Planning: Technical and Professional Writing

Posted: March 31, 2009 in Course Design, Pedagogy, School
Tags: , ,

I realized recently that I need to plan out a class for the summer. I’m teaching Technical and Professional writing, which I taught last fall. But I can’t run the course exactly the same; now I have two and a half hour meetings twice a week.

And besides, I learned a lot about how to do it last semester, and I want to improve.

So I’ll start with the simple things that I have, the goals and basic structure. The goals of the class, as I see them, are to teach students how to communicate in a professional setting, and to prepare them for the business world as far as communication is concerned. What does that mean?Well, it means that they need to know how to write memos, e-mails, cover letters, resumes, and presentations. It also means they need to write a set of instructions; that’s not my goal, but rather a university wide one. I think I dropped the ball on that last semester; I did it, but not very well.

As for preparation, I want to help them figure out how to handle interviews, how to apply for jobs, and then how to communicate once they’re in jobs. How to solve problems.

Last semester, I did this by having them form groups, and the groups to form companies. Each company was then given a problem to solve each week. They did that for a while, then they formed groups again (most of them the same groups) and spent the rest of the semester writing a business plan.

I think I want to formalize that a bit.

I don’t have the luxury of having students go and look at examples after the first class and slowly working on resumes and cover letters. So that will have to be class one. I’ll show them a few sample resumes, a few actual job ads, and a few cover letters. We’ll discuss how they work.

Then, at the end of the class, I will show them 5 job ads (which I’ll post online too). These job ads will all be for the same company, but will be for different departments. The students will then apply for any two jobs they want by the next class. That’s how I’ll form groups.

The problems then will all be for the same company. They may have to work interdepartmentally (ie, across groups), but we will simulate the business as best we can. Then, a few weeks in, we’ll move on to the business plan.

As for the directions, I’m going to make each group put together a list of directions appropriate to their department during the simulation. Then we’ll talk user testing.

What will the five departments be? I was thinking these:

  1. Accounting
  2. Marketing
  3. Research & Development
  4. Legal
  5. Human Resources

That gives me a whole range of potential problems, and will hopefully give every student at least one thing they want to do. I’ll have them apply to two so that I can try to make the groups more even. If they all end up in two groups anyway, I’ll see if I can ‘offer them another job’ and get them in other groups. If not, I’ll just split the groups apart a bit, have them be different departments under the same VP.

My thoughts with this are that I can have company-wide problems (Like the wonderful “We’ve been acquired by another company. Justify your job”) as well as individual problems (getting sued, having to fire people, tax problems, etc).

Also, I can plan the problems ahead of time, letting them build on one another.

Hopefully, when it comes time to do the business plan, they’ll make groups with one person from each department, so as to cover all aspects of the business plan itself.

As for how to do problems, I think I may go with two a week rather than one. The semester is sped up, and they’ll have a lot of time in class to work on these problems. We’ll be in the computer lab once a week, so I can make every other problem require a presentation of some kind. That’ll give them all the practice they need for the end of the semester, when they present their business plans.

There is one other issue.

Last semester, I allowed one group to work on problems of an academic nature; basically, they formed a college and had to deal with problems a college would face rather than a corporation. Instead of a business plan, they developed a recruitment brochure and presentation (which was fantastic). Do I want to do that again? It was a bit of a hassle for me, but the students got a lot out of it.

I think if I do it, I’m going to do it with a set of restrictions: I’ll let them be a department in a university, so they have to deal with deans, graduate students, and university wide issues. Then at the end, instead of a business plan, I’ll make them put together a curriculum. Having put together a curriculum myself, I know how difficult that can be, even if it ends up only about five pages. (If I remember right, the one I helped on ended up only a couple of pages long, but after about 200 drafts).

That’s my plan. Now, back to lots and lots of reading.

  1. uninvoked says:

    I’d love to sit in on this class. It sounds like you’ve got a wonderful plan going, and that you’re a pretty good teacher. Keep us updated on how the class goes.

  2. cogitas says:

    Thank you for your comment! I will keep updating how it grows and how it ends up running.

    Can I ask how you found me? I’m always curious when people find my blog.

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