Academic journal article Business Communication Quarterly

Focus on Teaching: Classroom-to-Workplace Bridges

Academic journal article Business Communication Quarterly

Focus on Teaching: Classroom-to-Workplace Bridges

Article excerpt

How can I build bridges from the classroom to the workplace? What business concepts can I apply in my business communication classroom? Most business communication professors have asked these questions as they assessed their teaching, and they have supplied many excellent answers.

In this column, two creative teachers show how they use current business concepts to build learning teams. Both authors draw from TQM (Total Quality Management) principles. Kerr presents an experiential exercise that engages students in a quality audit and applies focus group techniques. Sutton describes how classroom quality circles can empower students to take a more active role in the teaching/learning process.

Techniques such as those described here expose students to practices they are likely to experience when they enter the work force. The techniques also help students develop a greater sense of responsibility for their success -- in the classroom and on the job.

With increased competition and changing technology, organizations need to be more effective, more flexible, and better able to adapt quickly to changing needs. To accommodate these new organizational attributes, companies are using teams to do jobs more effectively and efficiently (Daft, 1994).

Teams are replacing individuals as the basic building blocks of organizations. More than 50% of all Fortune 500 companies use them. By the turn of the century it is estimated that 90% of all North American organizations will have some form of teams. A recent Wall Street Journal survey of 200 of the Fortune 500 companies found team building to be the most frequently taught topic in company training programs (Daft, 1994).

Besides team building, organizations are introducing total quality management, or TQM, to their employees. TQM is a business philosophy with global appeal (McCormack, 1992). Some say it's the key to competitiveness in the global market. It improves productivity and reduces costs in an organization by increasing the employees' awareness of quality and changing their attitudes. The goal of TQM is for an organization to provide better quality for its customers (Donnelly, 1992).

This experiential exercise combines the elements of team building and TQM. Business communication classes can use this process for showing students how to improve products and services by using teamwork to gather information.

The Quality Audit

An integral part of TQM is the quality audit. A quality audit carefully studies every factor that affects the quality of a process or activity Donnelly, 1992). One popular method of conducting a quality audit is gathering information and ideas from an organization's customer base.

Students in business communication learn about primary and secondary research methods for gathering information to use in oral presentations, case discussions, and written reports. They usually employ secondary research methods for these assignments. However, some professors may assign or encourage such primary rerearch techniques as personal interviews or informal surveys. This assignment involves teams of students conducting focus groups to obtain information on the factors that affect the quality of a student's business education.

Focus groups are a primary research strategy used for understanding audience attitudes and behavior. A moderator interviews 7 to 12 people in a free-flowing discussion about a specific topic. Although this technique grew out of the group-therapy method used by psychiatrists, it is widely used in business. The information obtained from focus groups assists decision-makers in these organizations with business-planning and policy-making.

Why discuss focus groups in your class and assign them as a team-building and TQM research project? Focus groups matured to become the most widely used type of information-gathering research in the 1980s (Greenbaum, 1990). …

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