A comparison of the importance of the subject matter in the business communication course as perceived by junior and community college teachers and administrative secretaries

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Purpose The purpose of this study was to determine the differences in perceptions between a select group of business communication teachers and a select group of administrative secretaries regarding the importance of subject matter topics currently included in the basic business communication course in the junior college. Hypothesis No significant difference exists in the importance of 37 subject matter topics included in the business communication course as perceived by teachers of business communication at the junior and community college level and as perceived by administrative secretaries who actually perform writing tasks in the execution of their responsibilities. Procedures Questionnaires included a list of 37 subject matter topics in the business communication course as well as questions designed to collect general information from respondents. Data were collected from 147 junior college teachers who were members of the American Business Communication Association and from 188 administrative secretaries in the Houston, Texas, area. Using t-tests for independent samples, the data were analyzed to determine whether or not significant differences existed at the .01 level between the mean degree of importance placed on each topic by business communication teachers and administrative secretaries. Conclusions Of 37 subject matter topics included in the research questionnaire, secretaries perceived 21 topics as being significantly more important than did junior college teachers. Those topics were: The role and, importance of communication in the business organization; Barriers and malfunctions of communication; Grammar and usage, sentence construction; Spelling, capitalization, and word-division skills; Expressing numbers in business writing; Proof-reading and proofreader's marks; Attractive letter layout, letter form; Telegrams, minutes, news releases; Form and purpose of interoffice memorandum; Collecting primary data through various methods; Finding and using secondary sources of business information; Organizing and outlining data for reports; Analyzing and objectively interpreting data; Graphic presentation of data in reports; Dictating effective business letters, machine dictation; Expanding vocabulary using the dictionary; Speaking to an audience, leading conferences and meetings; Interpersonal or small group oral communication; Barriers to effective listening; Applying principles of good speaking and listening in interviewing, and Nonverbal message cues, i.e., gestures, posture, voice inflection, facial expression. Of 37 subject matter topics, teachers perceived three topics as being significantly more important than did secretaries. Those topics were: Good news and bad news letters; Claim and adjustment tetters; and Application tetters, personal record sheets. Of 37 subject matter topics, no significant differences were found to exist between the mean perceptions of teachers and secretaries for 13 subject matter topics. Those topics were: Conversational style, writing to the reader; Completeness and coherence through organization and word choice; Clarity and coherence through organization and word choice; Directness and positivity, use of active voice; Human relations and psychological effects of communication; Honesty, empathy, and reliability in communication; Sentence, paragraph, and letter length, beginnings and endings; Inquiries, answers to inquiries; Direct requests, persuasive requests; Collection letters, collection series; Letters that build goodwill; Sales letters, persuasive techniques; and Documentation, footnotes, and bibliography. Implications Teachers should re-evaluate the emphasis currently placed on the 37 subject matter topics to determine whether greater or less emphasis should be placed on each topic. Because business communication students at the two-year college level do not typically obtain bachelor's degrees, the need for teaching subject matter that is relevant to their immediate employment is urgent. Business communication teachers, authors, and textbook publishers have not sought to base the subject matter emphasized in the junior college business communication course on the immediate needs of students.