The first major assignment has been graded and handed back to my students. In some ways, the timing was good since there is a career fair coming up at my university and I will spend about ten minutes on Thursday prepping students for it. But I also feel that the timing of this whole assignment was off.
First of all, I’ll admit I didn’t do as good of a job teaching the research memo portion as I usually do. I say this because I could have worked a lot more with them on audience in regards to this assignment. What I should have done was get students into groups and talk about the rhetorical situation for the research memo as a group, instead of me simply giving this information to them since I don’t think all were listening and/or some people may not have understood certain concepts, such as social context and audience, well enough at this point. So I think when I teach English 320 next time, I will simply start with the marketing unit since they will learn a lot about social context and audience in that and they simply seem better prepared for it. For example, they can all pretty much articulate the importance of marketing to me. And some of them have done similar marketing assignments before. So they simply have a greater foundation for this.
But what I discuss above is basically my reasoning for the poor timing of this assignment. They were not ready. There was not enough of a foundation. While I think of the resume and cover letter as “common” genres, many students in my English 320 class did not have a resume already composed, unlike other courses I have taught where most students have written a resume before and often have it on hand. And I had similar problems with the cover letter, though I will say that the cover letter documents went better than the resume and probably because there is a definite formula to writing them and the formula is actually fairly effective.
If I do choose to teach this earlier in the semester again (possibly because of the nearing of the career fair. It is just more convenient for a lot of students), I will simply spend a lot, and I mean a lot more time on the rhetorical situation for these documents. Usually when I teach this assignment, I do teach it early in the semester. Usually, students have some background with these documents. If not, they usually understand its premise and importance relatively quickly. I did not see that this time. And, to be honest, I was noticing it as I was teaching it, but of course one cannot go back from that. Once you put something in motion, it has to stay in motion. Otherwise credibility is easily lost.
The good news is that I did see some assignments that were well done. And quite a few students did look at the examples I provided in class and in Blackboard, as I could tell from their own assignments. But I do think this was just ill-timed, for the most part, and I went in with too many assumptions about what they should already know at this point. I need to stop making those assumptions.
On the plus side, I did and am allowing revisions, no matter what their grade was because I do feel these are important genres to learn and know. I am also taking time this week to go through their resumes one more time and make sure they are strong examples for the career fair next week. Yes, this does take more time out of my schedule, but I think it is time well-spent, especially considering the flaws I have seen in these documents, my instruction of them, and the whole timing of this assignment.
It is hard though, because as I was telling a friend today many of these students are not yet ready for the “real” world. To teach them the importance of these “real” world documents is difficult. No matter what you do to frame their importance, you get denial, ignorance, or sometimes anger. But like my friend told me, that isn’t my fault. These students have been brought up in that kind of culture and it is hard to get them out of it, if not impossible. But I have to try and deal with it anyway and hope that they will eventually learn the importance of good and clear communication in business and their profession. Right now, I don’t think some of them take it very seriously.