Description and Policies

Course information

Course number: ENGL 491A
Course name: Professional Field Experience
Term and year: Fall 2012
CRN: 82327
Location: 320 Clark Hall
Times: TR, 11:30-12:45
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: T 2:30-3:30, Th 10-11, and by appointment in person or virtually

Course description

ENGL 491A: Professional Field Experience is the capstone experience for the Professional Writing and Editing (PWE) concentration. The goal of this capstone course 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 a biweekly discussion (in person or online) 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.

Required resources

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.

Required texts

  • George Plumley. WordPress 24-Hour Trainer. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Wiley, 2011. ISBN: 1118066901.
  • Herb J. Smith and Kim Haimes-Korn. Portfolios for Technical and Professional Communicators. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2007. ISBN: 0131704583
  • Edward Tufte. The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within. 2nd ed. New Haven, CT: Graphics Press, 2006. ISBN: 0961392169.

Required digital resources

  • Regular access to a computer and the Internet,
  • a MIX email account which is checked daily,
  • $20 to cover the cost of printing and mounting your poster,
  • a Twitter account,
  • a Google Docs account,
  • a RSS reader like Google Reader for tracking the main course blog and each other’s blogs, and
  • a personal website. You may choose whatever hosting service (direct or third-party) you prefer, but I strongly encourage you to use WordPress.

Additional recommendations

Assignments with (grade percentage)

Over the course of the term, students will

  1. Complete 140 hours of internship work in a professional manner (40%)
  2. Maintain a blog of reflective writing (minimum of 10 posts for the semester) (10%)
  3. Participate in all class activities and complete assigned reading and writing assignments (15%)
  4. Present a poster at the end-of-semester PWE Exhibition (15%)
  5. Produce a Web portfolio of internship materials (20%)

Complete 140 hours of internship work

You need to work at your internship a minimum of 140 hours over the course of the term. The schedule is flexible; for example, you could work 10 hours per week for the span of 14 weeks or 20 hours per week for 7 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. Toward these ends, 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 formal evaluations of your professionalism and work ethic during the mid-term and finals period (forms are available for download on the forms page). I will use these evaluations, conversations with your supervisor, and my own observations of your work to assign your grade for this component of the course.

Maintain a blog of reflective writing

As Nedra Reynolds and Rich Rice explain in Portfolio Keeping, reflective portfolio assignments ask you “to keep watch over your own work and your own learning, and to pay close attention to your strengths and weaknesses, including your preferences as well as your best and most limited practices for effective writing.” The weekly reflective writing component of English 491A gives you space for “keeping watch” over your development as a professional writer throughout the course of your internship.

At some point during each week of your internship, spend at least 15 minutes writing about what you are learning about professional writing as well as how you are learning it. You might use this weekly writing activity to analyze the process you are using to compose a particular document; to think through problems you are trying to resolve in a particular project; to explore your deepening understanding of how writing functions for professional organizations; or to describe and analyze more generally what you are learning, how you’re learning, or what is and what is not making sense to you.

You will record your reflections on a public blog. You will need to set up this blog yourself. You are welcome to establish your own domain via a hosting service or use a free third-party host. If you choose the latter, is strongly encouraged as it will the CMS we will focus on in class discussions. Your blog should be hosted on the same site as your portfolio. Once you have set up your blog, you will share a link to it with the class so your classmates can follow your posts via RSS. These links should be added to the “Individual blog links” topic on the links forum before 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29. You should then begin following all of your classmates’ blogs using an RSS reader like Google Reader.

A note about work visibility

Due to the nature of the course, you will be sharing your work with your fellow classmates as part of workshops and peer review sessions. Additionally, you will share your work publicly on the Web (e.g., on your blogs and portfolio sites and on the course site). By taking this course, you are indicating that you accept these requirements. If you have any questions about these requirements, please contact me immediately.

Evaluation of blog posts

You must post to your blog a minimum of ten times during the course of your internship to fulfill the reflective writing component of the course. Furthermore, to ensure that you use blogging as a learning tool throughout the entire internship, you must post at least five entries by 9 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 1.

