twitter feed, @CommLabASU.