A Pilot Project to Assess the Grammar of First-Year Management Students

Donna M Velliaris 1

1 Independent Scholar, Singapore, Email: dvelliaris@hotmail.com

Abstract

In today’s competitive business environment, students will need to build and strengthen strategic communication skills to manage business activities, and their ability to effectively communicate is central to them gaining and maintaining employment. Significantly, in the associated literature, the ability to communicate well—in all manner of ways—is a quality that consistently appears near or at the ‘top’ of the list of desired employability traits in the business realm. Grammatical competency enables persons to construct well-written prose that communicates valuable information with ease. Proper grammar forges greater trust between sender and receiver by avoiding ambiguous language. However, the literature suggests that rising numbers of students are entering Higher Education (HE) from which a notable portion are poor writers and business graduates in particular, are of prime concern. In an effort to address this dilemma, first-year Management students at a South Australian University undertook a grammar-based diagnostic test pre- and post- a compulsory and foundational core-course titled: ‘Professional Development in Business’. Students (n = 327) registered via a ‘learnonline’ link to Pearson’s MyWritingLab (MWL) where they needed to achieve a score of 70% or higher in a multiple-choice examination comprising 74 questions. Diagnostic Tests 1 and 2—the exact same online task—were administered in Week 2 and Week 11 of Semester 1, 2016, to investigate the merits of implementing MWL’s personalised and self-paced language-focused ‘Modules’ across other business programs. Administering Pearson’s MWL will continue to require a great deal of energy and patience. The program is not a panacea, and is most definitely a work in progress. There are no illusions that MWL will transform business students into writers of high academic and business calibre, but it is hoped that the program will be invaluable in elevating the level of ‘basic’ writing skills and conscious awareness of professional communications in the business student population.

Keywords: business communications, business graduate skills, competencies, employment characteristics, first-year, management education, undergraduates