Course number: ENGL 491A
Course name: Professional Field Experience: Capstone
Term and year: Summer 2012
Location: The cloud
Times: See the course schedule
Professor: John Jones, Assistant Professor
Prof. email: john dot jones at-sign mail dot wvu dot edu
Prof. Twitter: johnmjones
Office location: 231 Colson Hall
Office hours: Online by appointment
ENGL 491A: Professional Field Experience is the capstone experience for the Professional Writing and Editing (PWE) concentration. The intent of the capstone experience is to provide you with a venue in which you can apply and further develop the skills and knowledge you have acquired during your training as PWE majors. As you proceed with the internship, you will gain practical experience functioning as a writer within a professional organization. You will develop skills in reading—or recognizing and analyzing—the culture of your particular organization, and you will apply this knowledge in order to adapt to the workplace environment, contribute to the organization’s work, and eventually identify possibilities for innovation. As the term progresses, you will become more adept at thinking of yourself as a professional writer, and you will be better prepared to develop and apply your knowledge and analytic abilities to future workplace experiences.
While you gain on-the-job experience as a writer in a professional setting, you will also participate in an online biweekly discussion in applied rhetoric. This seminar will give you a regular opportunity to discuss observations, problems, and accomplishments that arise on the job and to reflect on how you can best prepare yourself for future workplace experiences. The class will take a workshop approach in which we apply theories of workplace writing to our own internship experiences, share internship projects during class, and work on developing our identities as future professional writers. Because we may discuss sensitive work-related topics in class and because you may encounter sensitive materials in your workplace, you will need to maintain an ethical awareness of individual and workplace boundaries.
The following items (excluding recommendations) are requirements for the course. Required texts must be purchased by the second class meeting. If you will have any problems fulfilling these requirements, please contact me immediately.
- Herb J. Smith and Kim Haimes-Korn. Portfolios for Technical and Professional Communicators. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2007. ISBN: 0131704583
- George Plumley. WordPress 24-Hour Trainer. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Wiley, 2011. ISBN: 1118066901.
Regular access to
- a computer with a Web camera/microphone,
- the Internet,
- a MIX email account which is checked daily,
- a Twitter account,
- a Google Docs account,
- a Google+ account,
- a RSS reader like Google Reader for tracking the main course blog, and
- a personal website where you will host your Web portfolio. You may choose whatever hosting service (direct hosting on your own domain or third-party) you prefer, but I strongly encourage you to use WordPress.
- An automated backup service for your data like SpiderOak or Dropbox;
- services for tracking your research, like Evernote for note-taking, Delicious for tracking Web sources, and Zotero or RefWorks for managing research and formatting citations; and
- a service for uploading and sharing media, like Scribd for documents, Vimeo or YouTube for videos, and Flickr or Picassa for photos.
Assignments with (grade percentage)
Over the course of the term, students will
- Complete 140 hours of internship work in a professional manner (40%)
- Participate in all class activities and complete assigned reading and writing assignments (15%)
- Produce a virtual poster presentation to summarize and communicate your internship experience (20%)
- Produce a Web portfolio of internship materials (25%)
Unless otherwise noted, all assignments should be submitted to me via your course folder on Google Docs.
You need to work at your internship a minimum of 140 hours and these hours should be completed before the end of the term. The schedule is flexible; for example, you could work 28 hours per week for the span of 5 weeks or 48 hours per week for 3 weeks. What must be consistent, however, is your carrying out your internship work in a professional manner. As a PWE intern, you are responsible for:
- Informing the internship sponsor of the criteria for ENGL 491A;
- Arriving at the internship at the designated time and location, prepared for work;
- Recording the hours you work and activities you perform in the “Internship Log” (this form can be downloaded at the forms page) and updating the form in your Google Docs folder each Monday;
- Contacting your supervisor in advance regarding any absence and completing the duties of the absent period at a time convenient to both your sponsor and you;
- Executing assigned tasks to the best of your ability; and
- Seeking help from your supervisor should you have questions regarding an assigned task.
Of course, the PWE internship has been designed for the benefit not only of the internship sponsor but also for you. Consequently, your internship sponsor is responsible for the following activities:
- Assigning work that is relevant and useful to both the sponsoring organization and to your professional development,
- Assigning work requiring skills developed in your PWE major or minor (e.g. writing, editing, research, etc.),
- Training and guiding you through your designated tasks (and/or assigning a mentor to you), and
- Serving as a resource regarding career information and other aspects of professional development.
You internship sponsor also will file a formal evaluation of your professionalism and work ethic at the end of the term (the form is available for download here). I will use this evaluation, conversations with your supervisor, and my own observations of your work to assign your grade for this component of the course.
There will be three online group discussions during the course of the term. We will conduct these chats via Google+ hangouts. To participate, you will need access to a computer with voice or video capabilities, access to the Internet, and a Google+ account. Prior to our first chat, follow the link above and install the necessary software on the computer you will be using. You should also add me (jmj5805 [at] gmail [dot] com) to your Google+ circles.
