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An Innovative Seminar Course in Business Etiquette for Pharmacy Graduate Students

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  • University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy

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Objectives: To develop and implement a seminar course for graduate students in the social and administrative pharmaceutical sciences to enhance knowledge and confidence with respect their abilities to demonstrate appropriate business etiquette. Design: A 1-credit graduate seminar course was designed based on learner-centered constructivist theory and application of Fink's Taxonomy for Significant Learning.Assessment. Eleven students participated in the spring 2011 seminar course presentations and activities. Students completed pre- and post-assessment instruments, which included knowledge and attitudinal questions. Formative and summative assessments showed gains in student knowledge, perceived skills, and confidence based on observation and student-reported outcomes. Conclusion: Graduate student reaction to the course was overwhelmingly positive. The etiquette course has potential application in doctor of pharmacy education, other graduate disciplines, undergraduate education, and continuing professional development.
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INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN AND ASSESSMENT
An Innovative Seminar Course in Business Etiquette for Pharmacy
Graduate Students
Stephanie Y. Crawford, PhD
University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy
Submitted May 21, 2012; accepted June 26, 2012; published November 12, 2012.
Objectives. To develop and implement a seminar course for graduate students in the social and
administrative pharmaceutical sciences to enhance knowledge and confidence with respect their abil-
ities to demonstrate appropriate business etiquette.
Design. A 1-credit graduate seminar course was designed based on learner-centered constructivist
theory and application of Fink’s Taxonomy for Significant Learning.
Assessment. Eleven students participated in the spring 2011 seminar course presentations and activities.
Students completed pre- and post-assessment instruments, which included knowledge and attitudinal
questions. Formative and summative assessments showed gains in student knowledge, perceived skills,
and confidence based on observation and student-reported outcomes.
Conclusion. Graduate student reaction to the course was overwhelmingly positive. The etiquette course
has potential application in doctor of pharmacy education, other graduate disciplines, undergraduate
education, and continuing professional development.
Keywords: seminar; graduate education; educational theory; professionalism, business etiquette
INTRODUCTION
Civility (accepted social behaviors) is a foundational
component of the complex phenomenon of professional-
ism.
1
In global business and healthcare environments and
with the diversity in American society, professional and
graduate pharmacy students may interact routinely with
individuals from other cultures. In professional relation-
ships, undesired outcomes may arise from etiquette gaffes,
such as ineffective or potentially offensive interpersonal
communications between people of different age groups,
professional positions, races, ethnicities, nationalities,
and belief systems. To avoid these communication prob-
lems, students need to be knowledgeable about and aware
of business etiquette.
2
Knowledge and application of ap-
propriate business etiquette will help students and grad-
uates feel more confident in workplace environments,
which will likely translate into more successful business
and/or healthcare outcomes.
In pharmacy education, instruction on aspects of pro-
fessionalism and professional socialization is requisite.
1,3
Student development of professionalism is emphasized in
Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE)
standards and guidelines, which also include curricular
strategies for achieving this goal. Performance compe-
tencies include appropriate professional behavior and
self-awareness.
4
The Center for the Advancement of
Pharmaceutical Education (CAPE) educational outcomes
for pharmacy students state the need for appropriate pro-
fessional demeanor as well as effective communications
in consideration of contextual and cultural factors.
5
In-
struction on social, interpersonal skills, and etiquette is
considered essential in academic disciplines other than
doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) curricula,
3,6
including
graduate pharmaceutical sciences (ie, master of science
degree or doctor of philosophy degree),
7
medicine,
8
law,
9
business,
10-12
and others. Descriptions of effective peda-
gogical strategies to teach business etiquette to students
are lacking in the literature. Colleges and schools of phar-
macy and/or their universities may provide students with,
for example, a mini-workshop (eg, 2 hours or less) on
aspects of business etiquette within a professional or career
development series.
13
Etiquette 101-type dinners or lun-
cheons are popular among college students.
14
However,
little guidance is available for developing an intellectual,
multidimensional, academic course on business etiquette.
This article describes the conceptualization, imple-
mentation, and assessment of an innovative graduate
seminar course on business etiquette for students in the
social and administrative pharmaceutical sciences. This
was a different type of seminar, created and developed in
response to a recognized need among graduate students
Corresponding Author: Stephanie Y. Crawford, UIC
Department of Pharmacy Administration, 833 S. Wood St.
