One of the most interesting sessions I attended at this year’s Association for Business Communication conference was Anna Haney-Withrow’s presentation “Workplace Writing Across the Curriculum.”
Writing across the curriculum (WAC) is nothing new; however, this was the first I had heard of the concept applied to professional and business writing. I have been thinking ever since about ways that I can promote workplace writing across the curriculum not only within our College of Business but also across our university.
Anna provided several reasons for promoting workplace WAC.
- Employers consistently report that employees lack fundamental writing skills.
- Business communication instructors increasingly feel pressure to improve workplace readiness.
- If workplace writing in students’ disciplines were to appeal to students’ emerging identities as professionals, students could start to think more carefully about this new identity and how to construct it.
- As faculty see workplace writing in the disciplines integrated in their classes, the value and visibility of business communication may increase—as may our resources for teaching it.
Anna uses several strategies to promote workplace WAC:
- She challenges those who comment that students cannot write by asking, “What are you doing to elicit good writing from your students?”
- She held a summer institute to show her colleagues how to incorporate and assess workplace writing assignments in their classrooms.
- She helps faculty understand that sometimes students’ writing does not reflect students’ writing ability so much as it reflects their lack of understanding of rhetorical context (thus the emails from students that look like text messages intended for their friends).
- She demonstrates the relative ease of assigning and assessing workplace writing assignments compared, say, to assigning and assessing a complicated analysis.
- She uses a professional writing wiki to provide colleagues with several resources for assigning and assessing workplace writing. The wiki serves both as a space for students’ group work and as a repository of resources for colleagues who give writing assignments in their classes. Resources include sample writing assignments that can be applied to any discipline (e.g., instruction writing, transmittal letter, recommendation writing, team writing, environmental writing); a list of writing vocabulary (e.g., “genre,” “medium”) that all students in all disciplines are required to know; and a rubric based on the American Association of Colleges and Universities writing rubric that could be used across all disciplines.
Anna has agreed to share her wiki with us. You can submit a request to join the “professionalwritingfgcu” workspace on the wiki at PBworks (https://my.pbworks.com/?p=home).
Thank you, Anna, for sharing these wonderful materials.
As those of you who attended the conference can attest, there was just not enough time to attend all of the fantastic presenations. If you were at ABC and would like to blog about your presentation, please let us know.