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Reflecting on General Education and Career [WLOs: 2, 3, 4] [CLOs: 2, 3, 4]

Prepare: Prior to beginning work on this discussion forum, read the articles Teaching Writing Skills That Enhance Student Success in Future Employment ;PROVIDED IN ATTACHMENTS

 An Inner Barrier to Career Development: Preconditions of the Impostor Phenomenon and Consequences for Career Development (Links to an external site.); https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4740363/ 

and 9 Questions That’ll Help You Find Your Dream Career (Links to an external site.)


watch the video Business, Management & Administration (Links to an external site.)


and review the General Education Curriculum found in General Academic Information and Policies (Links to an external site.) in the Ashford University Catalog. 


This catalog addresses the core competencies that the general education courses must cover: Ethical Reasoning, Written Communication, Oral and Interpersonal Communication, Information Literacy, Critical Thinking, and Quantitative Reasoning. 

Reflect: Think about the core competencies as previously mentioned, and ponder your time taking general education courses. Reflect on the specific courses not associated with your college major and determine the level of new information you have acquired that relates to the core competencies. You must also think about a potential job you might apply to once you graduate and determine what skills you developed through general education courses that make you qualified for a specific job.

Write: For this discussion, you will address the following prompts:

  • Review a job description through a job website (e.g., Career Builder (Links to an external site.) https://www.careerbuilder.com , Monster (Links to an external site.) https://www.monster.com , etc.) in your desired career field. (Child Advocacy) Please provide the job title and the link to the job description.
  • Identify at least five skills you have obtained through your general education courses that will make you successful at this job.
  • Demonstrate with at least two examples how your newly acquired knowledge and skills have shaped both your personal and professional development.
  • Describe your plans for putting your education to use within your community.

Your initial post should be at least 250 words in length, which should include a thorough response to each prompt. You are required to provide in-text citations of applicable required reading materials and/or any other outside sources you use to support your claims. Provide full reference entries of all sources cited at the end of your response. Please use correct APA format when writing in-text citations




Substandard writing skills have been noticed in schools and workplaces across disciplines. Writing courses and writing centre programs can teach students about grammar and composition, and library orientations help students effectively locate source material for papers and projects. However, writing skills, which are often related to specific disciplines or professions, are learned indirectly. Coursework that prepares students for future careers tends to focus on the curriculum content rather than the writing skills students use to present that content. Yet writing ability is often vital for effective work performance, thus demon-

strating writing skills that are relevant to future employment is an essential learning outcome for higher education curriculum.

Many employers are alarmed about poor writ- ing skills in new employees and have asked business schools to increase emphasis on writing (Quible & Griffin, 2007). Haberstroh (1994) reported similar concerns in public relations companies, and Alter and Adkins (2001) discovered that up to one-third of graduate social work students had inadequate writ- ing skills yet many did not use available writing as- sistance programs. These studies made a number of recommendations for higher education, including


Teaching Writing Skills That Enhance Student Success in Future Employment

James P. Coyle University of Windsor

The ability to write well is often critical for effective work performance. Although basic writing courses provide a foundation for college and university students, discipline-specific writing tasks and methods are frequently learned indirectly. Incorporating occupational writing skills in course cur- riculum better prepares students for future employment. This paper suggests a three-step process for teaching pertinent writing skills in college and university courses: identify writing skills relevant to post-graduation occupations, include writing in course learning modules, and assess writing skills with assignments that mirror workplace writing tasks. Balancing curricular learning with these workplace needs is an ongoing challenge for instructors.

Employers Seek Effective Writers

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required writing courses, increased assessment of stu- dent writing, and consultations with employers that provide examples of desired writing skills (Haber- stroh, 1994). Additionally, schools are assessing methods for writing instruction (Quible & Griffin, 2007; Wolff, 1996) and are recommending ways to continue writing instruction after foundational Eng- lish composition courses (Alter & Adkins, 2006).

These suggestions form the basis for a three- step plan for enhancing writing skills that improve competency in future employment. First, identify the discipline-specific writing skills that are needed in the workplace. Second, develop learning mod- ules that cultivate those writing skills. Third, design course assignments that assess students’ ability to compose documents that are commonly produced in the workplace.