(mc 871), Chicago, IL 60612. Tel: 312-413-1337. Fax: 312-
996-0868. E-mail: crawford@uic.edu
American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 2012; 76 (9) Article 177.
1
for instruction on knowledge and skills in business eti-
quette. The impetus for the course was to address this
deficit, increase knowledge, skills, and confidence; and
inspire continued learning. The idea emanated from the
observation that graduate students in the social and ad-
ministrative pharmacy sciences, both domestic and inter-
national, are inadequately knowledgeable about and
unfamiliar with customary business etiquette practices.
For example, some students feel awkward taking the ini-
tiative to approach someone new, introduce themselves,
and strike up a conversation, and, as appropriate, engage
in a handshake. Even students without such reticence may
not know the appropriate situational considerations in in-
troductions and guidelines for social interaction. Another
example reported by pharmacy school faculty is that the
tone of some student e-mails and other written communi-
cation received from students is unprofessional, empha-
sizing the need for improved knowledge of etiquette in
such business communications.
6
The new era of distance
learning and e-professionalism (ie, online reflection of
professional attitudes and behaviors as expressed through
use of digital media, including e-mail communication,
social media, and other Web-based information shaping
the individual’s online persona)
6,15,16
support the need to
revisit instruction in the principles of business etiquette.
Additionally, while graduate students in the pharmaceu-
tical sciences have strong backgrounds in their respective
scientific fields, they generally are not instructed in pro-
fessional roles beyond academic integrity. Regardless of
academic discipline, graduate students would benefit
from instruction on etiquette and decorum as part of
disciplinary socialization. An American Association of
Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) section subcommittee in
the social and administrative pharmaceutical sciences
noted a need for instruction in the “Etiquette of Teaching”
but acknowledged obstacles to their attempts to determine
what components to include when preparing graduate
students for teaching roles.
17
DESIGN
The required seminar is used by the Department of
Pharmacy Administration at the University of Illinois at
Chicago (UIC) to enhance graduate student knowledge,
skills, and performance. Graduate seminar course coor-
dination rotates among faculty members each semester
during the academic year. Eleven graduate students en-
rolled in the seminar course during spring semester 2011.
Through exempt review by the UIC institutional review
board, approval was granted to describe the instructional
techniques and assessment results for the graduate semi-
nar course on business etiquette. Course goals were to:
develop, implement, and evaluate a seminar course in
business etiquette for graduate students in the social and
administrative pharmaceutical sciences; assess whether
graduate students’ knowledge, perceived skills, and con-
fidence in business etiquette increased upon completion
of the course; and inspire students to build knowledge and
skills, within and outside the classroom.
Whether through professor-led or student-based
discussion formats,
18
the graduate seminar course is
an intellectual forum wherein students construct knowl-
edge and make meaningful connections of information
gleaned from discrete, specialized curricular aspects or
other substantive areas within the discipline.
19
The in-
teractive, facilitative nature of this graduate seminar in
business etiquette was informed by the educational phi-
losophy of constructivism. Constructivist theory states
that an effective learning approach for professional de-
velopment should include student-focused, action-based
strategies to build upon new knowledge and prior knowl-
edge and experiences.
9,19
Effective teaching under the
constructivist approach enables the learner to interact
with peers in acquiring new information and reframing
experiences, which helps students apply critical thinking
to understand and interpret newly acquired knowledge,
improve their problem-solving abilities, and self-reflect
on the information in a manner that has unique meaning
for each individual.
9
Under this educational theory, group-
based, hands-on activities are considered a hallmark in
heightening student engagement and learning. Through
discussions and activities, students observe and learn
from others with diverse backgrounds and varied perspec-
tives, helping them build upon their own knowledge base
and self-awareness. Use of this learning process should
help students increase their knowledge and skills through
individual thought, collaborative problem solving, skills
development, increased appreciation for diversity, and a
foundation for lifelong learning.
In the process of achieving scholarly and meaning-
ful learning, salient knowledge should be retained after
course completion. Students should apply knowledge
gained to novel experiences, be able to think more crit-
ically and solve problems, and engage in self-motivation
to learn. These educational goals are rooted in Fink’s
Taxonomy of Significant Learning,which served as a tem-
plate in the course design.
20
The described constructivist,
learner-centered approach for the graduate seminar course
design is depicted in the adaptation of Fink’s Taxonomy
shown in Figure 1. Categories of learning within the tax-
onomy are intended to be relational and interactive to help
achieve significant learning, ie, learning that produces last-
ing changes that are important to each student.
