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Today’s guest blogger is Kim Haimes-Korn, a Professor of English and Digital Writing at Kennesaw State University. Kim’s teaching philosophy encourages dynamic learning and critical digital literacies and focuses on students’ powers to create their own knowledge through language and various “acts of composition.” She likes to have fun every day, return to nature when things get too crazy, and think deeply about way too many things. She loves teaching. It has helped her understand the value of amazing relationships and boundless creativity. You can reach Kim at email@example.com or visit her website: Acts of Composition
I teach a class called Careers in Writing that attracts humanities, social science, and other interdisciplinary majors who see the value in connecting writing to their professional futures. The class asks them to explore and understand their professional identities through critical thinking and writing activities and to create a variety of content artifacts to build towards a developing portfolio they eventually revise for the job market. I have found that students often struggle to communicate the relevancy of their coursework and skills to others. They often define and articulate their academic and professional interests in general rather than specific ways (English, Philosophy, Integrated Studies). I want them to form strong thoughtful answers to the question, “What is your major?”
The job market these days demands flexible, multilayered workers with a range of marketable skills. I encourage students to look beyond the academy and explore the shifting professional landscape that values skills such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, leadership, and multimodal knowledge.
Students benefit when they learn to identify particular skills and ways of thinking within their disciplines that they can communicate to their potential employers. Students are usually so caught up in the present and making a grade that they often miss the big picture and the ways their academic experiences and trajectories are specific and unique.
I am a big fan of mapping activities that get students to practice visual thinking and create meaningful associative connections—an important skill for multimodal composers. I borrow and modify the major map assignment (92) from the book You Majored in What? Designing your Path from College to Career by Katharine Brooks. It asks students to visually represent their major paths and distinctions through different mapping activities. Brooks recognizes that students generally speak of their majors in terms of deficits and encourages them to instead focus on “. . . what knowledge [they] have acquired” (85). Major Maps—a simple, but impactful assignment—helps students see connections between what they are learning and how that knowledge can be used.
- The St. Martin’s Handbook - Ch. 25, Writing Well in Any Discipline or Profession; Ch. 26, Writing in the Humanities; Ch. 27, Writing in the Social Sciences; Ch. 28, Writing in the Natural and Applied Sciences; Ch. 29, Writing in Professional Settings
- The Everyday Writer (also available with Exercises) - Ch. 13, Writing Well in any Discipline or Profession; Ch. 14, Writing for the Humanities; Ch. 15, Writing for the Social Sciences; Ch. 16, Writing for the Natural and Applied Sciences; Ch. 17, Writing in Professional Settings
- EasyWriter (also available with Exercises) – Ch. 9, Writing in a Variety of Disciplines and Genres
Steps to the Assignment
- Start with a class discussion about professional identities, academic interests, and relevant coursework.
- Explain the idea of the Major Map in which students visually represent connections between their classes, knowledge, skills, and assignments.
- Start with a blank sheet of paper and have students write down the following categories (91) and draw a circle around each one:
- Theories or Ideas
- Interesting Items
- Next, generate ideas about the different categories and place them on a visual map along with associational connectors to show their relationships.
- Once they are complete, students take pictures of their major maps and upload them to a collaborative Google slide show that I present in class.
- Discuss observations and inferences related to the maps to initiate interesting disciplinary conversations and identify relevant skills and practices.
- Students then follow up with a review of current online job ads for keywords, skills, and other industry expectations and compare them to the ideas generated in their major maps.
Reflections on the Activity
This kind of major mapping activity helps students realize the value and depth of their academic work and the ways they might leverage these skills in professional settings. As one English major said, “going through all these writing and literature classes you begin to realize all the potential in the skills you acquire.” They learn to identify the characteristics of strong workers who are “persistent, hardworking, and self-sufficient.” This visual mapping exercise helps them recognize the interdisciplinary overlaps and connections between their work, or as another student comments, “My map ended up demonstrating the integrative part of integrated studies.” This multimodal major map helps students take ownership of their choices to identify and promote skills as they continue their journeys.
Brooks, Katharine. You Majored in What? Designing Your Path from College to Career. Plume, 2017.
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