Identifying Workplace Writing Skills

Proficient school papers are unlike most writing re- quired in a professional work setting. Academic writ- ing assignments often focus on testing knowledge. They require defining concepts or terms and sup- porting statements with references to professional literature. In comparison, workplace writing is more likely to describe or analyze situations without open- ly explaining the knowledge base or citing sources. It assumes that readers are familiar with basic terms and concepts. Workplace writing is usually more about communicating or documenting ideas rather than demonstrating competence (Beaufort, 1998). There- fore, students benefit from seeing examples of writ- ing in their chosen occupations.

While practical writing skills may vary across disciplines, all workplace writing composes a mes- sage appropriate for an intended audience (White, 1997). Two aspects often define this writing: types of documents and the writing styles used to create them. Certainly, most employees need to write let- ters, reports, and descriptions of work tasks. It is also increasingly important to compose professional- sounding email messages rather than informal, ramb- ling notes that often include slang and personal stor- ies. Additional documents used in many occupations

include client contacts, action plans, proposals, and evaluations. The profession or place of employment may also influence document formats, content, and organization.

Likewise, workers may use distinctive writing styles to create documents. For example, descriptive writing may be necessary to clearly present data or develop a foundation for a conclusion, while critical analysis is required for evaluating the data or com- municating the conclusion. Synthesizing content from a number of sources is a crucial skill in many occupations. Requesting resources and advocating causes employ a persuasive writing style, and reflect- ive writing may help employees to evaluate their own skills and limitations. Style and tone must also be ap- propriate for the purpose and audience (Polk, 2009; White, 1997). These writing styles are often familiar to students since they may be used in academic as- signments. Linking these skills and applying them to employment and professional settings helps students make the transition to the workplace.

In addition, using examples of common work- place writing tasks can provide class and course learn- ing that emphasizes the practical application that most students seek. These examples may come from instructor experiences or be compiled from com- munity input about education needs (see Polk, 2009; Yu, 2010).

Creating Learning Modules That Include Writing Skills

Most classes include learning modules that teach specific course content. Writing skills can often be easily added to these modules by providing writing resources, using examples of workplace documents, asking students to write feedback, or designing exer- cises that demonstrate employment writing skills.

Along these lines, there are a number of helpful resources that students can use to improve writing skills and manuscript organization. Providing loca- tions, phone numbers, or web links to writing centres and library resources communicates an expectation that writing is important and that support is avail- able. Students can also be encouraged to review basic

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writing texts or discipline-specific manuals, such as The Elements of Style (Strunk & White, 1999), Writing for Business (Harvard Business School Press, 2007), APA Publication Manual (American Psychological Association, 2010), MLA Style Manual (Gibaldi, 2008), or Scientific Style and Format (Council of Sci- ence Editors, 2006). In addition, there are numerous websites that provide guides, examples, and tutorials about basic writing skills, critical writing, synthesis, objective description, persuasive writing, or letter writing. Links to these websites encourage students to improve writing skills. For example, the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) provides a wide range of writing information and tutorials (Purdue Univer- sity, 2010).

The following recommendations connect typical workplace writing with classroom learning exercises by introducing students to common docu- ments and feedback reports.

• Use sample documents from workplaces as examples for presenting and organizing con- tent. Ask students to critique poorly written reports.

• Formalize the note-taking that naturally oc- curs during classroom tasks that use brain- storming, researching, teamwork, role- playing, or self reflection. This encourages students to consider the role of written logs or minute-taking for reporting and accomplish- ing work tasks.

• Give points for posting comments on course websites, such as responses to assigned read- ings, reactions to class discussions, or reflec- tions about learning experiences (Alter & Adkins, 2006). This asks students to write responses similar to the verbal comments in class. It also parallels methods for sharing ideas in many businesses (Yu, 2010).

• Ask invited speakers to mention the role of writing and the writing skills needed for effec- tive job performance.

Finally, some class exercises can focus directly on the writing tasks required in future occupations by pre-

senting a scenario and directing students to write a brief analysis, reply, evaluation, or response. These papers can form the basis of small group discussion, be part of a series of exercises, or provide a founda- tion for course assignments. The following sugges- tions can improve the effectiveness of these exercises.

• Focus on a specific or narrow topic that can be addressed in a short answer.

• Introduce a prewriting exercise (Baker, 2005) that asks students to create three columns by drawing two vertical lines on a page. List information (e.g., who, what, where, how, when, and why) that needs communicating in the first column with no concern for word- ing or order. Examine these items and identify categories of information in the second col- umn. Draw lines from the first column items to the second column categories. Use the third column to organize the categories.

