Despite numerous quantitative assessments of teaching interventions that have helped mitigate public speaking anxiety (PSA), this common barrier to public speaking persists. In addition, quantitative measures may not be appropriate for all instructional goals, especially with students from across a variety of cultures. To enrich educators’ capacity to help diverse bodies of students overcome the challenges presented by PSA, this qualitative study asked students to “Please describe yourself as a public speaker” at the beginning and the end of a freshman-level, general education public speaking class. Thematic analysis identified a two-dimensional pattern within student responses (N = 51) (a feelings-based dimension and a beliefs-based dimension), indicating that students could hold both emotionally-based self-perceptions about their fear or confidence regarding the act of public speaking along with separate, skills-based perceptions about themselves as public speakers. Every student’s answer (N= 51) contained one or both types of descriptions, evidencing a novel construct the authors have dubbed public speaking self-concept (PSSC). By the end of the course, the thematic analysis revealed students’ heightened ability to report more nuanced descriptions of their self-concepts, which often included positive belief-based descriptions acknowledging their enhanced public speaking skills, even if they still

reported fearful or anxious emotions surrounding speaking experiences. Helping instructors and students understand and accept natural nervous reactions often elicited by public speaking while reflecting on specific, skill-based beliefs can help decrease students’ fears and, in turn, could prove key to enhancing the impact of future PSA interventions.



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