20
The 1-credit-hour departmental graduate seminar
wasgradedonasatisfactoryorunsatisfactorybasis.
American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 2012; 76 (9) Article 177.
2
To receive a satisfactory grade, graduate students were
expected to attend class and actively participate in class
activities and discussions, deliver a well-organized sem-
inar presentation on the assigned date, provide supporting
materials for the audience, and complete assignments.
The duration of the graduate seminar course was January
through May 2011. With the exception of the last class
session on business dining etiquette (planned for 2 hours),
each weekly seminar session was planned for one 50-minute
class period. Class sessions included presentations led
by the faculty course coordinator or graduate students.
For 3 seminar sessions, student presenters were allowed
to work in pairs to accommodate scheduling needs. Pre-
sentations were expected to include knowledge delivery
and at least 1 application of the business etiquette rule(s)
or guide(s), either as an in-class, preclass, or after-class
activity. Students were required to meet with the course
coordinator at least 2 business days prior to their presen-
tations to provide a general overview of presentation,
share drafts of presentation materials, and state plans to
facilitate active audience discussion and participation.
When planning and preparing for the seminar series
on business etiquette, the course coordinator established
a small reference library.
21-27
In addition to scholarly
articles and books, credible Internet references, and other
resources identified by graduate students, students were
welcomed to borrow any of these texts in preparation for
their presentations. To benefit classmates, a graduate stu-
dent donated an additional reference from his personal
collection to the course library.
28
Seminar topics, class overview and description, and
interactive activities are summarized in Table 1, which
also shows which classes were led by the faculty member
or students, and associated class activities. Each class was
designed to synthesize and build upon previous knowl-
edge to deepen understanding. For example, restaurant
manners for hosts and guests were briefly mentioned dur-
ing the week 9 talk on business entertaining. This topic
was expanded during the week 13 seminar on dining et-
iquette. When a slide on simple socializing was shown
at the same business entertaining class presentation, the
student presenter reminded the group about knowledge
learned from the week 6 class on schmoozing, small talk,
mingling, and successful socializing. In the schmoozing
class, the preactivity involved student consideration of
clear and concise messages (a 10-second and 30-second
Figure 1. Adaptation of Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning
20
to Course Design for Graduate Seminar on Business Etiquette
American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 2012; 76 (9) Article 177.
3
Table 1. Business Etiquette Seminar Topics, Description, and Activities
Week Topics Class session coverage Interactive Activities
1
a
Seminar introduction Expected outcomes, seminar format,
grading and assessment, resources,
topic assignments
Preassessment and initial etiquette quiz
b
2-3
a
First impressions, and
proper introductions:
meeting and greeting
Importance of first impressions,
appropriate business wardrobe,
business introductions, proper
handshaking techniques
Demonstration of handshakes to avoid; proper
handshaking exercises (students repeated
until satisfactory as needed); role-playing
exercises for introduction scenarios
b
4
a
E-mail etiquette
or “netiquette”
E-mail advantages and problems;
composing and sending e-mail;
courtesies in sending and replying to
business e-mail; grammar, punctuation,
proofing, and presentation
Review of deidentified e-mails received
from students and program applicants
with discussion of appropriateness,
grammar, e-mail nicknames, abbreviations,
messages, misaddressed recipients
b
5
c
Telephone and messaging
etiquette
Rules for business telephone calls; phone
calls via screener, direct connection, or
leaving messages; answering calls;
voice mail greeting; cell phone
etiquette; text messaging;
teleconferencing; video conferencing
Advance text of voice mail greetings
developed by students for graduate student
office phone
d
; class discussion, selection
and mock recording of voice mail greeting
b
;
3 scenarios provided involving phone calls
to discuss clinical trial study
b
6
c
The art of schmooze:
small talk, mingling,
and successful
socializing in the
business setting
Rules for successful mingling: having fun
and relaxing, presenting your best self,
practicing, prepping the room
(depending on whether “hot” situation
when know business associate or “cold”
situation when have little or no
knowledge of person), paying attention
to conversation, escape techniques to
extricate from undesirable situations,
when to talk about business or
non-business interests
Student responses with written 10-second
and 30-second statements in preparation
for conversation regarding, “Who are you?”
and “What do you do?”
