18th August 2021

Book in Focus

Teaching Business, Technical and Academic Writing Online and Onsite

A Writing Pedagogy Sourcebook

By Sarbani Sen Vengadasalam

The following text has been adapted from the preface (pp. x-xiii)

From one writing teacher to another, Teaching Business, Technical and Academic Writing Online and Onsite: A Writing Pedagogy Sourcebook offers pedagogical insights and instructional tools for the three key aspects of facilitating a class successfully: instructional design, participation management, and multimedia use. When instructors focus synergistically on these three aspects of class facilitation to plan, engage, and manage their classes, the courses—whether taught in face-to-face, blended, or online formats—become holistic learning experiences for students.

All courses begin with planning. Section One of this book, titled “Pedagogics, Instructional Principles, and Syllabus Design”, discusses various theoretical scaffoldings and distinguishing frameworks that underpin how writing instructors devise instructional activities. Even though the syllabus always carries the institutional and departmental stamp in its course objective, grading policy, and delivery system, so much so that the individual teacher has little say in the global framework, they can bring their unique signature and teaching philosophy into the local, on-the ground instruction of the course. Since it is through weekly activities, instructional methods, and actionable assignments that course objectives are achieved, the way in which each writing teacher envisages and plans out the course matters.

Teaching project writing in scientific and technical writing classes or in professional and business writing courses can be confounding because they need to be both real-world and academic exercises. Chapter One, titled “Superimposing R.E.A.L. Principles on the Project Writing Pyramid: A Paradigm Shift in Teaching Professional Writing,” discusses how professional writing classes, which were set up to prepare students for on-the-job writing, can better accomplish their goal. To get consistent outputs from classes that require the writing of project proposals or reports, writing teachers may want to interpose R.E.A.L. principles onto the Find-Test-Deliver pedagogical triangle that represents the three phases of their project writing courses. When any of the R.E.A.L principles (where ‘R’ stands for ‘Reader-oriented’, ‘E’ for ‘Extensively researched’, ‘A’ for ‘Actionable solution’, and ‘L’ for ‘Looped composition’) are ignored or improperly transposed on the project writing pyramid, the writing output suffers and is neither workplace-oriented nor academically satisfying. The chapter offers insights into the rationale behind the principles, and proffers suggestions on how instructors could incorporate them into their teaching. Evolving out of a presentation given at the University of Maryland University College’s Sharefair, the chapter was first published in the International Journal of Curriculum and Instruction (Volume 12, Number 2) in 2020.

Academic writing teachers, too, face pedagogical challenges while instructing academic writing courses at undergraduate or graduate levels. Chapter Two, titled “Transformative Pedagogy and Student Voice: Using S.E.A. Principles in Teaching Academic Writing,” describes how transformative pedagogy can be a way out since its implementation leads to the development of distinct student voices. Whether the course is taught at the undergraduate level through readings, research, and argumentative writing tasks, or at the graduate level through literature review, synthesis, and academic treatise writing assignments, teachers will find the article useful in their mission of helping students find their voices and make contributions to knowledge. The chapter expands on how the principles of Scaffolding, Empowerment, and Awareness lead to the development of student expression, and usher in transformation for all stakeholders in the academic writing classroom. Growing out of a New Jersey College English Association conference presentation, the chapter was first published in the Journal of Effective Teaching in Higher Education in its Fall 2020 issue.

There is an urgent need to teach and popularize ‘Writing for Publications’ classes at the graduate and doctoral levels. While acknowledging that the debate about who should instruct such classes continues, Chapter Three proffers methods and practices that writing instructors could use to teach such a demanding course. It highlights how the course could encourage scholar-participants to opt for modeling as a way to familiarize themselves with disciplinary and journal conventions. Since peer-reviews are central to the publication process, the chapter especially expands on the way online peer-review workshops could be conducted at milestone points in the semester to elevate and formalize the peer-review process. A sample syllabus, with week-by-week activity break-up, is offered. Developing out of a GlobETS conference presentation, this chapter was first published in the Journal of Critical Studies in Language and Literature in July 2020.

The teacher, whether they are teaching onsite, online, or in a blended format, needs to use discussion spaces for instructional purposes, as well as for encouraging participatory learning. Keeping students engaged and driven by using multimedia materials, as well as training them to present complex material through visuals, is the need of the hour. Section Two touches on these important areas, and is titled “Facilitating Online Discussions, Incorporating Digital Multimedia Assets, and Using Visual Tools.” It offers detailed knowhow and information on guiding online participation for writing teachers in general and online teachers in particular. It also discusses how digital multimedia assets, such as open educational resources, which are changing the face of education, may be used in the classroom. In addition, it highlights new methods and best practices in creating and using visuals, such as infographics.

Moving class discussions up Bloom’s taxonomy scale is an index of a teacher’s success in steering them in ways that realize the cognitive goals they set up for the course. Since the discussion area on a learning management system is the space where class interaction and the teaching and learning happens, Chapter Four offers tools and methods to instructors to assess discussions and information flow, not only from teacher to student, but also between student and student, and from student to teacher. The creation of threads and trees as visible and measurable indicators is discussed, even as rubrics are offered for use in the chapter. Screenshots from learning management systems used in classes at various American universities are utilized to demonstrate the use of the discussion pedagogy outlined here. The chapter builds off a Rutgers Online Learning conference presentation titled “Of Threads and Trees: How Less is too Less?” and was first published in Writing and Pedagogy (Volume 5, Issue 2) in 2014, under the title “A Learner Centered Pedagogy to Facilitate and Grade Online Discussions in Writing Courses.”

