This semester, all instructors teaching business communication classes in the School of Business will be using the same steps to complete a formative assessment of their students.

Dr. Beverly Block and Michelle Dawson developed a way to conduct a formative assessment for business communication classes.

Dr. Beverly Block and Michelle Dawson developed a way to conduct a formative assessment for business communication classes.

It’s a way to not only chart the progress the students are making, but also determine how to help them succeed in the classroom.

The metric used to conduct the assessment was developed last year by Dr. Beverly Block and Michelle Dawson. They believe that it has the potential to benefit other schools which are going through the accreditation process.

In March, they will attend the Association for Business Communication Conference in Dallas, Texas, to present a paper they have collaborated on: “Using the Business Communication Course to Evaluate Written and Oral Communication in Formative Assessment.”

“Part of the accreditation process is that we do assessments, and there are two types we have to look at,” says Block. “One is formative, the other is summative. Michelle and I were given the duty to do the formative assessment piece.”

The formative assessment required them to develop a process to see where business communication students are about halfway through the course. They created a three-point scale for instructors to use to grade their students on a written and oral communication assignment.

“While students get feedback on all of their assignments, they get very specific feedback on this one,” says Dawson. “The rubric that Beverly and I developed analyzes three different areas of their performance – grammar and mechanics, appropriate style and format.

“For the oral communication formative assessment, we have them do a webcam mock interview. We then use the rubric to provide very specific feedback similar to the writing piece.”

The two instructors used the assessment process in their own classes during the fall semester. Now, during the spring semester, it is being utilized by all of the business communication instructors.

It’s a way for teachers to “compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges,” says Block.

“We’re all trying to teach the same things and trying to make sure we’re actually getting to where we want our students to be. And, if not, that’s what this is for … to help us figure out how to get there.”

Block and Dawson plan to collaborate on a follow-up paper that examines the results of their formative assessment process and hope to share it with an even wider audience.

“This is not something we’ve seen anywhere else,” says Block. “We came up with it on our own, and it’s something that could be helpful to other groups.

“There’s a national conference in Chicago and one of the big topics there is summative and formative assessment. I think we’ll be able to add to this paper and present it there too. We have some high hopes for this.”