Welcome to BizComBuzz, the blog with weekly posts dedicated to providing business communication instructors with useful content to bring right into the classroom!

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Evaluating Teaching on Your Terms: Course Experience Assignment

Standardized student evaluations are full of problems. Administrators can ascribe too much weight to them. Students may lash out inappropriately. Female instructors tend to be more harshly rated than males.

However, instructors may wish to administer their own course review before students complete standardized evaluations by assigning a course experience evaluation. A course experience evaluation moves away from summative questions, which focus on instructor characteristics (Was the teacher organized? Was the material explained clearly?) to experiential questions, which focus on how students experience a course.

Using instructor-created course experience evaluations has several advantages. By designing questions that encourage students to think critically about course content and their own performance, instructors gain valuable input about the class’s perceptions and experiences. That information can help instructors adjust teaching strategies the next time the course is taught.

In addition, once students have reflected deeply about their experience in the course, that analysis prompts more thoughtful responses when they do respond to standardized evaluations. While this approach doesn’t guarantee better scores, at the very least these reflections offer a different set of evaluative information.

Use the following tips to administer an instructor-generated course experience assignment.

  • Introduce the task by telling students they will answer questions only they can answer as members of the course. Doing so will encourage students to take the assignment seriously.
  • Tell students you will use their responses to make you a teacher who helps future students learn more effectively. Thinking about how others may benefit from their comments can focus student responses to provide helpful input rather than simplistic criticism.
  • Decide if you want the task performed in class or as homework. If the writing is to be completed during class time, have students print the assignment and put it in your mailbox or office later. If the assignment is done as homework, ask students to bring a printed, unnamed response to turn in on a day of your choosing.

The prompt below offers various ways for students to think about the class they are leaving and provides instructors with more meaningful information than standardized evaluations do. Download a PDF of the exercise here.

End-of-Semester Course Experience Assignment

Your insights about your learning experience in this course can help me see our class from your side of the desk. Please respond to any three of the statements below (more if you’d like.) Submit these anonymously; I will use them as I plan my courses for next semester.

In this course …

  • what most helped my learning of the content was when…because…
  • my learning of the content would have benefited if…because…
  • the assignment that contributed the most to my learning was… because…
  • the reading that contributed the most to my learning was… because…
  • the kinds of homework tasks that contributed most to my learning were…because…
  • the approach I took to my own learning that I benefited from the most was…because…
  • the biggest obstacle for me in my learning the material was… because…
  • I was most willing to take risks with learning new material when… because…
  • on the first day, I remember thinking…because…

What is something covered in this course material that you can do now that you could not do? Anything you did not fully understand at the beginning of our class?


Making the Last Day of Class Count

By the end of the academic year, both students and instructors are ready to call it quits. Students are bleary-eyed from finishing assignments and studying for finals. Instructors are gearing up for marathon grading sessions. It’s no wonder that in the hustle of the last few days of class instructors may forget to tie things up gracefully.

Below are some ways business communication instructors can take advantage of the last day of class and help students remember what they have accomplished.

Return to the beginning

Remind students of the course’s objectives and how the tasks they completed linked to those objectives. By reviewing the major concepts the course has addressed, students will come away with a sense of accomplishment.

Ask students to think about their new knowledge

Either in groups or individually, ask students to consider the new skills they have acquired compared to what they knew before the course. Doing so highlights what students have accomplished in a few months that will stay with them as they enter the workforce.

Have students reflect about their performance

To help students take responsibility for their own learning, ask them how their approach to the class helped or hindered their performance. Students can identify their successes as well as what they might have done differently. Ask students to send themselves a letter with these conclusions before the next term—a “note- to-self” reminder of lessons learned.

Invite current students to write to future students

By advising future students about how to get the most out of the course, current students think about their own learning experience. The suggestions to the next class can forewarn new students about potential challenges. Some instructors even take these suggestions and post them on the course website.

Create an end-of-class ritual

Mark the importance of ending the course as a community. Instructors can recognize students by handing out awards for excellence, most improved, and most engaged students. Some instructors ask students to organize a pot-luck for part of the last day as a way to celebrate everyone’s efforts.

Make their exit personal

As students leave the classroom, instructors may wish to shake hands or offer words of encouragement to each individual. This creates an upbeat feeling as students step into their futures.

Do you employ any end-of-semester rituals? Tell us what you do and start a conversation!




Hit Hard in Interviews by Stressing Soft Skills

Soft skills are sizzling hot these days. Numerous studies, news articles, and career-advice websites trumpet employers’ needs for staff possessing soft skills—those personal attributes and habits that help an individual communicate, collaborate, think critically, and lead. However, soft skills by their very nature may be difficult to demonstrate, especially during an interview.

LinkedIn’s vice president of global talent, Brendan Browne, says that some companies find soft skills so important they use predictive software to identify potential new hires’ characteristics before even meeting the candidate. The very fact that such software exists epitomizes the importance firms put on soft skills. Not surprisingly, Browne urges job seekers to come to an interview armed with anecdotes that illustrate those attributes.

One of the most important soft skills to emphasize during an interview, says Browne, is grit, the ability to keep going when the going gets tough. Employers want workers who can persevere during difficult times, so candidates should be prepared to tell a story that illustrates this skill.

Another desired soft skill is adaptability, demonstrating how well an individual handles change. Job seekers can help their chances for landing a position by relating an instance during which they faced a major change and came through it on top. In fact, many organizations prefer a person with less experience who can demonstrate adaptability over others with years of experience.

Job seekers should also go into an interview armed with brief stories that illustrate their ability to make decisions and respond during various scenarios. Today’s employers may even stage a crisis during an interview to see how the candidate reacts.

Preparation is the key to any good interview, but coming in with anecdotes that illustrate important soft skills can make the difference in landing the job.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is critical thinking, and why do you think employers seek new hires who possess this skill?
  1. How might you demonstrate strong written and oral communication skills during an interview?
  1. Why is it a bad idea to exaggerate a soft skill during an interview?