While professional writing courses aim to equip business, technical, and scientific writers with the tools for success, they don’t always lead to desired outcomes. Indeed, most organizations have the unfortunate experience of having been burned by training courses that couldn’t live up to their promises.
This doesn’t mean all professional writing training is doomed, however. There are specific reasons why some writing courses don’t meet expectations. Issues such as a lack of personalized instruction, insufficient real-world application, limited industry exposure, and inadequate feedback and evaluation can prevent even well-intentioned courses and instructors from delivering the expected results. Here are four reasons why your last professional writing course may have failed to deliver.
1: Limited Industry Background
Many writing courses fail to adequately expose students to the realities of writing within their specific industry or, for that matter, within the business world at all. Writing is not solely about crafting eloquent prose; in a business context, writing serves a larger purpose. Professional writing courses that fail to recognize this fact – or, worse, with instructors that lack experience with business-specific writing – will struggle to help students produce the kind of writing outcomes that will successfully improve business outcomes.
As a result, graduates may find themselves more skilled at stringing together sentences but unequipped to produce documents that can be used to achieve specific business objectives.
2: Insufficient Real-World Application
While professional writing courses offer theoretical knowledge and teach the mechanics of writing, they often fall short of providing practical, real-world application. Writing is a dynamic field that requires adaptability, market awareness, and an understanding of audience expectations. Without opportunities to engage with real-world scenarios, students may struggle to bridge the gap between theory and practice.
One study found that when students generated their own personal, real-world examples of a concept defined by the instructor, they retained more information than when the instructor furnished examples. That’s likely because students were then able to integrate the new concept more readily with their existing knowledge base. In a professional writing course, that might mean using writing samples actually generated or used by the students in their daily work, as opposed to generic writing samples.
3: Lack of Personalized Instruction
Lack of personalized instruction is a results killer. Due to the large class sizes and limited resources, instructors often struggle to provide individualized attention and feedback to every student. Writing is a deeply personal and subjective craft, and without tailored guidance, students may feel lost or overlooked. A standardized curriculum might not adequately address the unique strengths, weaknesses, and needs of each student.
Personalized instruction accounts for the diverse learning styles and preferences of students. Research shows that when writing instruction is aligned with students' preferred learning styles, they demonstrated higher levels of writing quality, productivity, and fluency. Adapting teaching strategies to suit individual learners can optimize their understanding, retention, and application of writing skills.
4: Limited Feedback and Evaluation
Constructive feedback is crucial for a writer's growth, but many professional writing courses struggle to provide comprehensive feedback due to time constraints. Instructors may offer only general critiques or focus solely on technical aspects, neglecting the holistic evaluation necessary for a well-rounded writer. Without detailed feedback and guidance, students may struggle to identify and rectify their weaknesses.
Research shows that feedback is most effective when it is specific, timely, and targets the individual needs of students and that providing individualized feedback to students enhances their learning and performance. In the context of writing courses, personalized feedback allows instructors to address the unique strengths and weaknesses of each student, enabling them to make targeted improvements and progress in their writing abilities.