The dates and times of our chats will be posted on the course schedule once they are set. The purpose of these discussions will be to help me keep track of your progress, to give you an opportunity to share your successes and to ask questions about problems or concerns you may be facing with your internship or your assignments, to learn from your peers about how they are handling their professional writing internships, and to ensure that you make steady progress on your final portfolio and presentation. You are required to participate in all of the class chats.
To focus our discussions about portfolio keeping, Web portfolio building, and PWE internship-related topics, prior to each discussion you should have all scheduled reading and writing assignments completed. If you have not adequately prepared for these meetings, this will negatively affect this portion of your grade.
- Expectations essay: Examine your syllabus for the course, the required textbooks, your notes from our first chat, and any conversations you have had with your internship site supervisor. Pay close attention to policies, procedures, assignments, and expectations for the English 491A course and your internship organization. After doing so, write one single-spaced page explaining how you expect to do in this course. You may answer questions like: What assignments or activities do you think you will do well on in the course or in your internship work? Why? What assignments or activities do you think will be difficult for you? Why? What parts of your reading, writing, and work history make you confident about some parts of the course or internship and hesitant about others?
- Revisiting expectations essay: Review your Expectations essay where you practiced reflection. Reread what you wrote about your expectations for the course and the internship and about the areas in which you thought your strengths would help you. Do you still agree with what you wrote? How did your expectations match up with the reality of the course and your internship? What parts of this exercise can you use in writing the reflective and contextual statements for your electronic portfolio?
West Virginia University requires that all capstone courses include a public presentation component. Toward this end, you will produce a stand-alone presentation that summarizes your internship experience for other members of the WVU community. Your presentations will help to educate WVU students and teachers as well as the public about the field of professional writing. Collectively, your presentations will help WVU and Morgantown community members to better understand answers to these types of questions:
- What kinds of organizations do professional writers work for?
- What types of positions do professional writers occupy?
- What sorts of roles do professional writers fill in these organizations?
- What genres of writing do professional writers create?
- What kinds of skills do professional writers use?
More generally, your presentation will heighten audience members’ awareness and deepen their understanding of the cultures of professional writing at West Virginia University and in Morgantown.
Specifically, your presentation should highlight two or three materials that best represent your internship experience. You should accompany each of these documents with a contextual analysis that indicates the audience, purpose, genre conventions, and other circumstances or constraints for each of these materials, and discusses how you negotiated this context. Since you will have both visual and audio resources at your disposal as you create this project, and since the physical spaces in which people write often shape their work in significant ways, I also encourage you to incorporate photographs or video of your workspaces into your presentations and your reflections. Finally, to fulfill the objectives of the capstone course, you should incorporate a reflective component through which you reflect on how all of these materials speak to your academic and professional development over the course of your internship.
Because this course is conducted over the summer, we will not have a group event highlighting your presentations. However, your presentations will be shared with the WVU community in accordance with WVU’s capstone guidelines.
Basic components of your virtual poster
- Title: The title of your presentation should draw your audience’s attention to the aspect(s) of your internship experience that you want to highlight in your exhibit. Do you want to focus on the genres that you wrote? The type of organization in which you worked? The rhetorical purposes of the documents you wrote for the organization?
- Brief description of the organization where you interned.
- Brief description of your internship experience. You could address these types of issues:
- the variety of tasks you did, both writing and non-writing;
- the amount of material you produced;
- the kinds of materials you produced; and
- the process through which you produced these materials (e.g., what kinds of research you did and where you did research, whom you worked with, who gave you feedback, how many drafts you produced of most documents, how long you worked on most projects).
Presenting and analyzing your documents
You certainly can use the presentation to describe and analyze your internship experience in any way that you find to be most effective and most appropriate. However, your presentations should also showcase two or three documents that best represent the work you’ve done this term, the kind of work done at the organization where you interned, and/or the kind of work done by people in the position you held. Accompanying each document, provide explanation and analysis that describes it in these kinds of ways:
- Genre of the document
- Audience for the document
- Purpose of the document
- Key rhetorical features of the genre, and
- Key rhetorical decisions (textual and/or non-textual) you made in creating the document.
Your analysis of the document also should try to address the question, “What purpose does this document serve for the organization?” Put another way, “What does this document enable the organization to do?”
The ways in which you address these questions will help to contribute to our larger goal of educating the campus and local communities about the work of professional writers. Many people know that professional writers write documents, but they do not necessarily know the various ways in which these documents serve not only an organization’s clients and partners but also the organization’s internal workings as well. So, when thinking about the documents you’re exhibiting, consider the multiple purposes that any one document might serve and how you can communicate those purposes to the presentation’s audience. The purposes of a document could be external. For example, a technical description that accompanies a product could aim both to educate the consumer about the safe and effective use of that product, and it could also aim to create a positive impression of the company itself as being thorough, attentive to details, and consumer-oriented. The purposes of the document also could be internal to the organization itself. For example, a policy manual could help an organization to run more efficiently as it helps new members of the organization (particularly in a non-profit organization with high employee turnover rates) to learn their specific job responsibilities as well as to understand their work in relation to that of other employees or volunteers.