• Include guides for effective writing in the exercise instructions. For example, present the OABC (opening, agenda, body, closing) framework (Baker, 2005) or ask students to start with a clearly stated thesis or purpose, or- ganize the content by presenting the ideas that support or develop the thesis, and end with a conclusion or recommendation that restates the thesis (Northey & McKibbin, 2009).

• Encourage students to write rough drafts, ac- knowledging the need for editing to create an acceptable final document. Present a draft paragraph in class and ask students for editing suggestions.

• Give students five minutes to discuss ideas for the paper in small groups before they begin writing. This can sometimes minimize “writ- ers block.”

• Require each student to write something rath- er than ask a small group to write together. This challenges each student to practice writ- ing skills.

• Team writing can be modeled by asking stu- dents to synthesize the individual writing

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pieces. These can be posted on a course web- site, become a rough draft for a subsequent assignment, or be submitted as a course as- signment.

Assignments that Mirror Workplace Writing

Learning experiences that include writing skills pre- pare students for effectively composing papers that demonstrate course knowledge, attitudes, and skills. Students often focus only on content, and they may be confused when poorly written papers result in a lower grade. Moreover, assignments that parallel work tasks connect course content and career de- velopment, which is a preferred learning outcome for most program curriculums. The natural outcome of teaching students about applicable workplace writing skills is to assess those skills in written assignments similar to work documents. The following examples can test student writing abilities.

• Letters to the editor, responses to a publica- tion, or product complaints ask students to analyze, synthesize knowledge, persuade, and effectively communicate through writing (Polk, 2009). Choose source material that il- lustrates course content.

• Composing client contact notes or task prog- ress notes evaluates knowledge of work pro- cess, integration of knowledge and skill, and ability to clearly and concisely present infor- mation.

• Action plans, such as needs assessments or program development, require research, syn- thesis of ideas, application to authentic work situations, and comparison of alternative ap- proaches.

• Students can be asked to prepare research re- ports, justify requests for funding or resourc- es, or evaluate effectiveness.

• They can produce a written product individ- ually or in a team. Written assignments may take the form of brief responses, multi-section

reports, poster presentations, multimedia pre- sentations, or verbal presentations assisted by engaging handouts.

• Require students to use writing styles, manu- script organization, citation, and reference formats appropriate to the profession (Muller, 2010; Northey & McKibbin, 2009).

• Promote learning by discussing student prog- ress with assignments, giving formative feed- back, and asking students to develop a portfo- lio to illustrate ongoing learning (Yu, 2010).

From my own experience of using these techniques, I have asked my social work students to write a let- ter to the editor responding to a newspaper story about poverty reduction. Many found it challen- ging to use a persuasive writing style that asked the reader to perform or support some action. Another assignment required students to compose a note that described an initial interview with a client that they observed on video. They often struggled with instruc- tions that told them to first describe what they see and hear. However, separating empirical observation from interpretation is an essential practice skill, and distinguishing descriptive and analytical writing styles helps students learn this. This type of assignment also compels students to recognize the development of their professional competence. In the workplace these notes ask the employee to communicate observations and assess a specific person or event rather than com- pose a summary of literature reports. My social work students are also asked to develop a research proposal that would address a real-life situation in their as- signed field internship. They must produce a litera- ture review that supports the action that they propose and create an implementable action plan. They also create a poster that they present in a public forum. This requires students to summarize the most import- ant aspects of their proposal, clearly and concisely communicating these ideas, and presenting content in an engaging and persuasive manner to the public.

Student Reactions

Student feedback indicated a number of benefits

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from the writing content in my courses. They re- ported that writing exercises challenged them to clarify thinking and recognize writing organization and formatting appropriate for their discipline. The writing exercises also helped them improve written assignments in other courses and prepared them for writing requirements during internships or employ- ment. Writing descriptive case notes helped them re- duce biased statements, and developing clearly stated thesis statements improved the logical organization of case notes and research reports. Many tended to characterize writing as a utilitarian chore or school requirement and had not considered the implications of writing as a career skill.

Competent writing skills are an essential learn- ing outcome of college and university curriculum. Both basic writing mechanics and compositional styles used in discipline-specific occupations are ne- cessary for effective job performance. Students’ chan- ces of successful transition to post graduation careers increase when courses identify written documents and writing styles used in their discipline along with the inclusion of writing skills in course learning modules.


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James P. Coyle is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Wind- sor. His research interests include resilience in fam- ilies, youth, and communities, and the efficacy of specialized writing skills as a learning outcome in university curriculum.