Role of Soft Skills in Weeding out Students’ Fear of Oral communication in Group Discussion M. Madhu Sudhan Rao (Ph. D) Assistant professor of English, MVR College of Engineering & Technology Paritala, Vijayawada This paper focuses on the issues encountered by the students of MVR College of Engineering & Technology, affiliated to Acarya Nagarjuna Univesity. They are pursuing 2/4 B. Tech in CSE branch. They are predominantly from rural background. Initially, they were inadequate in expression, presentation, confidence and speaking in English at the end of 2nd year I semester.

They were very shy and felt guilty to speak in English. They had always feared in the mind that they would commit mistakes and friends would laugh at them. This problem was identified and many JAM rounds were arranged to them. They were asked to give paper presentations on the topics they liked. However the result was very negligible by the semester ending. Keeping in view the 2nd year II semester Soft Skills syllabus in mind, a schedule was sorted out for their progress. In the end the 50 students who belong to CSE branch could fare better. However they still need improvement.

The time span that this experiment covered was four months. There are six modules prescribed for 2/4 B. Tech II semester CSE students. Nonverbal Communication, Written Communication, Emotional Intelligence and Self Esteem, Employability, Life Skills and People Skills are the modules. Fifty students were divided into two batches, each batch consisting of 25 students. Every week, three hours were allotted to train them. The schedule went for 15 weeks. They were trained in seventeen aspects like Nonverbal Communication, Confidence Building, Self Awareness, Stress Management, Empathy etc.

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As most of the students possess fairly poor receptive skills, it took much time to improve them. In January, concentration was laid on improving their Confidence, Motivation Levels, Desire to Learn, Self Awareness, and Self Control. They were showed a few videos that were downloaded from www. youtube. com. They were given tips on how to know their strengths and limitations. In confidence building presentation, guidelines on planning in advance and thinking positively were given. It was followed by a video to inspire them and motivate them; they were trained to set up short term goals and long term goals in motivation classes.

Further they were trained on methods finishing what they begin. While training them in improving their Desire to learn, they were told that they should learn round the clock as change is the law of life. You cannot change your father, You cannot change your mother, You cannot change your brother, You cannot change your sister, You cannot change your wife/husband, You cannot change your friend, But You can change yourselves. ( “Arnindam Chowdary’s “Count Your Chickens before they Hatch”) These lines made them to think of.

They were trained in improving their Self Awareness and Self Control. They were asked to sleep well, play energetic music, move around or start an interesting conversation; they were trained in Self Control through Self Awareness. They were told that Self Control means not being immune to temptation and further advised to be aware of where their resistance is low and asked them not to put themselves in those situations. They were asked to discover some of the causes of their temptations and to deal with them.

By the end of January, a majority of the students started coming to Soft Skills classes regularly without absenteeism. They displayed a keen interest. The slow learners in the class, who sleep in the class rooms usually, started paying attention which inspired me a lot. In February, Empathy, Relationship skills, Competence, Mastery, Responsibility and Integrity were introduced. Without teaching what Responsibility is, a presentation was showed to them and they benefitted immensely from it. They were taught the difference between Performance and Competency. Performance” is a deliberate and purposeful action or set of actions that an individual takes in order to achieve a desired result or output of some kind that has got value to the individual. “Competency” can be thought of as the tools that individuals use for successful or exemplary (best-in-class) performance. The “best performer” is always called as ‘Competent performer’ and not vice versa. They were introduced to five common principles. Honesty – Tell the truth in all of your personal and professional dealings even if it’s something that you or others do not want to hear.

Dishonesty will always catch up with you. Humility – Check your ego at the door. Always operate with an attitude of humble servitude. Ask yourself daily, “How can I be of service today and to whom? ” Gratitude – Be grateful daily. Write in a gratitude journal each day, listing all the things you are grateful for that day. Respect – Pay homage to others by respecting their opinions, beliefs, practices, culture and other diversities. You don’t have to agree but you can still offer respect. Boundaries – Set boundaries with clients, coworkers, and family members.