Format for the presentations
Your presentation should stand alone; that is, it should not simply be slides that require description or interpretation for the audience to understand them. You will apply the general guidelines for effective poster presentations to a virtual environment, adding electronic embellishments where appropriate. I recommend that you use Prezi for this task, as it will allow you to virtually create your materials, add audio and video, and allow you to guide viewers through the materials as you see fit while also making it possible for them to examine those materials at their own pace. We will use our chats to discuss the presentation in more detail, but here are some websites that you can explore as you begin to think about the form of your presentation and how you plan to share it, as well as examples of effective strategies for designing and constructing your presentation materials:
- Online presentation sharing services:
- Prezi: A website for making presentation materials that is not based on a slide metaphor. You could recreate a poster presentation (with commentary or guided paths) in Prezi.
- Traditional poster presentation information:
Assessment of the presentations
The assessment rubric explains the criteria I will use to evaluate your presentations. We will use our chats to discuss strategies for creating and presenting your poster in ways that address these specific criteria.
- Title: The title draws readers’ attention to a particularly unique or interesting aspect of the student’s internship experience.
- Documents: The documents featured in the presentation reflect the breadth and/or depth of the student’s professional writing experience during this internship.
- Analysis: The student’s analysis of the major PWE documents help readers to better understand what each type of document is, what purpose and audience it serves, how the student produced it, and/or what unique aspects the student composed in order to best respond to the rhetorical situation.
- Visual Design: The materials on the poster have been arranged in ways that help readers to understand the relationship (e.g., hierarchy, what-goes-with-what, etc.) between ideas and documents on the poster.
By the end of the term, you will have continually recorded and reflected on the strategies you used to work through writing and research projects in your internship position. During the term your tasks as a portfolio keeper will include tending to your developing ideas about individual writing projects in particular and professional writing more generally; keeping watch over your learning patterns; and, quite possibly, collaborating with colleagues at your internship site. At the end of the term, your responsibility will shift to putting together and polishing a final product. The final portfolio marks the culmination of your efforts in the capstone course, as you display to me your ability to be a reflective professional writer and to analyze and respond to rhetorical situations effectively.
By 5 p.m. EST on Friday, August 10, you will publish your portfolio to the Web and post the URL on the course website where your classmates and I can view your portfolio. Your portfolio should be revised, edited, and polished to presentation quality, and I will evaluate the argument it advances about your ability to make rhetorically informed choices. In effect, the purpose of your final portfolio is to convince me, your evaluator, that your portfolio represents your best work as a professional writing intern, that you have become a reflective learner, and that you have developed writing abilities that match the high evaluative standards set for WVU’s Professional Writing & Editing program.
The only firm guideline for the contents of your final portfolio is that it includes 20 pages of finished, polished writing. You are free to include any additional pages of finished or unfinished writing—from brainstorming and rough design sketches to drafts and email correspondence—that help you to make a specific claim about your abilities, your development, or your identity as a professional writer.
In addition to examples of the professional writing that you did through your internship, you will also compose an introduction to the portfolio that pulls together the various documents in your portfolio and explicates what these documents illustrate about your academic and professional development. This essay will explain the analysis that guided your decision-making about what to include in your portfolio. In this introduction, you will use your 20 pages of polished writing, as well as any additional materials you include in the portfolio, as evidence to support the claim you want to make about your development as a writer. For example, you might discuss how the extensive revisions you made to a brochure illustrate your greater sensitivity to an audience’s informational needs. Or, you might explain how the email correspondence with your colleagues shows you working through the difficulties of blending different writing styles. So, after you have selected your materials and built a cohesive argument, you will explain to me what cohesive argument they make and how they do so. Your goal with this essay is to show me what you have learned about the qualities of good professional writing, anticipating readers’ needs, and the importance of careful presentation.
As we will discuss throughout the term, the visual design of your Web portfolio plays an important part in readers’ assessment both of its content and of you, its composer. I expect students to come to this portfolio project with a wide range of abilities in publishing documents for the Web. The course readings and the demonstrations should help everyone to develop basic Web-authoring skills they can use to build effective Web portfolios. Ultimately, my concern while evaluating your portfolio will be not on whether your portfolio reflects highly advanced Web-authoring skills but instead on whether every element of the portfolio—from its textual contents to its visual design—supports your purposes and goals for the project.
Assessment of the portfolios
The assessment rubric below explains the criteria I will use to evaluate your Web portfolio. We will use our chats to discuss strategies for creating and presenting your portfolio in ways that address these specific criteria.
- Context: The parts individually and the portfolio as a whole demonstrate an awareness of and response to the particular, rhetorical needs of audience and purpose.
- Content: The parts individually and the portfolio as a whole demonstrate an awareness of genre and argument, including appropriate information and persuasive techniques. In addition, the portfolio demonstrates a critical engagement with the process of writing and with the intern’s learning process.
- Style: The parts individually and the portfolio as a whole demonstrate an awareness of professional tone, style, and sentence structure.
- Format/Conventions: The parts individually and the portfolio as a whole demonstrate an understanding and application of layout, visual design, audience cues, and information structure. In addition, the portfolio adheres to the written conventions of professional writing.