Assessing Business Communication Assignments of English-as-Second-Language students.(Statistical Data Included)

Article excerpt

As the US population becomes more diverse, the enrollment of English-as-Second-Language (ESL) students in colleges and universities continues to expand. This diversity may sometimes lead to problems for business communication teachers who must assess the written communication skills of students who may not be fluent in English. To address these problems, we conducted a nationwide survey of business communication teachers, soliciting input on how ESL students' written communication skills were assessed. Respondents were asked to identify areas where their assessments of ESL students might differ from their assessments of students whose first language was English. Comparisons were mode based upon teachers' gender, age, number of years of teaching experience, and geographic location where they teach. Although some grading leniency was shown toward ESL students in specific areas, generally the respondents indicated that they do not assess business communication assignments any differently based upon the students' primary language usage.

Keywords: English-as-Second-Language (ESL), grammar/mechanics, punctuation, communication processes


ASSESSING ASSIGNMENTS in business communication classes remains an important component of the teaching and learning process. Wiggins (1993) suggests that the main function of assessment is to enhance the educational development of students and improve instruction. Instructors in US business writing classes traditionally have evaluated writing assignments based on organization of the message, tone or consideration for receiver, and the correct use of English language mechanics. Assessment approaches continue to evolve and include the use of portfolios, rubrics, holistic and value-added procedures, as well as traditional assessment techniques. Regardless of the instructional or assessment strategy selected, the ultimate goal is to prepare students to communicate correctly in an increasingly diverse, multicultural workplace and society.

Business writing instructors continue to be concerned about the lack of writing skills of their students. The challenge is compounded by feedback from individuals in business and industry who insist that most students need better communication skills. Further, the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB Standards, 2001) includes outcomes assessment and communication, as well as international competencies, as standards to be reviewed in self-study reports for collegiate schools of business. Both AACSB and the National Standards for Business Education (NBEA, 2001) recommend that communication standards be integrated throughout the curriculum.

Increased Enrollment of ESL Students In Business Communication

The rapidly expanding global economy has contributed significantly to the rich diversity of students in business communication classes, and this diversity has become an important consideration for instructors in evaluating their assessment strategies. The number of English-as-Second-Language (ESL) students enrolled in business courses in colleges and universities will probably only increase (Curry, 1996). Although nonnative students contribute extensively to the native students' understanding of different cultures and customs, business communication instructors often encounter difficulty in assessing written communication assignments of ESL students. International students who are otherwise quite capable may perform poorly on assignments in which English skills are assessed.

Although the literature about assessment of ESL students is limited, a few related studies have occurred in environments where business communication was taught to Japanese, Chinese, and other nonnative English users. These studies provide insight into the grammatical, tone, organization, and other English usage errors commonly made by students from these countries. …