d
; 3 role-playing
scenarios for mingling exercises in small
groups in which students asked to pretend
no one knew each other: blue cups (with
soft drinks or water) distributed to
conversationalists, red cups provided to
observers, ie, listeners who did not engage
in conversation but provided feedback,
then student roles reversed
b
7
c
Etiquette for preparing for
a job and interviewing
Job application preparation, interviewing
techniques including questions for
applicants to ask during interview,
preliminary telephone interviews,
wardrobe and demeanor during
interview, etiquette after the interview
Sample job interview questions distributed
in advance with request to prepare as if
interviewing for health economics/
outcomes research position with
pharmaceutical industry
d
; mock group
interviews with panel of employer
interviewers
b
8
c
Office etiquette and
work-related challenges
Being a considerate colleague, manners
during meetings, managing office
conflict, handling criticism, managing
and resolving conflict with peers and
bosses, dealing with difficult people,
ethical dilemmas at work, office
romances
Student teams assigned and distributed
cases on work-related challenges
d
;
class discussion of 5 assigned cases
b
;
review of shared office etiquette rules
developed by department head
b
9
c
Business entertaining Forms of business entertaining; sample
activities; entertaining boss, colleagues,
visitors; planning special event;
accepting or declining alcoholic
beverages; restaurant manners; cocktail
party conduct; examples of what can go
wrong; accommodating special requests
Student e-mail responses regarding professional
social event attended, whether event
beneficial to professional development, and
concerns regarding professional etiquette and
conduct at venues
d
; student discussion of
responses
b
; discussion of video of
inebriated woman at office party
b
(Continued)
American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 2012; 76 (9) Article 177.
4
response) about themselves. These included messages re-
garding their position, background, and/or personal his-
tory, which the students wanted to share in a business
situation, and about their work to introduce their research
in a manner compatible with a knowledgeable but not
expert audience. The take-home message was that state-
ments that are short and comprehensible are more likely to
result in a conversation that flows back-and-forth between
persons in social business settings.
EVALUATION AND ASSESSMENT
Direct evidence of student learning for founda-
tional knowledge and application categories in Fink’s
Taxonomy was demonstrated through observation of
Table 1. (Continued)
Week Topics Class session coverage Interactive Activities
10
c
Business writing basics Examples of business writing, business
letter formats, business and social
invitations, RSVP and regrets only,
thank-you notes and letters, holiday
and greeting cards, announcements
Addressing of social invitations (including
partners/spouse); review and discussion of
sample business correspondences
b
11
c
Global business etiquette
and international travel
Traveling with colleagues, adapting to
a different world (keeping open mind,
dining customs, dressing appropriately,
advance preparation), bridging
language barriers, respecting religious
and cultural differences, international
gifting ideas and gaffes, making
positive impressions and presentations,
American habits that people from other
countries find displeasing, greetings for
use in different parts of the world
Advance questions sent to class regarding
travel to international meetings
d
; discussion
of student responses to advance questions
regarding international business travel.
Topics included India hierarchies, Japanese
corporate customs, countries where light
handshake more appropriate (vs firm
handshake in US), greeting customs such
as kiss on check or “air” kiss, appropriate
and inappropriate eye contact, gender roles
b
12
c
Marking major life events
and passages in the
business setting
Dealing with office-related birthdays,
retirements, funerals, weddings, baby
showers; gifting rules (for specific
events celebrated as part of office
celebration or in general); examples of
appropriate and inappropriate gifts;
participating (or not) in office pool for
group present
Advance questions on whether students
bought gift for business colleague or faculty,
if experienced trouble choosing gift and why,
how was gift received, and whether asked
to participate in office gift pool (reaction if
participated or declined)
d
; color-coded flash
cards for students to present in response to
8 scheduled “quiz” questions in scenarios
embedded throughout presentation, followed
by discussion
b
; post-assessment #1
b
13
a
Business dining etiquette
and essentials of table
manners
Etiquette lunch held in private dining
room of popular Chicago restaurant
within walking distance of campus.
Meal-time presentation and discussion
on preliminary preparations for
hospitable host or hostess and
gracious guest, tableside behaviors,
table settings and proper use of
cutlery, food service and passing
order, tips for eating certain foods,
dealing with dining mishaps (eg,
dropped food or utensil, foreign
object in food or on plate),
after-meal etiquette
When to open napkin and where to place, how
to toast and what to do if toast in your honor,
signal of when to begin eating, observation
of table setting and instruction of which
cutlery to use and when, direction in which
food/utensils served and removed, direction
and method of passing food or condiments,
American and continental dining styles,
polite table talk, what to do when leaving
table, thanking host or hostess
b
;
Postassessment #2 distributed 3 weeks later
e
a
Course coordinator/faculty-led presentation and primary facilitation.
b
In-class activity.
c
Graduate student-led presentation and primary facilitation.
d
Preclass assignment.
e
Postclass assignment (voluntary).
