Author Archives: bizcombuzz

The Socratic Method Delivers, Even in the BizCom Classroom


Using the Socratic method—a cooperative dialog in which the instructor asks questions to draw out students’ ideas and thereby fosters critical thinking—is common in the humanities and legal studies. But can it play a part in the business communication classroom?

Absolutely. Because unless students think critically about the material instructors present, they won’t retain it. The model of “the sage on the stage” just doesn’t cut it with today’s learners. However, when students are included in discussions with the purpose of helping them arrive at answers on their own, they are more likely to internalize the lesson and ultimately deliver improved work. Such questioning, which is the hallmark of the Socratic method, also encourages students to do assigned readings and interact with the text because they know they’ll be held accountable during class discussions.

Taking this on is easier said than done. Many students are reticent to respond to queries, afraid to appear foolish or unprepared. However, applying ground rules before using this age-old pedagogic tool can encourage self-directed learning. Follow these pointers when topics lend themselves to the Socratic method.

  1. Prepare students. Explain what the Socratic method is, why and when it will be used, and how it benefits learning.
  2. Allow reference materials. Encourage students to check their textbooks or notes while questioning them.
  3. Ban hand raising. Calling on students is a critical component of the Socratic method. Do, however, keep track of who has responded on so no student feels singled out.
  4. Walk the room. As questions are posed, circulate throughout the classroom. This helps keep students on task while simultaneously engaging them.
  5. Permit silence. Students may take some time to respond, so don’t immediately go to another if the first is scrambling. Move on only when the student hasn’t found the answer after 20 seconds.
  6. Correct factual inaccuracies. It is not so that “there are no wrong answers.” Students must be told when they have made an untrue statement.

Once these ground rules are established, instructors can examine their curriculum to find the best times to use the Socratic method. For example, the business communication classroom is the perfect platform to discuss ethical matters facing businesses. (Look in the BizComBuzz News You Can Use tab for situations and case studies to discuss business ethics with students.) After the discussion, ask your students to critically analyze the case in a memo or short report.

Another way to integrate the Socratic method into the business communication classroom is to use it when introducing a new unit or writing strategy (i.e., persuasive writing, delivering routine or bad news, etc.) When students arrive at the reasons behind these writing strategies, they will better grasp the new genre. Afterwards ask them to work on an exercise that tests their knowledge about the topic they’ve just discussed.

The beauty of this method is that it can be successfully implemented in person or online. One thing is certain—Socrates was definitely onto something.

Good News: Business Degrees Pay for Themselves… Instant-Messaging Platform Slack Becomes Aid in Job Hunt… Do Employers Really Value Alternative Credentials?

Good News: Business Degrees Pay for Themselves

There’s a good reason business degrees are the most popular undergrad and graduate majors in the US—these degrees deliver one of the highest returns on investment, according to a report conducted by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

Business degrees may not net the highest economic value of a degree—that honor goes to health, engineering, and computer and information sciences programs—but business degree programs lead to median earnings that exceed student debt payments roughly tenfold just two years after graduation, according to the report’s findings.

The report ranked business programs based on students’ financial returns. Associate degree recipients at Excelsior College in New York and Union County College in New Jersey, bachelor’s degree holders at Bismarck State College in North Dakota, and master’s degree graduates at the University of Pennsylvania had the highest returns compared to peers at their level of higher education.

Still, earnings and debt at the degree, institution, or program level tell only one side of the story. In a specific business program at a given institution, students can earn significantly more or less than the typical earnings for that institution or program, said one of the report’s co-authors.

The researchers concluded that the information collected can help prospective students assess the value of various business programs.

Weissman, S. (2022, June 28.) Report: Business majors earn high returns. Inside Higher Ed.

Instant-Messaging Platform Slack Aids in Job Hunt

The popular business messaging app Slack has become an informal way to link job hunters and hirers.

Slack allows teams and entire workforces to instantly share information, which has made it particularly popular as the number of remote workers has soared. Although originally designed for use in individual firms, Slack has launched a networking function that facilitates instant information sharing between disparate organizations.

These invitation-only groups are now being used to land positions faster than traditional methods would allow. Groups such as women in marketing, human resources, Blacks in technology, and many more have appeared on the platform since the pandemic.

Job matches result when employees at one company share news about job opportunities with their Slack networks. Candidates who connect via Slack have an edge because they can claim a personal connection.

Ellis, L. (2022, May 31.) Forget LinkedIn—Your next job offer could come via Slack. The Wall Street Journal.

Do Employers Really Value Alternative Credentials?

While many executives claim to be open to alternative credentials such as certificates, badges, and apprenticeships in lieu of a college degree, their hiring managers are stuck on traditional diplomas from colleges and universities.

New research from the Society for Human Resource Management documented the disparity between company leaders’ words and the actions of their hiring personnel. This disconnect has significant implications for colleges offering non-degree programs designed to help employees without degrees get ahead as well as the students who obtain these credentials.

Specifically, the survey found that although the majority of executives, supervisors, and even HR staff said alternative credentials give workers credibility, a much smaller group agreed that those without degrees were better performers compared to college grads. In fact, when asked to rank the importance of factors affecting hiring, executives placed alternative credentials behind experience, education, specific skills, work history, and interview performance.

Alternative credentials are touted as a means to improve workplace diversity. But only 46 percent of HR professionals surveyed—the ones in the position to actually hire people—agreed that was the case.

Koenig, R. (2022, April 20.) Employers claim to value alternative credentials. Do their practices match their promises? EdSurge.


Improving Vocabulary Precision: Replacing Get

[Instructors: Download a PDF of the exercise and its key at the bottom of this post.]

To encourage language precision, find an appropriate synonym for get in the numbered sentences. Consider the following synonyms:

achieve earn obtain receive
bring encourage pay secure
buy find produce succeed
construct gain provide understand
deliver generate purchase win/won
  1. To get a copy of the new medical plan, send an e-mail.
  2. Three excellent candidates applied, and our department hopes to get one of them.
  3. If you can get the lumber to the building site, we can begin construction.
  4. Getting a college degree leads to greater opportunities.
  5. You never know when your manager may go into your computer to get a file.
  6. In leading a meeting, you should get everyone to participate.
  7. Our salespeople must get results immediately.
  8. You can get greater contributions if your fundraising letter lists specifics.
  9. We expect to increase sales by getting customers to visit our new Web site.
  10. Only when you get all the facts, can you fully comprehend the problem.
  11. We can get an advantage over our competitor with snappy online sales messages.
  12. The Department of Transportation promises to get guardrails at the most dangerous spots.
  13. If you get stocks at a low price and sell at a high price, you will make a profit.
  14. Because of heavy traffic, we didn’t get to the meeting on time.
  15. Our company can definitely get the contract if we produce the best proposal.