An Implementation Model for a Communication across the Curriculum Program

Article excerpt

Numerous studies document the importance of good communication skills for business graduates and the organizations that hire them (Bennett & Olney, 1986; Gilsdorf, 1986; Penley, Alexander, & Jernigan, 1991; Russ, Daft & Lengel, 1990; Sypher, Bostrom & Seibert, 1989). Most recently, a national survey of human resource managers concerning the criteria used to screen and evaluate applicants shows that four of the top five criteria are communication skills, including oral, listening, interpersonal, and written communication (Ray, Stallard, & Hunt, 1994). Similar results were found in an analysis of candidate-evaluation forms used nationwide by corporate recruiters in final-round interviews with MBAs. "Communication" skill (verbal and nonverbal) was the most common skill sought, with 85% of the respondents including it on their forms (Dowd & Liedtka, 1994). The authors state:

This information suggests that the recent move on the part of a number of schools to strengthen the communication component of their academic programs is a step in the right direction. Students need to engage in numerous writing and speaking assignments on a regular basis (p. 38).

In fact, some schools, like the College of Business at Colorado State University, are including statements about the development of students' communication skills in their colleges' mission and objectives.

The dilemma these schools face is how to develop student proficiency in interpersonal, presentation, and written communication skills by teaching the typical one-semester business communication class. Requiring an additional business communication class is often not feasible due to limited monetary and faculty resources as well as curriculum constraints.

To address this situation, the College of Business at Colorado State University began implementing a Communication Across the Curriculum (CAC) program in 1992. The integrated approach to developing students' communication skills reinforces and expands the skills taught in the fundamental business communication course.

For professors whose schools are considering an integrated approach for developing students' communication skills, the following model provides ten steps, as well as inputs and resources needed, for implementing a CAC program based on our experience while serving as coordinators of our CAC program. A discussion of the steps follows the model in Figure 1.

Step 1: Prepare CAC Proposal

To prepare the proposal, the following four steps are necessary.

Establish Need for Program

First, the need for a CAC program must be established and communicated to the administration. Research literature is rich with data about the need for good communication skills and the lack of these skills in the workplace. In addition, surveys of and interviews with faculty members, employers, and graduates provide valuable input on desirable communication skills. We conduct these surveys in conjunction with our accrediting procedures for the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Relate Need for CAC to University's Goals

Second, if the institution does not have a goal related to communication skills, one should be proposed. Colorado State University developed a communication goal, which led to the Business College's development of the following goal: We will meet or exceed AACSB's standards for communication skills.

Develop a Mission, Goals, and Strategies for CAC

Third, based on the university's and college's goals, the mission, goals, and strategies for the CAC program should be developed to focus the faculty and students on the desired outcomes of the program. The mission of our CAC program is to instill in students a professional attitude toward communication skills that will translate into their putting quality into their work at Colorado State University and in the workplace. The goals of the program are:

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