Academic journal article The Journal of Research in Business Education

The Strategies Approach: Effective for Reviewing Grammar and Punctuation Concepts

Academic journal article The Journal of Research in Business Education

The Strategies Approach: Effective for Reviewing Grammar and Punctuation Concepts

Article excerpt


This article is based on results of a quasi-experimental study in which the efficacy of the strategies approach for reviewing grammar and punctuation concepts was assessed in a business communication course. The control group studied rules-based review materials; the treatment group studied strategies-based review materials. On the three sets of collected data, students in the treatment group performed at a statistical level significantly higher than their counterparts in the control group.

Keywords: grammar, punctuation, rules-based approach, sentence-level deficiencies, strategies-based approach.

Writing Deficiencies

Business communication instructors have a dilemma. On one hand, they frequently read that American employers are quite concerned about the weak writing skills of many of their new hires, including recent college graduates. Two significant reports providing information about these deficiencies were published by the National Commission on Writing for America's Families, Schools, and Colleges (College Board, 2004, 2005). The 2004 report was based on feedback from 64 human resource directors whose companies participate in the 120-member Business Roundtable. One respondent said "The skills of new college graduates are deplorable- across the board; spelling, grammar, sentence structure. . . I can't believe people come out of college now not knowing what a sentence is" (College Board, the National Commission on Writing for America's Families, Schools and Colleges, 2004, p. 14). The 2005 report collected data from state government human resources divisions in 49 states and mentioned the same type of concerns. On the other hand, numerous studies claim that teaching grammar has no positive effect on student writing. Hillocks and Smith (2003) indicated that focusing on language arts instruction is a more effective means of helping students improve their writing than focusing on grammar and mechanics. According to Doniger (2003), the National Council of Teachers of English in 1985 passed a resolution against teaching grammar using isolated exercises, a resolution that remains intact today (see NCTE Position Statement, page 1). Weaver, McNally, and Moerman (2001) were adamant that teaching isolated grammar rules and concepts is not effective. A number of individuals (Cox, 1999; Patterson, 2001; Tompkins, 2002; Weaver, McNally, & Moerman, 2001) have recommended teaching grammar in the context of reading and writing.

In addition to the context approach, the literature has presented several instructional alternatives to the isolated teaching of grammar rules and concepts. Feng and Powers (2005) recommended error-based grammar instruction. Berger (2006) advocated sentence combining, whereas Hunter (1996) endorsed the system he developed, the Hunter system. Dunn and Lindblom (2003) recommended having students write their own rules based on the conventions of standard English.

Quible (2004) conducted research in which students were asked to identify and label errors on the pre-administration of a writing sample and subsequently to identify, label, and correct errors on the post-administration of the writing sample. He found a statistically significant correlation between correct labeling on the post-administration of the writing sample and several other variables, including accurate error correction, overall GPA, average grade on writing units, and course grade.

Given the negligible impact that teaching grammar rules in isolation is purported to have, contrasted with the frustration American employers express about the sentence-level deficiencies of many of today's recent college graduates, new instructional techniques should be developed so students are able to meet employer expectations. The information that follows reports the results of recently conducted research in a business communication course in which students in the control group used rules -oriented review materials, and students in the treatment groups used strategies -oriented review materials (See Appendix A). …

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