Business communication instructors agree that audience is a key consideration when composing business documents. But how do we know whether students are grasping what we're teaching them about the importance of audience? Reflections can be a good choice.
In new research, Danica Schieber from Sam Houston State University and Vincent D. Robles from the University of North Texas assessed the use of reflections to gauge their students' awareness of audience. After responding to a case requiring them to write multiple business genres to varying audiences, students reflected on their audience awareness. The researchers uncovered three themes in the students reflections:
-Identifying reader benefits and constraints
-Considering reader values and priorities
-Estimating one's own credibility
The researchers found that students faced most difficulty delivering bad news to a customer and persuading a manager. Students found it difficult to "keep a positive tone while still giving bad news." When persuading a manager, students found it difficult to sound and feel credible, to avoid sounding "bossy," and to provide adequate detail.
This study suggests that reflections can be a great tool for instructors to gauge their students' awareness of audience. Further, it suggests that different combinations of audiences (e.g, a customer versus a manager) and genres (e.g., persuasive versus bad news) can increase the difficulty of audience-focused assignments. If instructors want to provide their students with increasingly challenging practice, they might systematically adjust assignment audiences from an external customer to colleagues to a manager and adjust assignment genres from an informative message to a bad news message to a persuasive message.
For additional information that can help students strategically consider their audience, consider using our PACS framework described in this post or in Chapter 2 of our textbook. You can also read the entire article “Using Reflections to Gauge Audience Awareness In Business and Professional Communication Courses” by Danica Schieber and Vincent D. Robles to learn more about using reflections to assess your students’ awareness of audience.
If you have assignments or teaching strategies you use to help your students gain an awareness of audience, please share them in the comments below.
Source: Business and Professional Communication Quarterly
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We're Bill Baker and Matt Baker, and we hope these posts will help you more effectively teach business communication. If you like what you read, please consider reviewing our business communication textbook.