Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Dorothy H. Ettling


Sharon Herbers


Stephanie Grote-Garcia


Mary Ruth Moore


The purpose of this qualitative study was to discover how communication professors at four-year private universities help students who exhibit public speaking apprehension (PSA) learn to cope with their anxiety. The research was framed in the narrative inquiry paradigm, interviewing eight college communication professors about their experiences working with public speaking students. Each of the eight professors worked at private universities in a large southwest metropolitan city. The researcher attempted to gather critical incidents that shed light on valuable learning experiences that could be useful to professors looking for ways to help reduce their students' PSA. The researcher found three common themes embedded in the interviews: (a) meeting with students individually and establishing relationships with them; (b) building community and trust in the classroom; and (c) placing less emphasis on grades. Each of the common themes contributed in one way or another to the critical incident that shaped the professor's teaching perspective. Although the purposeful sample was limited in size it revealed that Communication Orientation Motivation (COM) Therapy and systematic desensitization can both be useful treatment techniques for students willing to improve their public speaking ability. Findings revealed that professors were able to change an apprehensive student's perspective by focusing on public speaking as a communicative effort rather than a performance. The study offers recommendations for professors engaged with students at all levels of education in addressing this issue.