I will read—and occasionally comment on—your blog posts on a regular basis in order to keep track of your progress throughout the internship, to give you feedback on problems you’re trying to work through, and to give you advice as you begin to put together your final portfolio. Blog entries will be graded according to the following scale:

  • A: Superior performance in reflective writing shows a clear initiative to learn through analyzing your internship performance. Each blog entry is posted on time and with attention to detail. Each entry presents a fully developed discussion of your work for that particular week, complete with specific examples and descriptive details. Each entry not only describes in detail the work you have done but also analyzes that work, providing a new perspective or insight on some relevant aspect of professional writing and editing.
  • B: Strong performance in reflective writing demonstrates active engagement in your internship. Each blog entry is posted on time and with attention to detail. Each entry presents a fully developed discussion of your work for that particular week, complete with specific examples and descriptive details. Entries do not always analyze the internship work and do not always add new perspective or insight on some relevant aspect of professional writing and editing.
  • C: Satisfactory performance in reflective writing demonstrates consistent, acceptable written work. The student completes all entries, and most entries are posted on time. Each entry presents an adequate discussion of internship activities, one that give readers a basic understanding of the work the student has done. Most entries, though, could be more fully developed with thoughtful analysis and supporting details.
  • D: Weak performance in reflective writing demonstrates inconsistent written work. Some blog entries are not posted; other blog entries are not posted on time. Entries give readers only a basic description of the work the student has done in the internship. Entries lack details, and entries provide only a superficial analysis of the student’s internship work.
  • F: Unacceptable performance in reflective writing shows ineffectual work. A significant number of entries have not been posted on time, if at all. Entries give readers little or no understanding of the work the student has done in the internship. Entries contain few details and no analysis of the student’s internship activities.

Participate in all class activities and complete assigned reading and writing assignments

We will meet as a group bi-weekly, mostly on Thursdays, throughout the semester. View the course schedule for class meeting days. However, in case it becomes necessary to move a class meeting, you should always keep our class time—TT, 11:30-12:45—open.

The purpose of these meetings 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, 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 poster presentation. You are expected to attend each scheduled class meeting. While there are no excused absences for the course, you will be allowed one absence without penalty. Each additional absence will result in a five-point deduction from your final grade.

To focus our discussions about portfolio keeping, Web portfolio building, and PWE internship-related topics, come to each class meeting with the scheduled reading and writing assignments completed. You must have either electronic or print copies of the writing assignments with you when you come to class, along with your notes on those readings. I will regularly quiz you on all course materials, including assigned readings, course information, and discussion forum posts.

Monitoring course-related information

I will post non-sensitive course information to the blog on this site and send emails to your MIX accounts for updates of sensitive information. It is your responsibility to regularly monitor this site and your email to make sure that you have the most up-to-date course information.

(NOTE: The writing assignments described below are in addition to the 10 reflective entries you will post to your blog throughout the semester.)

Discussion leader postings and discussion responses

On the weeks we do not meet (indicated with shading on the course schedule), you will be responsible for participating in online discussions of the course readings on the discussion forum.

For each week there will be an assigned Discussion Leader (DL) who will begin that week’s discussion of the assigned readings and any related portfolio keeping, Web portfolio building, and PWE internship topics. As part of this task, the DL can analyze the assigned text(s), challenge it, compare and contrast it with personal internship experience or other pertinent texts/resources, pose a question to his/her peers (that s/he should also attempt to answer), or otherwise stimulate an online class discussion.

The DL schedule will be determined during our second class meeting. The DL will begin the discussion by posting a new topic in the Weekly Discussion Forum. To receive credit, the DL’s topic post should have a descriptive title, be at least 250 words in length, and be posted before 9 a.m. on Monday of the assigned week. All other students will participate in the discussion by posting at least one reply of at least 150 words to this new topic before 5 p.m. Friday of that same week. Discussion leaders are also required to post one comment in addition to their initial post. (For example, to receive credit for the post on the week of September 17-21, the discussion leader must post her or his initial response by 9 a.m. on Monday, September 17, and everyone else you must respond to the discussion post before 5 p.m. on Friday, September 21.) Topics or responses posted after they are due will receive no credit and cannot be made up. Obviously, the sooner you contribute to the online conversation, the more lively and substantive the discussion can become.

