Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Fall Teaching

I have yet to start full-on prep for the course I'm teaching in the fall, but I did learn the other day that I'll lead a section of WRT307: Advanced Writing Studio: Professional Writing.  Just the one course for teaching this fall, plus taking two or three (I have an elective yet to elect, either fall or spring). 

WRT307 is relatively familiar, although among the bazillion comp courses I've taught, a professional writing course, per se, isn't among them.  I've been through the repository of syllabi from recent semesters, scanned a select few of them into PDFs for later reference.  A gross curricular generalization about the course as read through quick glances at the heap of course documents:  lead with generic forms (a resume and cover letter assignment); follow with a study/analysis of workplace information flow, rhetorical analysis of a specific document or document set, or interview with a professional on writing practices; follow with a simulation-project with emphases on design, usability, ethics.  Collaborative and presentational dimensions are inscribed in the course outcomes, I think.

I still have about two weeks before I'm obligated to order books.  For now, I'm leaning toward a course pack--a collection with a chapter or two from The Social Life of Information, The Cluetrain Manifesto, Porter and Sullivan's essay, "Repetition and the Rhetoric of Visual Design," a chapter from Dias et.al.'s Worlds Apart (on the notebooks of architects or academe/workplace transition).  Much of the other stuff I can come up with online (perils of blogging, perils of powerpoint) or perhaps by bringing in a chapter from a text book (recommendations?).  Frankly, for now I'm trying to think of ways to breach some of the constraint I find in the conventional genre approach (a resume is always only x, y, z).  I understand convention, and I'm not trying to squander my students' futures.  Just the opposite, in fact.  I'm actually interested in doing more than filling compartments with autoblandography.  Workplace templates are so pervasive and so deeply systematized that we can teach to them be-damned the specific situation?  The simulation approach (let's be a business) presents some interesting possibilities and challenges, too, but I have to give it more thought.  If it will be done well, it will be done with a different sort of joint involvement.  Certainly all of this will ripple and shift when we convene this fall (and so the sim performances might be held off until the last chunk of the course).  But it's one of the things I've been working through in recent days, besides reading and responding to work from students in the two (soon-to-end) courses I'm teaching, besides putzing with CSS and MT plugins on breaks from reading student work, besides crying (tears? sweat?) about the unbearable heat and humidity (mid-sixties overnight tonight though...finally, some sleep). 

Any thoughts about what's missing from this developing plan?

Bookmark and Share Posted by at July 19, 2005 10:47 PM to Dry Ogre Chalking

hey, d. no. i see nothing that you're missing from yr plan. yr absolutely right that the genre approach is fraught with limitiations and problems and yet there's a certain amount of genre recognition that's called for. i tend to steer clear of the standard textbooks for that reason (they tend to be organized according to genre and to present them simplistically) and put the responsibility (onus) for genre instruction on the students themselves (i actually do a unit called the genre presentation project) . . . . as for resumes and cover letters, i'd recommend doing what you want with them quickly and early and getting past them asap . . . . let me know if you want to hear my approach on that. we (vivian and i) did a miniseminar on 307 last month; let me know if you'd like any of the stuff from that. gr

Posted by: gr at July 20, 2005 10:44 AM

Hey - I'm teaching 307 in the fall also. This could be fun! I don't see anything "missing" per se from your thoughts, but the one thing I noticed in your description is an emphasis on studying workplacew writing, and while there is a certain amount of that to be done with this course (as you have noted: information flows, genres, rhetorical analysis of documents), the real emphasis is on the actual doing of that kind of writing. In my class, the discussions around flows, audience, expectations, genres and other forms of analysis will stem from student texts as much as possible.

I don't plan to use a textbook. I do plan to discuss how a handbook can be useful in a business or workplace setting, and what other kinds of resources are useful, but I want the course to be most about writing - designing and producing text - rather than reading.

I'd love to talk through ideas with you if you're up for it. The stuff George and Vivian presented in the mini-seminar is also very useful in terms of thinking through course structure and types of assignments.

Posted by: Chris Geyer at July 20, 2005 11:54 AM

That tension between genre and flexibility is an important one for this class. Some students are comfortable with challenging formulaic writing, while others don't necessarily recognize the value of formatting in terms of reader awareness. The more you can encourage the class to really talk, the more their different strengths and questions will tackle this important issue for themselves.

As for books: I liked using one, but I didn't assign chapters in order, and I brought in other sample books to have groups use them as resources. But that's just me.

Posted by: susansinclair at July 20, 2005 3:51 PM

Yes, I'd like to see the stuff from the mini-seminar. I was planning to check in with you about 307 on Anne's recommendation.

I'm looking forward to teaching it too, Chris. I'd be glad to chat about it sometime. I've been coming to campus in the evenings usually, but I'll be around during the day for a while on Thursday. We can set a time if that doesn't work. And I see that my entry spoke mainly to concerns with reading and thematic concerns, but I do intend to engage students in a bit of writing, too. ;)

Helpful reminders, Susan. I want to keep the last two-thirds of the course plan provisional enough that I can adjust once I get to know the students better. I'm trying to look at textbook possibilities tomorrow or Friday. I have a copy of your syllabus from the fall, but I haven't spent any time yet reading much for 307 (syllabi or possible readings).

Posted by: Derek at July 20, 2005 9:45 PM