115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Engaging Technically Oriented Students in Writing Classes: Some Strategies

Shefali Rajamannar, University of Southern California

This paper explores some of the strategies I developed last semester in order to teach a group of technical students. The prompts I used in my other classes had to be reframed to appeal to this set of kinesthetic (as opposed to aural) learners. I explored the types of writing they were already doing in their other 'professional' classes, such as “SOAP notes” and in-depth case studies. My prompts and classes had to be streamlined to fit the “problem-based learning” approach these technical students were used to.

Proposal: 

While classes in argumentative writing are a standard part of the curriculum for the engineering, business, and dental students at my university, I had never been asked to teach these until last semester. This paper explores some of the strategies I developed over the semester in an attempt to engage my class when, for the first time, I was scheduled to teach a class of more technically-oriented students. Beginning from scratch, I had to think about different kinds of learners, and soon realized that the kinds of prompts I used in my other classes would need to be reframed in ways that would appeal to this class of kinesthetic (as opposed to aural) learners. I therefore began to explore the types of writing they were already doing in their other 'professional' classes, such as “SOAP” notes detailing the problems their patients/clients were facing, in-depth case studies that used jargon and terminology specific to their professions, and the reports they wrote for both other professionals and for their patients and clients. At least some of my prompts - and all of my classes - had to be streamlined to fit the “problem-based learning” approach these technical students were used to. I therefore made my prompts more case-based; further, following Susan Sontag’s work in which she explicates the differences between how medical practitioners (in practice) think of illnesses in contrast to how society predisposes people to think of these illnesses, one of my strategies was to make my students aware of audience by focusing on denotative versus connotative language.