Academic journal article Composition Studies

English 4090: Collaborative Writing at Work

Academic journal article Composition Studies

English 4090: Collaborative Writing at Work

Article excerpt



English 4090, Collaborative Writing at Work, is a course I have taught twice; this essay focuses on the most recent time, Spring 2006. The course is a senior-level elective designed to reinforce students' existing knowledge of professional writing and to teach students how to apply that knowledge effectively in collaborative contexts. Students complete both individual and group assignments, mostly the latter. The major group project asks students to create a company that is sending a group of employees overseas. As part of this project, students prepare a mission statement describing their company, a proposal explaining the rationale for choosing a particular country, a research review evaluating sources about that country, a progress report, a brochure introducing the country to employees being sent there, and an oral presentation briefing those employees.1 Students also read and discuss articles about group process and collaboration, creating a theoretical base they can use both in the class and in their professional lives.


Kean University is a public metropolitan university located in Union, New Jersey, approximately thirty minutes from New York City. Its mission, according to the undergraduate catalog, is to prepare students "to think critically and creatively; to adapt to changing social, economic, and technological environments; and to serve as active and contributing members of their communities" (4). Approximately 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students, most of whom commute, make up the student body. In Fall 2005, about half were classified in a minority group (Fact). Tuition and fees for in-state students in Spring 2006 were $3,750.00, and approximately sixty percent of the student body receives some sort of financial aid (Tuition; Financial). The full-time faculty numbers 384, with a large contingent of part-time faculty (Fact). Kean is best known for teacher education, with Elementary Education the largest major on campus and Early Childhood Education the fourth largest (Fact). State law requires Education majors to select a second major in a content area. Many choose English.

The English major contains four options. The standard option and two teacher-certification options (one for secondary education and one for teachers of students with disabilities) emphasize literature. Elementary and Early Childhood Education majors can choose either the standard or the writing option. Students fulfilling the writing option take the following required courses: the history and theory of writing, advanced composition, writing about literature, a Shakespeare survey, an introduction to grammar and linguistics, and a capstone seminar. Most of the courses in the writing option are électives: students must take eight, two in literature and six in writing. This flexibility gives students the opportunity to tailor their course of study to meet their interests.

Collaborative Writing at Work most obviously benefits those students interested in professional writing. The course gives them more practice with writing in professional genres, helping them learn how to prepare those documents effectively when working with a group. Since the course is usually offered in the evening, it tends to attract working students who want to advance their careers. Education majors, particularly those fulfilling the writing option, also take ENG 4090. The course benefits these students by introducing them to theories and issues related to group process; these future educators can use that information to decide how to use groups in their pedagogy.


The course proposal for ENG 4090 lists three objectives: "to review and reinforce the principles and practices of writing on the job," "to demonstrate that working as a team to develop and produce a useable project makes members more tolerant and respectful of the opinions of others," and "to convince students that. …

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