Publication Date

Summer 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies


Deanna L. Fassett


autoethnography, faith, pedagogy, spirituality

Subject Areas

Communication; Spirituality; Pedagogy


Scholarly research suggests that faith and spirituality are relevant topics of conversation in colleges, but some argue that the separation of church and state inhibits the inclusion of discussions of faith and spirituality in the classrooms of secular education institutions. Such a disconnect might communicate that a person's spirituality and system of values have no place in the academic classroom or in an ethical circumstance. The purpose of this research was to enter into discussion with the instructors of undergraduate public speaking classes to discern whether and how they navigate communication about faith in their classrooms. It is crucial for scholars to take into account the positions and opinions of instructors before making any recommendations about how instructors should negotiate communication within their classes.

This autoethnographic study of a series of in-depth interviews with college public speaking instructors illuminates three themes associated with negotiating faith communication in the public speaking classroom: facilitation, neutrality, and engagement. Recommendations include encouraging instructors to reflect on their role in the classroom as well as the nature of the faiths that neither they nor their students can leave outside the classroom. This study concludes by addressing broader implications and questions for teachers, students, and researchers in ways that encourage the question: how should we talk about faith?