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Six Approaches to the Introductory Course: A Forum


Speech communication departments in every institution of higher education face unique circumstances when deciding their type and number of introductory courses. Different demands are placed on communication departments operating in community colleges, four year liberal arts colleges, land-grant institutions and major research universities. Some of these situational demands are: how the department is perceived by the administration (i.e., service or major oriented); whether skills courses are accepted as part of the college- or university-wide general education curriculum; whether the college or campus has a communication skills requirement; the college division in which the department is located (i.e., humanities, fine arts or social science); whether the department has a graduate program; and how the department perceives itself (i.e., teaching, service or research focused).

An introductory course is defined as one without a prerequisite. The term “introductory” is preferred rather than “basic” since a common connotation for the latter term is “remedial,” such as high school English or mathematics.

The main purpose of this paper is to describe an introductory communication theory course which meets the demands placed on the Department of Communication and Mass Media at the University of Wyoming. Other implications, however, are l) the circumstances at the University of Wyoming appear to be similar to those found on many other campuses, 2) theory based introductory courses have several advantages over skills based courses, and 3) we may be doing our departments and discipline more harm that good by offering so many introductory skills courses.



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