Chapter Five discusses open educational resource repositories, the need for curation, and the challenges facing the open educational resources movement. It describes best practices and outlines of a possible open educational resources taxonomy and open educational resources pedagogy. After offering a checklist/rubric to help educators decide on which kind of open educational resource to choose, the chapter describes three ways of interfacing with such resources in writing classes in general, and business and technical writing classes in particular. It reviews various findings before concluding that the future belongs to open educational resources due to their value as multimedia assets. The chapter grew out of a presentation at the New Jersey Writers Association conference, and was first published in the Fall 2020-Winter 2021 issue of the International Journal of Open Educational Resources with the title “Moving towards an Open Educational Resources (O.E.R.) Pedagogy: Presenting Three Ways of Using O.E.R. in the Professional Writing Classroom.”

Chapter Six, titled “Infographics in Academic & Professional Writing,” focuses on the need to use infographics in academic teaching and project writing. The special requirements of teaching the new generation of students are discussed, and the reasons why it has become necessary for teachers to use infographics to enhance their teaching and classroom interactions are detailed. It also considers why teachers of academic, business, and technical writing classes need to encourage students to use infographics, which are combinations of texts and images, data visualizations and illustrations, brought together effectively by their creators’ controlling visions. Evolving out of a North Eastern Group symposium presentation, the chapter proffers practitioner details on infographic tools, possible assignments, and best practices. An earlier version of the article was published under the title “The Why and How of the Infographic Wow: Infographics in Teaching and Writing: Best Practices” in the DeVry University Journal of Scholarly Research (Volume 4, Issue 2) in 2018.

Every chapter has grown out of this author’s diverse and variegated teaching and corporate experiences spread across over 25 years. As an undergraduate and graduate teacher who has taught successfully in online, onsite, and hybrid formats in over a dozen global institutions, this writer has written each chapter with a practitioner focus. Since the author has been a full-time faculty, content expert, and Visiting Professor of academic, business and technical writing, and has worked as Marketing Director and Technical Communicator at premier corporate houses such as the INFINITEE group, the book contains ideas that can help the writing teacher connect the classroom to the work world. Again, every stratagem discussed in this handy sourcebook has been tried and tested while teaching in online, onsite, and hybrid formats at nearly a dozen leading American institutions including Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and the University of Minnesota. Hence, writing teachers in general and the underserved online writing teachers in particular will find strategies in this handbook that will help them engage and connect to students better, as well as make their classes stand out. In the post-COVID context that has forced writing instructors to explore online and blended teaching formats that are now poised to become the norm rather than the exception, this pedagogic sourcebook with its collection of best practices is likely to prove especially useful for teachers trying to excel in both remote and hybrid teaching. After all, each best practice in this book is being shared from one writing teacher to another with one central objective: to empower fellow teachers to help students to excel both in academia and the workplace.

For comments, speaking, and review requests, please contact the author at sarbani.dr@gmail.com.

“Not only is Dr Sen Vengadasalam acutely aware of the current state of instruction of our professional writing population, at both undergraduate and graduate levels, she has been at the forefront of its evolution, and assists us, through this book, in leading our students and colleagues into its inevitable next stage. I am certain this text will remain one of my most valuable resources for years to come.”
William Magrino, PhD
Associate Teaching Professor, Rutgers University; Lead author, Scientific and Technical Writing & Business and Professional Writing

“Sarbani Sen Vengadasalam’s sharing of resources in this book, culled from a career in the field, is a sign of her meta-teaching; her syllabi and explication are “how-to” in that, with her academic writing pedagogy, Sarbani Sen Vengadasalam calls writers “teachers.” In that sense, she is the teacher of teachers.”
Miriam Jaffe, PhD
Associate Teaching Professor, Rutgers University; Associate Editor, Writing and Pedagogy

“This book is at one and the same time a theoretically sophisticated guide to the principles and best practices of writing instruction, a how to manual for designing and implementing writing courses across disciplines and modalities, as well as a sourcebook of course-ready exercises, assignments, syllabi, and daily schedules that will plug and play into classes across English, business, and scientific departments. Drawing on responses from employers themselves as well as the author’s own rich experiences in the academic and the corporate world, this is a book designed to train professionals to represent themselves and their institutions with distinction.”
Jonathan Elmore, PhD
Coordinator of First Year Writing, Savannah State University; Managing Editor, Watchung Review

“Industry advisory boards constantly bemoan that students are not adequately equipped with soft skills such as written communication and presentation skills. This book provides the means by which individual educators or academic communities can explore, discuss and address a widening communications gap within and without the institution. The book readily provides the basis for faculty development and training programs designed to meet the demands of the learning environment in the 21st century. A practical guide that integrates material from a very wide range of sources for busy academics, Dr Sen Vengadasalam’s sourcebook is preparing faculty for an interactive learning environment and shares best practices for integrating technology and technology-oriented thinking into course and syllabus design and the art and craft of online discussions.”
Deborah Helman
Marketing Professor; Editor, DeVry Journal of Scholarly Research

A University Grants Commission scholar, Sarbani Sen Vengadasalam holds an MA, MPhil, PhD, and a professional MBA certificate. As a teacher, she has pioneered nearly 30 different blended, onsite, and online courses at prominent universities worldwide, and has also contributed to the profession through consultancies to leading global organizations such as Tata and the Infinitee Group. A founding member of the Graduate Writing Program at Rutgers University, USA, she is currently a senior faculty member in the Business and Technical Writing program at the same institution. Her publications include over 20 scholarly journal articles and the groundbreaking book New Postcolonial Dialectics (2019).

Teaching Business, Technical and Academic Writing Online and Onsite: A Writing Pedagogy Sourcebook is available now in Hardback at a 25% discount. Enter PROMO25 to redeem.

eBook available via Google Play.

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