American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 2012; 76 (9) Article 177.
5
draft and final student presentations, assignment/activity
development exercises by student presenters and comple-
tion by student peers, level of class discussions, student
engagement, and final satisfactory course grades. Ques-
tions, answers, and suggestions for improvement were
offered by the instructor as a formative assessment during
a sit-down meeting in advance of the student presenta-
tions. Suggestions were offered on student drafts and
plans to achieve instructional objectives within the allot-
ted time. Each student or student team provided a creative,
high-quality presentation, as shown through content and
peer engagement.
The business etiquette seminar seemed to strike a
chord with the students. Outside class, students prac-
ticed etiquette skills among themselves, with their friends
and others in their social circles, and in professional
venues. From Fink’s Taxonomy, this demonstrated inte-
gration with real-world experiences; human dimension
with self-awareness, shared experiences, and social im-
plications; caring with enthusiasm for learning and new
values on the importance of etiquette; and self-directed
learning. Students shared their experiences in the class-
room, which helped build new knowledge under con-
structivist theory and in accord with the taxonomy. For
example, a student stated how she took the initiative to
extend her hand and introduce herself to many colleagues
at a business social event. She would not have felt com-
fortable initiating this type of contact prior to the course,
as this activity is not the norm in her culture. Many stu-
dents were so enthused that they commented they may be
“overdoing it” because they continually practiced by intro-
ducing themselves to each other repeatedly when passing in
the hallways. In informal gatherings, they also offered to
shake hands with their friends who gave them quizzical
looks until the reason for this behavior was explained.
From Fink’s Taxonomy, a desired outcome is that
students “Learn How to Learn,” which our students dis-
played throughout the semester. Students took it upon
themselves to disseminate information to fellow students
and the instructor about upcoming campus events (eg,
workshops offered by the UIC Office of Career Services).
These campus-sponsored events included etiquette tips
for international students, job interviewing, business
etiquette in the United States, resume and cover letter
writing for US employers, and an interactive workshop
entitled, “The One-Minute Academic Introduction.” An-
other example of student engagement was the sharing of
etiquette-themed articles published in the Wall Street
Journal in January 2011
29,30
that would be useful in sem-
inar preparation and discussions. Students also routinely
searched Web sites for interesting information on seminar
topics.
In almost every session, students desired and chose
to stay beyond the regular seminar class time (after class
was dismissed), continuing to practice exercises and ac-
tivities. This was the norm rather than the exception, with
the majority of students staying 20-30 minutes beyond the
50-minute class time. On a couple of occasions, when
the course coordinator left because of other commitments,
the graduate students remained and kept working.
Pre- and post-assessments were conducted with
enrolled graduate students (n511) as 1 measure to de-
termine effectiveness of the instructional techniques
(Appendix 1). The preassessment instrument, which
was administered during the first class of the semester,
included 25 items on etiquette knowledge. Questions
were adapted from Internet and text examples and were
asked in a multiple-choice format. Unlike the in-depth
review, integrated explanations, and cultural norms pro-
vided during subsequent presentations, the knowledge
pretest questions were based on quick etiquette tips. Data
were analyzed using IBM SPSS Statistics version 19
(IBM, Armonk, NY). Scores indicated substantial room
for improvement, with the percentage of correct answers
ranging from 48% to 72%, with a mean score of 61.8 6
7.0 (SD). The preassessment also included items to mea-
sure student confidence on knowledge and skills. When
asked on the preassessment instrument, “How confident
are you regarding your knowledge of business etiquette?,”
no one responded “very confident.” Four students (36.4%)
indicated they were confident, and 7 (63.6%) stated they
were not confident. The same responses were given to the
question, “How confident are you regarding your business
etiquette skills?”
