Safe, Slow and Supported: Using inclusive education to reduce public speaking anxiety

Dara RICHARD and LEE Gek Ling
Centre for English Language Communication (CELC)

The authors share ways to reduce public speaking anxiety using an online practice tool like Flipgrid.


Richard, D., Lee, G. L. (2021, Nov 29). Safe, Slow and Supported: Using inclusive education to reduce public speaking anxiety. Teaching Connections.


Public speaking anxiety (PSA) is a hidden barrier that may affect learners regardless of language proficiency. Researchers have observed that social bonding1 can motivate people with PSA to persevere (Hindo & Gonzalez-Prendes, 2011), and that devoting time to practice is paramount (Lefebvre et al., 2020). Flipgrid, a free online video discussion platform, has successfully provided practice opportunities and catalysed team learning outside of classtime (Gerbensky-Kerber, 2017). On Flipgrid, students record videos of maximum 90 seconds. Teams on the same grid respond with video or text comments. We incorporated Flipgrid into our practice of Universal Design for Learning2 to promote inclusive learning objectives, namely fostering collaboration and facilitating coping strategies (CAST, 2018).

To achieve these objectives, we set two Flipgrid practice tasks as part of participation in the module ES1601 “Professional and Academic Communication.” Students recorded a self-introduction and their presentation’s introduction. An optional task to record the conclusion was also set. Students gave feedback to others in their grid. The tutor gave brief feedback to all students. Most completed the first task; many completed the second, but few completed the third. Of the 264 students surveyed on the tasks, 41 responded with one agreeing to be interviewed.

The survey shows that most students who posted videos felt less anxiety practicing on Flipgrid than face-to-face (F2F) (see findings in Figure 1). However, Flipgrid was more valued for receiving feedback than improving delivery. Although they appreciated practicing at any time, retaking videos and reviewing past performances, some reported that Flipgrid practice did not reduce their anxiety presenting F2F.

Figure 1. Survey findings on the Flipgrid practice tasks
Figure 1. Survey findings on the Flipgrid practice tasks.

The main reasons given by students for not participating (see Figure 2) include too few peers posting videos in their grid, insufficient time, and not finding Flipgrid useful.

Figure 2. Survey findings on the reasons students give for not posting videos for the Flipgrid practice tasks
Figure 2. Survey findings on the reasons students give for not posting videos for the Flipgrid practice tasks.

Our Flipgrids averaged 16 students per grid. However, our interviewee observed that comments were public by default3, meaning the recipient could feel self-conscious and embarrassed even though we had prior discussions with the class on how they could give tactful constructive feedback. The student recommended having the grids arranged by project team members, which constitute a safer space for collaborative learning. He also suggested using more scaffolded tasks.

All of the student feedback highlight the importance of safe spaces for reducing PSA:

student feedback

In conclusion, it creates a learning space that is safe, slow and supported.


dara richard

Dara Richard and GL Lee’s interest in inclusive education began when they encountered students with various disabilities or anxiety disorders in their communication courses. At first, they used the accommodation approach. In 2018, they founded a special needs Special Interest Group (SIG) at the Centre for English Communication (CELC) to establish a protocol for all course coordinators to accommodate special needs. As the limitations of accommodation became apparent, they moved towards inclusive education. Later in 2019, they initiated an inclusive education learning community. Since 2019, they have been working on developing curriculum materials based on Universal Design for Learning. They hope to advocate inclusive educational practices.

Dara can be reached at, and
Gek Ling can be reached at .



  1. In the context of this study, social bonding involved viewing the videos of students within tutorial section and offering encouragement and feedback to improve their delivery.
  2. Universal Design for Learning is a framework to facilitate teaching and learning for all people by offering multiple paths. The framework offers learners multiple means of engagement, representation and expression. More information can be found at
  3. Since our pilot, Flipgrid has enabled private comments visible only to the student who uploaded the video. This is good for feedback to individual students, but less helpful for collaborative learning and for a group presentation.



CAST. (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines (version 2.2).

Gerbensky-Kerber, A. (2017). Creating a structured practice space with online mini-speeches.  Communication Teacher, 31(2), 70–73.

Hindo, C.S. & Gonzalez-Prendes, A.A. (2011.) One-session exposure treatment for social anxiety with specific fear of public speaking. Research on Social Work Practice, 21(5), 528–538.

LeFebvre, L., LeFebvre, L.E., Allen, M., Buckner, M.M., & Griffin, D. (2020). Metamorphosis of public speaking anxiety: Student fear transformation throughout the introductory communication course.  Communication Studies, 71(1), 98–111.