This quarter, WRD Professor Sarah Read was granted a competitive Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) Research Initiative grant. Beginning in March, Read along with her colleague Michael Michaud at Rhode Island College, will begin a national survey research project called “Surveying the Status of the Multi-major Professional Writing Course in U.S. Institutions of Higher Education.” As the title of the project suggests, the main goal of this research project is to gather vital data about introductory professional writing courses taught at colleges and universities across the country.
According to Read, what is interesting about these introductory professional writing courses is that they are quite common and offered at most institutions of higher learning, much like First Year Writing courses such as WRD 103 and 104 at DePaul.
Yet, says Read, professional writing courses do not receive the same amount of scholarly attention and research as the previously mentioned First Year Writing courses. We hope to change this with our research.
Another primary goal of Read’s is to use the data collected to create a general set of recommended learning outcomes for these professional writing courses to be used by colleges across the nation.
This survey research project is the product of previous investigations conducted by Read and Michaud in which they explored the possibility of translating the “Writing about Writing” teaching approach (which is most commonly used in First Year Writing classes) to professional writing classes. In a nutshell, “Writing about Writing” encourages students to read and write about writing itself, which raises student self-awareness about writing and communication. This initial project culminated in a February 2015 scholarly article published in College Composition and Communication—the flagship research journal in Rhetoric and Composition studies.
As Read and Michaud move forward with the next phase of their research, they plan to administer their survey to members of the National Council of Teachers of English and the CCCC. This survey intends to collect information from a wide variety of higher learning institutions—from two-year colleges to large universities. Read says that she hopes to collect descriptive data about the courses being taught at each institution represented in the survey as well as subjective perceptions about the overall effectiveness of these introductory professional writing courses.
Once the data has been collected, Read hopes to use what she and Michaud find to garner more scholarly attention and action toward introductory professional writing courses. Many teaching structures and resources have already been created for First Year Writing, but professional writing is less developed in this sense. Consequently, Read’s research is also relevant to the student of professional writing as her goal to create general learning outcomes could lead to increased class effectiveness.