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Abstract

As more universities across the country are feeling the pressures of providing an increasingly rigid financial accountability to tax payers and state legislatures, speech and communication departments find themselves in a precarious position. Namely, how can communication departments teach the budding number of students enrolled in their courses with little increase in budget, while continuing to produce effective speakers? One common answer to this dilemma involves the use of graduate students, and in some cases undergraduate students, as teaching assistants in the basic course. This study examines the efficacy of using undergraduate instructor assistants in the basic course at a large Midwestern University and addresses potential stumbling blocks in training, such as speaker order and rater error. Thirty-eight undergraduate instructor assistants were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups and asked to grade four 10-minute persuasive speeches following their eight-week training course. An ANCOVA was used to examine significant differences across presentation grades for speakers in each group, while an ANOVA was used to determine differences in the quality of comments based on speaker order. No significant differences were identified in either analysis suggesting that when properly trained, undergraduate instructor assistants can grade consistently across multiple groups regardless of speaker order.