By setting boundaries you are not disrespecting them, you are respecting yourself. In the month of March, Nonverbal Communication, Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Lateral Thinking, & Situational Analysis were introduced to them. As 93% of what we present is understood through body language, it was given utmost importance while training. They became aware of Proxemics, Chronemics, Kinesics, Haptics, Oculesics, and Vocalics. Students got benefited with critical thinking very much. After the end of the course they confessed that Critical Thinking brought a tremendous change in them.

They started posing ‘wh’ questions for every aspect they come across. This was followed by Stress Management techniques. They were trained on how to reduce stress during Group Discussions and Interviews. They were given some practical tips like, drinking water frequently, inhaling long breaths, being calm, and thinking positive, etc. Finally in the month of April when Group Discussion was arranged everyone was able to speak. The methodology I relied more on is technology and Internet. While teaching communication skills to them in 2/4 B.

Tech I semester, most of the classes were theoretical and I failed in delivering goods home. However, I relied on Internet, power point presentations and videos in II semester to make them perfect in participating Group Discussion and they lose their fear. The students revealed that Self Motivation tips not only stimulated them in participating in GD’s but also boosted their courage in taking examinations. They say that the four months training helped them to shed their inhibitions. They are able to speak to their teachers without fear. While presenting papers or participating in GD’s they lost their fear.

Earlier they were very shy and timid particularly before January. They have overcome it now. Self control, self Awareness tips helped them. Interestingly, those who were absent to the morning sessions attended the Soft Skills training program. Some of the students reported that they started trying to speak something or other. They also told that there was a change in few students who were arrogant. A group of three girls particularly reported that they started speaking in English and motivated themselves by telling one another that they could achieve fluency in English. Student |Aspects Liked |Strengths Achieved |Limitations Shed |Improvement in % | |1 |Confidence Techniques, Videos |Confidence, |Fear |40 | |2 |Self control, |Fluency, Self Motivation |Fear |80 | | |Self Awareness, | | | | | |Critical Thinking, Situational | | | | | |Analysis, Videos | | | | |3 |Self Motivation, Self Control, Self |Able to speak to friends in English |Stage fear |50 | | |Awareness, Videos | | | | |4 |Self Motivation, Self control, Self |Body language, Improvement in studies |Fear |60 | | |Awareness | | | | |5 |Videos |Speaking skills |Stage fear |40-50 | |6 |Self Control, |Confidence, Why can’t I do it? |Fear |80 | | Self Awareness, | | | | | |Critical Thinking, Nonverbal | | | | | |Communication | | | | |7 |Self Motivation, |Positive Attitude, Tension free |Procastina-tion |50 | | |Self Control, Videos | | | | |8 |Videos |Confidence in preparing for exams, Able|Fear |75 | | | |to speak to teachers for clarifying | | | | | |doubts | | | |9 |Critical Thinking, |Regular follow up of classes, Learnt |Fear |60 | | |Self Awareness, Videos |how to speak & think, | | | | | |Felt competition, Improvement in | | | | | |confidence | | | Conclusion To make them speak in GD, their motivational levels were increased first. That resulted in increasing their listening skills. They started concentrating on the pieces of advice given to them. They were clearly told now and then that these classes would weed out their limitations.

Most of the students told that they have never been exposed to these kinds of techniques to improve themselves. A progressive result was possible in four months because of the continuous effort and videos. Every session was planned enthusiastically and saw that it would be power point presentation. Bringing out technological aspects into training yielded good results in students. References 1. Arnindam Chowdary : Count Your Chickens before they Hatch 2. Allen Pease : Body language 3. Dr. Shalini Verma : Body Language – Your Success Mantra 4. Dr. K. Alex : Soft Skills 5. www. mindtools. com 6. www. reach. ind. in 7. www. bluefishtv. com 8. www. leadoutloud. ca 9. www. youtube. com

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