Breakout Session

The Professional Writing/Communication Initiative: Enhancing Student Performance

Track:  Assessment

Thursday, November 29th, 10:30am-11:30am

The Professional Writing and Communications Initiative at William Paterson University has as its aim the enhancement of writing and communications ability by business school students. In this presentation, tools of assessment (such as rubrics) and exactly what constitutes “high quality writing” are discussed. This year, the presenters offer ideas on connecting the Writing Initiative to an overall multi communications model (such as public speaking).


Andrew McCarthy
Writing Coach and Adjunct Professor
William Paterson University

Bio / Expertise:
My topic is to discuss The Professional Writing Initiative and how to enhance student writing using online resources. I have worked for the likes of The Los Angeles Times, Cablevision, and TV International as a writer and editor and can be called an expert of the craft. I have an MBA, an MA in Journalism, and an M ED in Administration.


Stephen Betts
Professor of Management
William Paterson University

Bio / Expertise
Dr. Stephen C. Betts is a Professor of Management at William Paterson University.  His primary teaching area is organizational behavior.  He was on the team that started the Professional Writing Initiative at WPUNJ.  His classes were used to pilot the program and are still used to refine and test different approaches.  He is actively involved in sharing the methods developed by facilitating faculty seminars and giving conference presentations on developing professional writing programs.


Presentation Content:
Summary:  We will present ways to improve student writing
Activity: A Power Point and a survey to be filled out
Outcome: Data and reactions to our ideas from other professionals
Importance: Writing enhancement is critical across the curricula nowadays!

Proficiency in business writing is a critical skill that employers seek in job applicants.  Unfortunately recent college graduates are frequently deficient in this area.  To address this problem, the Cotsakos College of Business at William Paterson University established a Professional Writing and Communication Initiative.  In this workshop participants will design an ‘ideal professional writing initiative’.  We will examine the components of such an initiative and determine the resources, programs and activities needed to support it.

At the Cotsakos College of Business we used a measured, deliberate approach when we started our Professional Writing Initiative.  Three years ago we started with a diagnostic phase, however we knew it was still possible to possible to provide meaningful feedback while assessing writing skills (Fraser, Harich, Norby, Brzovic, Rizkallah & Loewy, 2005).  From the literature we knew that the use of rubrics (Rau, 2009), heuristics (Hershey, 2007)and guidelines (Jameson, 2006) had been shown to help with writing development and assessment.  We started with course embedded assignments, and developed a rubric for assessing student writing.  During the past year we assessed the writing needs in almost all core areas of the business curriculum and tested our student writing rubric.  We have also moved beyond writing and began addressing oral communication skills.  We are in the diagnostic phase of the oral communications initiative, and have already developed and are testing public speaking rubrics (see next page).

In this workshop, we plan to briefly review the relevant research on developing business writing and speaking skills, followed by an overview of our Professional Writing/COmmunication Initiative.  These set the stage for the bulk of the workshop – a collaborative exploration of the resources, programs and activities needed at the college, department and course level to support a professional writing initiative.  We will break into groups for a multi-stage exercise culminating in a collaborative, comprehensive ‘ideal design’ for a program to develop in our students the writing skills they will need for success in their professional careers.  Participant will be able to bring these ideas back to their parent organizations and start a discussion towards establishing their own professional writing initiatives.


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