Discussion posts and responses will be graded according to the following scale:

  • A: Rich in content, insight and analysis. All required discussion posts are timely and make clear connections to previous or current content (readings, other discussion posts, real-life situations). New ideas and new connections are made with depth and detail in a professional manner.
  • B: Strong in content, insight and analysis. All required discussion posts are timely and make clear connections to previous or current content (readings, other discussion posts, real-life situations). New ideas and new connections are made though they may lack some depth, detail and/or professional presentation.
  • C: Generally competent in content, insight and analysis, though information is thin or commonplace. Most required discussion posts are timely and make clear connections to previous or current content (readings, other discussion posts, real-life situations). Posts rehash or summarize other postings and few if any new ideas and new connections are made, and obvious grammatical or stylistic errors interfere with readability.
  • D: Rudimentary and superficial in content, displaying no analysis or insight. No new ideas or connections are made or are off topic. Some required postings are missing, and obvious grammatical or stylistic errors make understanding nearly impossible.
  • F: Some or all required discussion posts are missing. Discussion posts lack analysis, insight and understanding.

Writing assignments

  • Expectations essay: Examine the syllabus for the course, the required textbooks, our first class meeting, 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 or for the internship organization. Now, write one single-spaced page explaining how you expect to do in this course. 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? You will upload this completed document to your course folder Google Docs before the time it is due on the schedule.
  • Midterm self assessment: Take stock of how you’re doing in your internship at midterm. Examine what strategies are or aren’t working for you, and what you need to concentrate on for the remainder of the course. You might consider conducting an inventory of your working folder, looking both forward and backward at your progress in the course and then writing a reflective piece about where you stand at midterm and where you’d like to go during the second half of your internship. Reflect on what you’re learning through your internship about your writing process, your strengths as a writer, and your preferences and writing habits. You will upload this completed document to your Google Docs folder before the time it is due on the schedule.
  • Revisiting expectations essay: Review your answers to the 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? What parts of this exercise can you use in writing the reflective and contextual statements for your electronic portfolio? You will upload this completed document to your Google Docs folder before the time it is due on the schedule.

Present a poster at the end-of-semester PWE Exhibition

West Virginia University requires that all capstone courses include a public presentation component. Toward this end, you will produce a poster presentation that summarizes your internship experience for other members of the WVU community from 4-5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov 29. 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 poster 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 poster should present 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 the poster is a highly visual medium, and since the physical spaces in which people write often shape their work in significant ways, I also encourage you to incorporate photographs 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.

Basic Components of your poster presentation

  1. Title: The title of your poster 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?
  2. Brief description of the organization where you interned.
  3. 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).
  4. 2-3 professional writing documents that illustrate your internship experience.
  5. Your analysis of each document (see below).
  6. Visuals: You could incorporate your organization’s logo into your poster. Or, if you have some interesting analysis to provide of your workspace and what it signals about the role of the professional writer within that space or the role of writing within the organization, you might consider adding a photograph of that space. Finally, treat your professional writing documents as visual components of the poster, and consider ways to add visual interest to your poster through these documents, whether that be through showing editorial markup on drafts, highlighting key aspects of a document’s design, or adding break-out boxes that enlarge a central passage of the text.

Presenting and analyzing your PWE documents

You can use the poster presentation to describe and analyze your internship experience in any way that you find to be most effective and most appropriate. However, your posters must 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 worked, 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 design) 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. 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 poster presentation

We will use class time to learn how to design and create effective posters, but you can review the sites below to begin thinking about the content and design of your poster.

Posters should be printed at 36×48 inches and mounted on display board. Information about printing posters through the WVU’s Office of Information Technology can be found here. I will provide stands for the posters on the day of the poster presentation.

In addition to the printed version of the poster, you should submit a high-quality image of the poster to your course folder on Google Docs.

Assessment of the posters

The assessment rubric on the following page explains the criteria I will use to evaluate your poster and public presentation. We will use our individual meetings 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 poster 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.
  • Public Presentation: The student answers questions about his or her internship with clarity and enthusiasm.

Produce a Web portfolio of internship materials

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. Your tasks as a portfolio keeper have included 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. Now, your responsibility shifts 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 Thursday, December 6 9 a.m. EST on Friday, December 7, you will publish your portfolio to the Web and post a link to it on the links forum where your classmates and I will be able to access it. At this time 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 5,000 words (roughly 20 double-spaced pages) of finished, polished writing. You are free to include any additional 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 introductory reflective essay that pulls together the various documents in your portfolio and explicates what these documents illustrate about your academic and professional development. This essay will introduce the materials in the portfolio, explaining the analysis that guided your decision-making about what to include in your portfolio. You will use your 5,000 words of polished writing, as well as any additional writing, as evidence to support the claim you want to make about yourself 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 certainly 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 on the following page explains the criteria I will use to evaluate your Web portfolio. We will use our individual meetings 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.