An alternate postassessment instrument was admin-
istered near the end of class at week 12. Eight items for the
16-item etiquette quiz administered on that date were re-
peated from the pretest, with the remaining being new
items including 2 open-ended questions. A set of addi-
tional voluntary postassessment questions was sent to
students 3 weeks after the seminar series concluded, after
all students had received their course grades. This in-
cluded 2 additional etiquette quiz items relating to the
class on business dining etiquette during week 13, for a
total of 18 knowledge items during the postassessments,
in addition to follow-up items on confidence in etiquette
abilities and other summary attitudinal items regarding
the seminar course. Students were entrusted with honor-
ing the request not to look up answers to the last 2 etiquette
quiz items before submitting their assessments. The re-
sponse rate was 100% for all assessment items.
Students’ performance was higher for the etiquette
quiz items on the postassessment instrument from paired
ttest (p,0.001); student scores ranged from 61.1% to
American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 2012; 76 (9) Article 177.
6
100% with a mean score of 82.8 613.0. Even with the
gain, scores were not extremely high on average, with
only 2 scoring higher than 90%, indicating a need for
continued reinforcement of the more detailed etiquette
guidelines. In retrospect, some of the questions on eti-
quette tips were trivial, considering the synthesized learn-
ing process and emphasis on significant, meaningful
learning in the graduate seminar course. Further, appro-
priate etiquette may be situational; that is, what is consid-
ered appropriate for a given interaction may be influenced
by setting (private or public) as well as cultural norms.
More meaningful learning occurred as a result of student
awareness of the need to be informed about salient aspects
of business etiquette and aware of etiquette consider-
ations when preparing for different business situations.
Based on the Wilcoxon signed-rank test, students
demonstrated more confidence in their knowledge
(p50.005) and skills (p50.003) by the end of the seminar
course. When asked during the postassessment, “How con-
fident are you regarding your knowledge of business eti-
quette?” 4 students (36.4%) responded “very confident”
(none had stated so in the pretest) and 7 (63.6%) responded
“confident.” In skills, postassessment results revealed that
3 (27.3%) students were very confident, 7 (63.6%) were
confident, and 1 (9.1%) remained not confident. Several
who indicated on the postassessment that they were confi-
dent indicated in the open-ended section a desireto practice
more.
All students responded that the required premeet-
ing with the course coordinator in advance of seminar
presentation was “very helpful.” When asked how helpful
they found the available reference books, 10 (90.9%) said
“very helpful” and 1 said “helpful.” In the postassess-
ment, graduate students were asked to describe any situ-
ation in which they had used something learned in the
etiquette seminar. Students stated that they had used
knowledge and skills from the seminar in situations out-
side the classroom, such as in off-campus research meet-
ings, at business dinner functions, during job interviews,
and in introductions to national and international corpo-
rate executives. In the postassessment, graduate students
were given the opportunity to provide any additional
comments regarding this seminar. Responses were uni-
versally positive. Students noted appreciation for what
they had learned but also expressed a need for more in-
struction and practical application of their skills.
DISCUSSION
Graduate students were excited when first informed
of the planned theme on business etiquette during the last
week of classes in fall semester 2010. From day 1, the
department head was extremely supportive of the seminar
topics, frequently inquired how the course was going, and
shared positive feedback he had heard from students. The
final seminar on dining etiquette, which was conducted in
the private dining room of a local restaurant near campus,
was hosted and sponsored by the department head. Initial
reaction from faculty colleagues was mixed, but they
quickly developed a more positive perspective. When
the seminar theme was first announced, some departmen-
tal colleagues snickered and stated that the seminar series
would be akin to “Miss Manners.” By the first week of
class, however, the same faculty members expressed cu-
riosity about the seminar coverage and began offering
ongoing suggestions for topic inclusion, including per-
sonal hygiene, business writing, and e-mail decorum.
Faculty opinion likely transitioned positively as the result
of frequently expressed student excitement, topic descrip-
tions by the course coordinator, their own observations of
needed etiquette instruction, and department head en-
couragement. Along with the students, the course instruc-
tor also learned a great deal about business etiquette, and
departmental colleagues engaged in more frequent dis-
cussions about concepts of professional decorum with a
heightened awareness of and appreciation for the subject.
Aspects of salient learning appeared to be significant and
meaningful to students, as they indicated areas in which
some lasting changes were developed. Becoming profi-
cient in business etiquette, however, requires sustained
reinforcement and application. Aspects of the seminar
course could be incorporated in continuing professional
development for pharmacy faculty and practitioners.
The constructivist, learner-centered approach reso-
nated with graduate students because they desired and
needed a way to gain knowledge about and prepare for
real-world experiences.
