Author Archives: bizcombuzz

Speak Up! Improving Classroom Discussions

We’ve all experienced the classroom dynamic in which the same few students respond to the instructor’s questions, a pattern that can last the entire semester—and one that frustrates the instructor while indicating that the majority of students have abdicated their responsibility to come to class prepared.

However, much can be done to increase students’ participation and thereby enhance their learning. Below are some tips to help improve class discussions.

Prime students early in the semester. As early as the first day of class, put students on notice that they will be expected to participate. Do this by having a discussion about Ask students about their past experiences with class discussions and why participation is important. Then explain how research shows that students learn better when they participate.

Pose questions designed to generate responses.Take a hint from journalists who ask questions for a living. They break questions into two types: open-ended and closed-ended. Open-ended questions allow the responder to include more information and opinions, while closed-ended questions elicit a specific response. For example, an open-ended question would be “What do you like and dislike in your position as a financial consultant?” while a closed-ended question on the same topic might be “Do you like your job?” Open-ended questions can lead to more dynamic discussions.

In the business communication classroom, teachers can generate better responses by wording questions designed to elicit multiple responses with open-ended questions.In, say, a discussion about the direct and indirect organizational strategies, ask students about the benefits of using either strategy for delivering bad news. This open-ended question allows students to apply their own ideas to their responses. Also prod students to apply the rationale behind choosing the direct or indirect method of organizing a piece of writing. This step integrates the rhetorical reasoning that goes into the choice, thus deepening learning.

Asking students to provide their own examplesis another way to engage them and encourage them to speak. In the above situation, students might be urged to offer their insights about various contexts for using the direct and indirect strategy. 

Place students into groups for discussions. This strategy works well for larger classes and for reticent students who may feel more comfortable talking among peers in a smaller platform. Prepare questions ahead of time for the groups to work on. Then bring the class together to hear what the groups have come up with. (This approach works particularly well when discussing ethical issues in business. See the many situations with accompanying discussion questions under the BizComBuzz tab News You Can Use.)

Assign questions for next class session as homework. Have students write their responses to a question (or questions) that will be discussed in a subsequent class. This tactic has the benefit of encouraging students to find the answers in their assigned reading and then allowing them to read their responses in class instead of having to extemporize. When assigning questions to answer, devise them to be relevant to students’ experiences, analytical in nature, and indicative of important concepts.

If you have ideas about how to improve classroom discussions, please share them with us!

Adapted from How to Hold a Better Class Discussion, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Misuse of Myself

[Instructors: PDFs of this exercise and its answer key are at the end of this post.]


The personal pronoun myself is often used incorrectly, making the speaker sound uninformed. To use myself correctly, remember that all personal pronouns have a matching reflexive pronoun: me-myself, you-yourself, she-herself, etc. Being reflexive means the word reflects on something you do yourself (I ate the whole pie myself.) A reflexive pronoun is always the object in a sentence, never the subject, so saying Myself will lead the meeting or Mr. Singh and myself will handle the account is incorrect; myself is never a substitute for me or I.

To make sure you are using myselfcorrectly, consider these points.

  • When reflexive pronouns are used to show emphasis, they are called intensive pronouns: I wrote the report myself. The sentence would be correct without myself.
  • When the speaker is both the subject and object of the sentence, use the reflexive: After the presentation, treated myself to a night out with friends.

Correct the following sentences containing myself. Note whether the rewritten sentence uses myself as the object [O], as an intensive [I], or as subject/object [S/O]. Mark the sentence with a [C] if myself is being used correctly and note why.

  1. Please contact Maria, Sooyi, or myself with questions about the new regulations.
  2. Let myself know when you’ve completed reviewing the attached report.
  3. I can see me in the photo.
  4. Give the package to Joe or myself.
  5. I myself saw the result of the quake’s damage.
  6. For people like myself, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a good job.
  7. The manager and myself met to discuss the matter, and we were in complete agreement.
  8. My colleagues and myself worked through the night to make the deadline.
  9. I brought in the client myself and should therefore be the liaison.
  10. Mark said he’d be delighted to set up a phone call for myself and Ben.

Misuse of Myself Exercise

Misuse of Myself-Answer Key

Improving the Link Between College and Career

Should the college experience focus solely on academic subjects, teaching students about theories and perspectives, developing literacy and critical thinking? Or would today’s college students be better off honing career-specific skills to groom them for the workplace?

Why not both?

This is the conclusion reached during a roundtable discussion between a panel of experts and sponsored by The Chronicle of Higher Education. The subsequent report, Preparing Students for 21st Century Careers,* gave advice on how collaboration between academic institutions, employers, and civic organizations would best prepare new workers in the coming decades.

The report details the disconnect between skills students think they need to be employable and skills employers demand of new employees. Students want a major that will land them a job upon graduation—employers need workers who are “versatile and resilient” and who will be able to change careers many times over their work lives. However, the problem is that majoring in a career-specific discipline does not adequately prepare students for the demands of the future workplace.

The panel of experts believes colleges can help close this gap by integrating the educational experience with career development by doing the following:

  • Investing in stronger career counseling programs
  • Making career development mandatory
  • Building career skills into coursework
  • Providing faculty development to help instructors update their pedagogy
  • Incorporating problem solving and group projects into course work in conjunction with local organizations or nonprofits.

However, the panel also emphasized the importance of faculty continuing to teach in their disciplines, but in ways that teach students howto learn. In the future, the panel noted, today’s students will likely have several careers, and unless they learn how to learn, they will be at a disadvantage. The panel also emphasized that all graduates, despite their major, need certain skills—project management, information literacy, and computational understanding. These skills should be developed not outsideof the college experience but as part ofit.


  1. Have you taken advantage of career counseling resources on your campus?
  2. Why do you think many employers want new hires who know how to learn rather than graduate with specific knowledge?
  3. Why do you think employers consistently rank communication skills at the top of their “wants” for new hires?

*Download the report using this link.