Teaching students to communicate complex ideas simply

Victor Fazio, Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice at USC’s Bovard College, uses elevator pitch assignments to help students effectively crystalize and communicate their thoughts about big ideas.

Professor Fazio was a 2023 Bovard College Excellence in Teaching Award recipient.

Watch this 2-minute video and scroll down for the full interview, plus tips for implementing this in your course!

Read more about this approach in Victor’s own words:

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Interested in getting started or revising elevator pitch assignments in your course?

Here are some tips for implementation:

Consider scaffolding the assignment using the steps below. (Scaffolding refers to breaking assignments into smaller steps that provide students practice and feedback as they develop a new skill.)

  • Develop and model your own elevator pitch for students, making note of grading criteria.
  • Encourage students to practice their pitches individually multiple times.
  • Provide in-class opportunities for peer-to-peer feedback on their pitches in one or all the following formats: one-on-one, small groups, or whole class presentations
  • Grade students’ final pitches, based on the grading criteria.

More resources for collecting and engaging with anonymous student feedback:

What does the research say?

Mou-Danha S, Yakubova M, Vosen Callens M. Answering the “who am I” question: Raising students’ sense of self-competence with the 30-second elevator pitch. Communication teacher. 2019;33(4):271-275. doi:10.1080/17404622.2019.1575434 (USC Library link)

Lucas K. Oral Self Critique: Raising Student Consciousness of Communication (In)Competence. Communication teacher. 2011;25(1):12-15. doi:10.1080/17404622.2010.513993 (USC Library link)

Braun E. Performance-based assessment of students’ communication skills. International Journal of Chinese Education. 2021;10(1):221258682110062-. doi:10.1177/22125868211006202 (USC Library link)


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