Canavor Workshop Brings Together Professional Writing Faculty

This is a first-person account written by one of the MA in WRD graduate assistants, Allison Pelletier. 

On March 4, DePaul faculty members who teach professional, business, and technical writing for WRD attended an on-campus workshop, hosted by WRD and led by Natalie Canavor, author of Business Writing Today: A Practical Guide.

As a graduate student in WRD, I am both excited by and intimidated by the prospect of teaching at the college level. I am equally enthusiastic about any opportunities that will help prepare me to teach. So although I’ve had little experience with professional writing, I was glad for the invitation to join this workshop.

Canavor began by asking faculty what arguments they make to their students about why it is important to be a good writer in professional settings. As faculty shared their ideas, the themes reflected those I’ve encountered in pedagogy classes. Though professional writing was identified at the start of the workshop as being decidedly different from academic writing, it can be taught with the same rhetorically-situated pedagogy with which I’m becoming familiar. The focus on writing that has a real audience and a specific and meaningful purpose began to demystify this realm of writing for me.

Much of the workshop was built around collaborative activities. In one, Canavor asked small groups of faculty to create an audience profile for an email scenario. My group’s scenario was to write an email to our boss, asking for funding to present at a conference in Hawaii. As we worked to create a profile of our hypothetical boss, we bounced around many different ideas. I was intrigued by the perspectives that each member of my group contributed to this activity. In fact, these collaborative activities reminded me how important this sort of dialogue is as I develop my own pedagogy.


Faculty members prepare ideas for a group activity

Faculty members prepare ideas for a group activity

In another activity, Canavor asked us to each write and share an “elevator speech” or short self-introduction. The elevator speech, I learned, is a classic genre in business writing classes. Many of the faculty in the room shared the self-introduction that they typically give to a classroom of new students on the first day of a class. This activity was a good reminder that you don’t have to be working in a Fortune 500 company to be ‘doing’ professional communication. It’s something that all professionals do, and something that I’ll surely do in the future as a teacher.

Overall, this workshop left me with many great ideas to apply to my ever-changing teaching philosophy.

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