The Communication Audit is a student activity designed to close the gap between students’ perceived and actual communication and team behavior during group meetings. The Communication Audit exercise requires that students record an online small group meeting and then review the recording while categorizing each verbal remark into observable behaviors aligned to the instructor’s learning objectives.  The audit delivers objective data to students concerning their team habits and leads to excellent discussions of opportunities to improve team dynamics and individual contributions to a team process.  

Step-by-Step Implementation

  1. Assign team meeting:Assign teams of 4-6 students to participate in and record a virtual one-hour meeting with an agenda that requires robust discussion. The audit has worked well with a variety of agendas including the following:  1) Team quiz, requiring discussion and agreement on answers.  2) Study session for an upcoming exam sharing flash cards, working through problems. 3) Case discussion. 
  2. Customize audit: Read the Communication Audit questions.  Change the questions to reflect the focus of your course.  The categories must remain observable in nature.  For example, if you’ve taught the value of asking questions over definitive statements, you might ask your students to categorize a comment as a question or statement.  If you teach the importance of I/We versus You-statements, students could categorize accordingly.  If you teach injecting humor as a means of “fighting” productively, include “humor” in your audit.  
  3. Practice:Following the team meeting, review the audit instructions (Additional Materials) with students and lead a practice audit using a 3-5 minute meeting clip from a mock meeting or previous team meeting.   
  4. Create and share audit forms: If using Microsoft 360, duplicate the Communication Audit. Customize the form. This is YOUR copy of the audit and will save to your Forms folder.  Send the “SHARE AS A TEMPLATE” link to a designated team leader on each team.  Instruct the team leaders to DUPLICATE and RENAME the form. Team leaders share the “SEND AND COLLECT RESPONSES” link with their teammates. If using Google forms, follow similar steps to create and distribute a unique form for each team. 
  5. Audit: Teams divide the meeting into ten-15 minute segments.  Team member 1 audits Minutes 0-15, Team Member 2 audit Minutes 16-30, etc.  On their own time, students “audit” the assigned section of the meeting using the link the team leader provided. Students categorize verbal comments (task or relational, information- seeking, information-giving, devil’s advocate, etc.,) and note body language, facial expressions, and the nonverbal qualities of the voice (tone, rate, volume, intonation, and use of fillers.)   
  6. Analyze results:When using a Microsoft or Google form, the independent audit sections are automatically tallied into one comprehensive audit including graphs and a downloadable Excel file. The team leaders access and share the data using the RESPONSES tab on the form. Teams discuss the combined audit results and write responses to the reflection questions. Alternatively, the reflection questions can be used as a verbal debrief in class.  
    1. Reflection Questions:
      • How many times did each person speak and in which category?
      • What is the team total for each CATEGORY?
      • What themes emerged in the nonverbal communication observations?
      • What are three communication strengths of this team observable in the audit data?
      • What are three communication gaps or weaknesses of this team noted in the audit data?
      • What surprised you about your own communication behaviors? Did you intend to act in certain ways that are different than how you actually behaved?
      • What recommendations or changes to communication would drive team performance based on audit data?
      • What else did you notice or what other insights did you have while analyzing the audit data?
  1. Submit: Students submit the meeting recording, the tallied audit spreadsheet, and responses to the reflection questions.
  2. Debriefing:Lead a class discussion on the themes that emerged in the audits.  Summarize weaknesses observed by teams and share resources to address those areas with the entire class. 


Students report how surprised they were to learn that their actual communication behavior is not what they expected.  In my classes, teams noticed that their conversations lacked words of encouragement, that they engaged in very few attempts to challenge others’ ideas, and that they need a gatekeeper if a few people dominate the conversation. Individuals have recognized surprising patterns of communication such as only speaking to criticize or speaking five times more often than anyone else on the team.  Students appreciate the objective nature of the exercise and benefit from the increased awareness of their own communication behaviors.