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DM 864

DM 864 - Principles of Professional Communication

The focus of this course is mastery of the fundamental elements of all effective professional communication: assessing the communicative situation, understanding the needs and expectations of the audience, creating an effective and suitable message, and projecting confidence and competence through an appropriate communication style. The course combines theoretical understanding with practical application in four areas of communicative competence: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Students will prepare and present a variety of messages and will be involved in the critical appraisal of the messages of others.

Course Leader: To be confirmed

Course Objectives

  • To understand the underlying principles of all effective communication
  • To develop sensitivity and skill in assessing the demands of any communication situation
  • To attend appropriately to both message content and interpersonal relation in a communication exchange
  • To develop strategies for managing both task and maintenance functions in communication exchanges
  • To apply these skills to a variety of communicative tasks, both orally and in writing

Activities and Schedule

The course draws its theoretical foundation from the ancient discipline known as rhetoric, which is concerned not only with the exchange of information, but with the quality of the human interaction on which all effective communication depends. Although message design and clarity of purpose remain important, our primary concern at the graduate level will be the more subtle elements of communication decision-making that are frequently taken for granted, overlooked, or ignored. As a result, the course focus will be analytical skill, interpersonal effectiveness, and the establishment of professional credibility through an appropriate and effective communication style. The course will be heavily participatory, and participants will be invited to apply the principles we are learning to a variety of reflective and interactive exercises.

Each module will consist of lectures, discussion, and interactive exercises, interspersed with individual and group assignments. Work on the major project, consisting of a communication log and situational analysis, will continue throughout the course. Oral presentations will incorporate public analysis and commentary, and will involve all students in the critical appraisal of the messages of others. Personalized consultation and instructor feedback will be available throughout the course.

Course Preparation

In preparation for Module 1., Day 1. & Day 2., please read the following segments from Effective Communication for the Technical Professions:

  • Chapter One: Understanding the Communicative Situation (pp 1-14)
  • Critical Reading: Wayne Booth, “The Rhetorical Stance” (pp 16-22)
  • Critical Reading: Lloyd Bitzer, “The Rhetorical Situation (pp 75-79)

Readings in support of the remainder of the course will be assigned during Day 1.

Module 1

Day 1 - Course Introduction and Approach
  • The Nine Axioms of Communication
  • Related work period - Case Study or Analysis
  • Lecture on Ancient Rhetoric for the Contemporary Engineer
  • Related work period - Case Study or Analysis
  • Summary and wrap-up remarks
Day 2 - Content and Relations
  • What is Really Going On Here?
  • Ethos and credibility: a matter of balance
  • Content, relation and maintenance functions in communication
  • Related work period - Case Study or Analysis
  • Reading the communicative context
  • Face: self-presentation and risk
  • Related work period - Case Study or Analysis
  • Summary and wrap-up remarks
Day 3 - Elements of Nonverbal Communication
  • Definitions and Concepts
  • Characteristics of Nonverbal Communication
  • Types of Nonverbal Communication
  • Related work period - Case Study or Analysis
  • Power and Nonverbal Communication
  • Reading Body Language
  • Improving Nonverbal Skill
  • Related work period - Case Study or Analysis
  • Introduction of Case Study Project
  • Summary and wrap-up remarks
Day 4 - Public Speaking
  • Speech types: advantages and disadvantages
  • Delivery and credibility
  • Related work period: impromptu speeches
  • Understanding the audience
  • Extemporaneous speaking
  • Related work period: speech analysis and critique
  • Summary and wrap-up

Between Modules

Participants will use this period to work on the Major Communication Project and Formal Speech. Speeches will be presented and critiqued in Module 2., Days 2 and 3. Participants will be encouraged to use a principles-practice approach in applying their understanding of communication to the analysis of, reflection upon, and assessment of communication activity in their own workplaces.

Module 2

Day 1 - Professional Writing Fundamentals
  • Grammar refresher (with diagnostic assessment)
  • The rhetoric of grammar: credibility, force, indirection
  • Related work period - Case Study or Analysis
  • Writing with Power: force, emphasis, pattern
  • Related work period - Case Study or Analysis
  • Summary and wrap-up remarks
Day 2 - Presentations and Listening Module
  • Presentation and analysis of formal speeches
  • Related work period
  • Listening effectively: characteristics
  • Active listening skills
  • Listening between the lines
  • Related work period - Case Study or Analysis
  • Summary and wrap-up remarks
Day 3 - Presentations and Leadership Module
  • Presentation and analysis of formal speeches
  • Related work period
  • The rhetoric of leadership
  • Qualities of an effective leader
  • Balancing task and maintenance functions
  • Related work period: Case Study or Analysis
  • Summary and wrap-up remarks
Day 4 - The Psychology of Persuasion
  • What everyone wants
  • The power of the enthymeme
  • Related work period: Case Study or Analysis
  • Exam
  • Critique / Feedback
  • Final Summary and Course Wrap-Up

Course Evaluation

Grades will be calculated on the basis of the following:

  • 20% - Graded exercises
  • 30% - Case study project
  • 50% - Final examination
Contact Us

University of Western Ontario
Queen's University