9
The hands-on approach worked
well, and students seemed to embrace personal responsi-
bility for their own knowledge. Our graduate students
showed responsibility in completing assignments and
working with others (eg, when classmates asked for them
to reply quickly to a survey), respecting others, and ac-
cepting constructive criticism. Graduate students come
from diverse backgrounds, including some for whom En-
glish is a second language. Faculty members should keep
in mind the need to introduce cultural norms of American
society that may be unfamiliar to international students.
However, regardless of nationality, each generational co-
hort of students brings its own culture; thus, review of
professional expectations is appropriate.
Aspects of this graduate seminar course can be ap-
plied in whole or in part for PharmD programs, other
graduate program disciplines, and undergraduate courses.
When offered again, this course will likely be made avail-
able as an elective with dual credit (ie, both PharmD and
American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 2012; 76 (9) Article 177.
7
graduate students in the pharmaceutical sciences could en-
roll, as space allows). Journaling for self-reflection may
be included as part of the assignments in future offerings
of the course. During the inaugural offering, such infor-
mation was provided extemporaneously from students’
enthusiastic self-discovery.
For other colleges and schools that may use aspects
of this described seminar course, interactive hands-on
activities are recommended, based on our students’ favor-
able response. Hands-on activities seem well-suited for
seminar or elective courses with limited class sizes, such
as this etiquette course. The learning strategies used in
this seminar may not work in large lecture classes unless
they include smaller recitation sections or some equiva-
lent thereof. In those cases, a higher number of instructors
may be needed to observe interactive activities among
student learners. The format may or may not work with
distance education, depending on visual conferencing ca-
pabilities and the nature of the applied activities. Most
aspects of the current course were successful. It seems,
however, that more time per class – perhaps 90 minutes -
should have been allotted. Future classes will devote more
time to the development of better knowledge-assessment
measures.
The seminar could be applicable to other graduate
students in the pharmaceutical sciences as an elective or
required course, but some of the example applications
would need to be substituted with applications more rel-
evant to the academic discipline. For example, there is a
need for etiquette specific to research laboratories, whereas
other topics, such as preparing for job interviews and
successful social networking and interactions, are uni-
versal. The course could also be adapted for use by
colleagues engaged in undergraduate education. When
the course syllabus was shared with a faculty colleague
in the UIC Department of Communication, she noted that
undergraduate students would also find an etiquette sem-
inar useful and interesting, as it cuts across many disci-
plines and addresses issues beyond etiquette skills. Issues
of identity, language, messages, social roles and relation-
ships, and impression management, among others, were
central to the etiquette seminar course. However, at its
core, etiquette is a facet of civility, which has broad ap-
plication in that it addresses the fundamental nature of
how people interact with each other.
SUMMARY
This article describes a theoretically constructed
pedagogical activity of interactive student learning in a
course on business etiquette. Based on classroom assess-
ments and other comments received, students developed
meaningful learning and seemed to enjoy the novel and
practical seminar course. The graduate course on business
etiquette increased knowledge, instilled more confidence
among students, and has potential applicability in gradu-
ate, professional, and undergraduate education, as well
as continuing professional development.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The author expresses sincere gratitude to Nicholas
G. Popovich, PhD, Professor and Head, UIC Department
of Pharmacy Administration, for his enthusiastic support
of the seminar theme, helpful suggestions, and sponsor-
ship of the business etiquette luncheon.
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Appendix 1. Description of Assessment Instruments Used in Business Etiquette Seminar Course
Attitudinal items: In both the pre- and post-assessment, graduate students were asked the following 2 questions, with
response choices of “very confident,” “confident,” or “not very confident”:
dHow confident are you regarding your knowledge of business etiquette?
dHow confident are you regarding your business etiquette skills?
The postassessment included the following 2 items, with response choices of “very helpful,” “helpful,” and “not very
helpful”:
dHow helpful were the reference books made available to the class?
dHow helpful was the required premeeting, in advance of your seminar presentation, with the course coordinator?
The postassessment included an open-ended question asking students to describe any situation in which they used something
learned from the etiquette seminar, as well as an open item for any additional comments regarding this seminar.
Knowledge items: 25 items were included on the etiquette knowledge quiz in the preassessment. The postassessment
instruments were comprised of 18 knowledge items, including 8 repeated from the preassessment. All items in the preassessment
were in multiple-choice format (2, 3, or 4 response options); 16 etiquette quiz items in the posttest were multiple-choice format and 2
required open-ended responses.
American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 2012; 76 (9) Article 177.
9
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