VALLEY COLLEGE : Class Takes ‘Donahue Approach’

Instructors of a speech class at Valley College that satisfies a state requirement for analytical-thinking credit follow what they call the “Phil Donahue approach to teaching.”

The course, taught by a method similar to that of a television talk show, generates student participation through discussions of current events no matter how controversial. Subjects range from the Middle East crisis to the Milli Vanilli lip-sync scandal.

Professors Jack Sterk and Jim Marteney developed the idea for the course--called Speech 104--about 10 years ago when the state added a critical-thinking class to college graduation requirements.

Both teach the course with the hopes of triggering responses from their students and using that feedback to illustrate the techniques of argumentation and persuasion.


“Our goal is to engage information and make students respond and react. We want them to critically examine the situation,” Marteney said.

“We aggravate students in class because of the issues we talk about, but what we really look for is for the students to challenge themselves and defend themselves,” he said.

Marteney said the idea is to encourage student participation.

“No one class is going to radically change a person, but we generally want the student to change and examine critically the methods of argumentation,” he said.


Although the course is popular with students, it is not easy, its teachers said.

“Speech 104 is a hard class because it makes students think,” Sterk said.