ideas for scaffolding students’ business proposals

I’m enjoying teaching business writing a lot more this term than I did last term, but I’m still frustrated with my students business proposals as I read them. There are some things that I thought I was clear on when giving in-class instruction, but must not have been, and then there are some things I realize I didn’t cover enough. The old cliché is true: that in order to learn, we need to encounter something three times. This is my third quarter teaching this course, and I’m just now figuring out some steps I need to take in order to help my students understand the conventions of proposals and reports (their proposals are for projects that will end in business reports). Each term, I’ve added more scaffolding to this assignment, but the genre is so new to most students that I feel I should be more explicit and guide students through the basic aspects of business documents. Luckily, next term, my last at OSU, I’ll be teaching business writing in a wireless lab, so some things I can guide students through instead of just showing them and having students lose whatever I say.

Some things I want to do next term in regards to the proposal:

1) Focus on the sentence level a bit more, especially in regards to clarity. Many of the proposals that I read don’t explicitly state what they are proposing. When they do state what project they are proposing, it’s not necessarily clear or concise.

2) Discuss primary audience and secondary audience in more concrete terms in regards to a reports. Though I stressed multiple times that general audiences, such as “students,” don’t read business reports, students are still writing in their proposals that students will be a secondary audience of their final report. I need to stress explicitly that a secondary audience of a business report would be individuals or small groups of people who either a) the primary audience sends a copy to, or b) the writer sends a copy to in addition to the primary audience. I think a role play might make this more explicit, rather than just talking about it.

3) Have a more explicit discussion about how to build one’s own credibility in a proposal — how important research is to this. While I stressed that research was necessary, I found quite a few proposals lacked research, which left students proposing projects and not having enough background information or blatantly admitting that they didn’t know information in the proposal that would take easy preliminary research.

4) Engage in activities to show how research methods are meant to be directly related to investigation topics. After developing a list of topics to investigate, the methods one decides upon should directly correlate to those topics. It should answer how one will go about answering those questions.

5) Since we’ll have laptops, we can actually create tables for budgets and schedules together! Exciting! I’ve shown students how to do this, but I still get schedules written out in paragraph form or budgets with money expressed in different forms within the same column.

Overall, I just need to break this big assignment down into smaller parts and tackle them methodically. Some of these activities/concepts I can still incorporate in this term’s class over the next four weeks, of course, so this is good.

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