Dr Cindy Becker, Literature and Languages
Year of activity: 2014/15
In order to allow a module offered within the Department of English Literature to map onto the needs of the professional world, a PLanT project was created to gain input from professionals on the development and delivery of the module. As a result, a number of areas were identified in which students would benefit from additional guidance in preparing them for their post-University careers.
- To develop the module ‘Persuasive Writing’.
- To increase links with professionals.
- To ensure that professional development opportunities for English Literature students are provided.
In October 2014 the Department of English Literature introduced a new module in Persuasive Writing (EN1PW). The module is intended to educate students in the art of writing away from academia (letters, reports, newspaper and journal articles, political speeches, press releases, marketing copy and online material). It was decided that, as the module EN1PW required students to consider writing that is undertaken in a professional context, it would be valuable to gain some professional input in its development and delivery. Additionally, the Department is keen to increase its links with local commercial and professional contacts.
Working party meetings with students were held, and then a lunch for members of staff, students and professional representatives was provided so that discussion of the module and how it might map onto the skills expected of highly employable and successful graduates could be facilitated. Following the lunch students and staff met again to consider a course of action for 2015/16.
The project successfully identified a number of areas in which students would benefit from receiving additional guidance. It was decided that in order to provide guidance, handouts and other supporting material would be produced by PLanT students, with staff advice. These areas included: guidance for students on how to promote themselves in the job market across different sectors; how to maximise skills; making core study areas count on a CV; how to write a personal profile for a CV; the structure of writing and how to remain focussed on the central message; overcoming worries about making the most of time and opportunities at university; and learning more about work experience placements.
The University of Reading will be piloting a Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme in the coming year, and the PLanT students have all expressed interest in being involved if EN1PW is chosen as one of the pilot modules.
An unexpected outcome was that one student was offered professional mentoring as a result of the contact made at the lunch.
The PLanT project worked well because it worked on a simple format and a manageable timeline. As a result of the findings of the project, the Department of English Literature is considering introducing a new module at Part Two on ‘Public Rhetoric and Persuasion’. This would sit neatly alongside the existing Part Two module Communications at Work as a natural follow-on module from EN1PW.
The project also highlighted that English Literature students needed some free professional development training courses, which could be provided by colleagues across the university. The Department is considering providing training sessions itself for its students to help them in their professional development in areas including: early career planning; presentation and writing skills; managing a social media presence; effective methods for group work; and how to produce a business case or funding bid.