San Jos� State University - Fall 2008
Professor Asha Weinstein Agrawal

URBP 213 - Communication Skills for Planners

Do you ever find yourself asking questions such as:

URBP 213 will help you develop answers to these questions.

Excellent communication skills, both written and spoken, make planners more effective in their careers. Successful planners recognize the importance of good communications skills, and they work throughout their careers to improve their writing and speaking ability.  In this class, you will learn advanced techniques to help in the life-long process of improving your ability to communicate ideas in a lucid, persuasive manner that gets results.

The class is taught in a hands-on style, using real-world writing and speaking exercises relevant to planning professionals. The art of communicating well requires constant practice, experimentation, and feedback. Receiving feedback and revising your work are two of the best techniques for improving your writing and speaking skills, so these opportunities are built into each assignment.  For each one, you'll receive feedback from your peers and/or the instructor. The process of critiquing your peers' work will also help you improve your own skills. You will see what aspects of their work are more successful and which less so, and these observations teach you strategies to incorporate into your own work, as well as problems to avoid.

The class has nine key learning objectives.  Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  1. Articulate the qualities that make for excellent, effective writing and public speaking in a professional U.S. planning context.

  2. Identify and prioritize aspects of their writing and public speaking skills that they want to improve over time, and plan strategies for achieving these goals.

  3. Identify and apply techniques that will help them to deliver a professional presentation with a speaking style that is easy to understand, sounds natural, and stimulates audience interest and comprehension.

  4. Create documents and presentations that communicate a clear message to readers and listeners. For example, students will be able to:

  1. Organize material logically and clearly, so that a reader or listener can easily understand the ideas presented.

  2. Use headings, internal previews, and summaries to help readers or listeners easily identify the main points.

  3. Design tables and figures that highlight the key message they are meant to convey.

  1. Create documents and presentations that are strategically designed to persuade resistant audiences.

  2. Create documents and presentations that are professional in appearance and style. For example, students will be able to:

  1. Cite sources with footnotes and bibliographies properly formatted in Turabian A style.

  2. Create PowerPoint presentations that use font sizes, colors, and images that will be easy for an audience to see and understand.

  3. Apply simple design principles to create documents that are easy for readers to understand.

  1. Properly cite all sources used, including exact language, data, and illustrations.

  2. Design strategies to elicit useful feedback from colleagues and friends on their writing and public speaking.

  3. Prepare useful, tactful feedback to help colleagues improve their writing and public speaking.

Class meetings

Section 2: Wednesdays, 4:00 � 6:45 p.m., in Clark 306 (campus map)
Section 3: Thursdays,  4:00 � 6:45 p.m., in Clark 318

How to contact Professor Asha Weinstein Agrawal

Email: asha.weinstein.agrawal(at)
Phone: 408-924-5853
Office: Room 218C in Washington Square Hall (enter through room 216)

Office hours for Fall 2008: Wednesdays from 8:30 � 11:30 a.m., Thursdays from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m., or by appointment.

Please note that email is usually a faster way to reach me than leaving a phone message.

Syllabus (.htm)


Job application letter

Presentation 1

Presentation 2

Persuasive Report

Homework assignments

Recommended supplemental resources

If you like to learn by doing and want more practice with public speaking, consider joining the organization "Toastmasters" ( or taking a course just on public speaking from SJSU or any other college.  You might also want to take a writing class, perhaps one that focuses on a genre of writing you (will) do at work, such as grant writing or journalism.

If you like to learn by reading, there are thousands of books, articles, and websites giving advice about how to write and speak effectively.  I recommend the full books from which I've taken excerpts for the required course readings.  In addition, the following list suggests a sampling of other items you might find useful.



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Page last modified 5 February 2009