School to Work: Using Active Learning to Teach Business Writing
To prosper as tomorrow’s workers in the knowledge society of the new century—a world characterized by ceaseless change, boundless knowledge, and endless doubt—today’s business writing students must develop the skills and traits needed to become creative problem-solvers, flexible team-players, and risk-taking life-time learners. (Carl Bereiter)
Preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s work world challenges 21st century teachers to function as knowledge society catalysts by reinventing their professional personas — by creating a fresh professionalism founded not on old comfortable abilities and attitudes, but on new unfamiliar skills and traits. For many teachers (most of whom teach exactly as they were taught—typically, following the talk-chalk model that fills a classroom with five or ten rows of passive listeners in fixed seats, and fills a class period with fifty or sixty minutes of garbled monotones in lecture format) — learning to teach in ways they were not taught represents the greatest challenge of their careers. (Mel Silberman, Andy Hargreaves)
Challenging students and teachers to rearrange the furniture and to reconfigure the lecture, the active learning model can be applied to the business writing classroom (an application still unexplored in the composition literature) to help students develop the abilities and attitudes most required for success in the work world of the 21st century (an area frequently explored in the “futuristic business literature”). In fact, classes in Technical Writing, Business Writing, and Professional Writing can function, through the use of active learning strategies, as workshops in which students can prepare for the change and doubt of the knowledge society by becoming creative and flexible, cooperative and confident, eager to risk and ready to learn.
The paper explores the active learning techniques used successfully in business writing classes taught at a typical Midwestern American university.
Keywords: Active Learning, Business and Professional Writing, Knowledge Society, Technical Writing
Dr. Cristina Karmas
Associate Professor, English