Literacy, Numeracy, and what is Oracy?
I've found that good dialogue tells you not only what people are saying or how they're communicating but it tells you a great deal - by dialect and tone, content and circumstance - about the quality of the character. E. O. Wilson
In order to thrive in any academic environment, oracy is a critical
academic skill but sadly it is now missing within most published ELA curriculum's which is worrying news for the future. Not only does oracy have an impact on education, it affects the job prospects of students as we will see in just a moment. If you were unaware, oracy is the ability to express opinions, facts, ideas, questions and views with fluency and correct grammar. Considering this is missing from many education programs these days, will we ever see its return? Is it now an under-appreciated skill? The art of Socratic debate, academic discourse, and real substantive dialogue.
Socratic dialogue and discussion may be better than argument and debate, because debate is about who/whom is right, but Socratic dialogue is about finding the right way, better way and the truth!
For employers, the skill is definitely not under-appreciated as many have admitted to looking for effective communication within potential candidates. Furthermore, employers are also looking for those who can collaborate with others in order to resolve problems and find real solutions through dialog. With oracy missing from the curriculum in education, this has created a huge skills gap that students are experiencing as they leave the education system.
Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion. Jack Welch
Using this, we can confidently suggest that oracy skills are far more important for employability in young people than the likes of algebra. Despite this, we are refusing to acknowledge its importance and it is the students that are missing out. Sadly, there is an overwhelming incorrect belief that the ability to talk doesn’t need to be explicitly taught but this isn't the case.
Parents provide their children with genes as well as an environment, so the fact that talkative parents have kids with good language skills could simply mean that and that the same genes that make parents talkative make children articulate. Steven Pinker
Of course, some talking skills will be learned in the home through parents and discussions with siblings. However, it is now rare for students to be presented with an opportunity to talk about their ideas and partake in reasoned discussion. In both the UK and US, upper-class and private schools still focus on the spoken language and how to use it effectively. For there to be parity, we need to say the same for state schools so they have a better chance at success in the future.
How? - In truth, there are various ways of teaching oracy and many have been adopted by teachers. For example, the most important factor is to create guidelines with students. Alongside respecting each other’s ideas, students should also be open to changing their mind, show their listening, build on each other’s ideas, use questions to bring others into the discussion, and then, ultimately, come to a shared agreement. As soon as the students have the ground rules in tow, solutions will be found to problems because they learn how things get done. When students can reason together, their ability to reason alone will also increase.
What does this mean? It means that their attainment in science, maths, and all other subjects should improve as a result. In addition to developing ‘talk’ skills in students, teachers also have a pivotal role when it comes to monitoring the development and then providing feedback wherever necessary. If needed, teachers can get hold of toolkits that will enable them to make the most of their opportunity as learning providers. As you can see, oracy is vital for all students so why is it that it is losing its place in education?
If we are to fix the skills gap, the importance of oracy needs to be welcomed back into the classroom once more. As soon as oracy finds its place in education, the skill shortage discussed previously will reduce and employers will have plenty of opportunities to hire the correct candidate for any given position. Above all this though, all students will have an opportunity to excel in life and the education system can become more effective at producing work-ready individuals.