Monday, November 13, 2006

Writing Exercises to Build Student Communication Skills.

Paula M. Gale and Eric C. Pelren. Univ of Tennessee at Martin, 256 Brehm Hall, Martin, TN 38238

Feedback from employers has emphasized the need for appropriate communication skills of potential employees. In response we have been incorporating more writing and presentation exercises in our courses. These exercises include the traditional term papers and research reports, along with extemporaneous writings and short writing assignments that incorporate peer and instructor feedback. We review here a variety of communication exercises evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. Issues to be concerned with when developing writing exercises include the internet, plagiarism, and student/instructor time constraints. Creating assignments around diverse formats such as letters, memos, popular press articles, research reports, management plans and environmental impact statements helps to develop critical thinking skills, analytical problem solving ability, objectivity, and empathy. Clearly elucidating the goal of the writing assignment is critical both in creation and evaluation of the assignment by the professor and for the student as the assignment is carried out.  Although time consuming in both development and application, using a variety of writing exercises in undergraduate instruction enhances student communication skills both in the classroom and in the workforce.