4-VA Grant to Support Communication Skills

by Felicia Carr

4-VA Grant to Support Communication Skills

In the world of work, what makes employees stand out is the ability to communicate their ideas clearly. Google researchers discovered that the best Google employees weren’t the best coders, they were the best at communicating their ideas. Employers continuously rate communication skills as the most important skills for college graduates, yet employers report that those skills are also the hardest to find.

Melissa Broeckelman-Post, introductory communication course director, associate professor in the Department of Communication and a senior scholar in Mason’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, is leading a team of faculty and graduate students to devise a layered approach to ensure students continue to learn these vital skills after completing the required COMM 101 course.

 “Communication skills are necessary for communicating ideas, for working in teams, for developing relationships. It's necessary for their families and their communities,” said Brockelman-Post. She and her team are collaborating with partners and experts to bring communications skills into classrooms and learning experiences across campus over a variety of disciplines. In addition, faculty members often tell her they want to do more, but many feel ill-equipped and unsupported in their efforts to integrate communication into their courses.

With support from their recently awarded 4-VA grant, Broeckelman-Post and her team are creating the support and tools the faculty is telling her it needs. The work centers on creating three core elements—online resources and tools, faculty curriculum consultations, and in-class workshops. This is Broeckelman-Post’s second 4-VA grant. The award supports a collaboration between Mason, James Madison University (Tim Ball, associate professor in Madison's School of Communication Studies), and Virginia Tech (Brandi Quesenberry, director, undergraduate programs in Tech's Department of Communication). The project is also drawing on the expertise of Stephanie Norander, the executive director of the Communication Across the Curriculum (CxC) program at UNC Charlotte.  

The work on the year-long grant begins this summer. As a first step, the team is assembling and developing web-based resources for the faculty to use on its own, such as a customizable evaluation rubrics and sample feedback comments. They are also developing individual and small group faculty curriculum consultations and in-class workshop resources to bring communication team members into classrooms to hold workshops with faculty and students.

In the fall the team will launch its new faculty resource website and conduct faculty consultations and in-class workshops when requested. They will collect data on usage and perceived effectiveness of the online resources, individual consultations, and in-class workshops. That data will be analyzed in the summer of 2020 and submitted for presentation at the National Communication Association annual convention by late March 2020. The ultimate goal is publication of the results in a leading communications journal in summer 2020.

“We are delighted that our 4-VA grant will allow us to collaborate and make sure that we're serving our students well, and then also see how we can do more to help our students continue to build those skills even beyond our class,” said Broeckelman-Post.  “Through the development of communication across the curriculum we are helping the humanities collide with, and intersect with, all of these disciplines in new and effective ways.”