This paper was presented to CCCC in 1990.
Real-World Applications for the Long Report
Abilene Christian University’s Business Writing students learn the currently accepted formats for written business documents. They are presented with the principles and student in-progress papers for concrete examples of the formats.
Then the students are expected to discover real problems in their work/academic environment which need a solution and, using the cognitive problem-solving strategies of Flower and Hayes, 1) propose an investigation into the problem along with possible solutions, 2) begin conducting this investigation and report their progress, and 3) submit a final report which makes a recommendation based on the data gathered.
The expectation was that classes would be composed of juniors and seniors. These students would work on reports such as whether a delivery service would be feasible for the pizza shop at which they worked which currently only served in-house or what measures might be used to decrease the amount of time employees spent off the premises of a hardware store. And these problems would be garnered from actual work situations. This approach works well with students who have worked or are working while going to school. However, because a number of sophomores enroll each semester, there were difficulties since sophomores typically have less work experience from which to extract problems.
In an effort to alleviate these difficulties, I searched for multi-faceted problems which would be complex enough to provide eight to ten collaborative projects. I found several community members who were considering business ventures but did not have the time to carry out a feasibility study. These community-member needs have led to long-term projects for my classes.
Two examples are the long report sequences covering setting up a wedding video service and an editing/typing service. The third example of a long report sequence presents the university as a community and investigates whether the resumes and application letters taught in business writing are valid for students looking for jobs in video and film production, relatively new specialties in mass communications.
The students who worked on the feasibility study for the wedding video service were presented with the idea for the overall project. They were then asked to propose divisions of the project which coincided with their areas of interest for small group collaborative studies. This discussion allowed them to brainstorm as a class and to find others with similar interests with whom to work throughout the long report sequence. The areas eventually chosen were as diverse as the purchasing of video peripherals and the importance of credibility for videographers.
Flower, Linda and John R. Hayes. â€œA Cognitive Process Theory of Learning.â€ Â College Composition and Communication 32.4 (December 1981):365-87.
To be continued….