Beki Grinter

Writing, Science and Performance Appraisals

In academia, computer science, discipline, research on October 21, 2011 at 3:50 pm

I saw this article in the New York Times, about the increasing value of a science degree in terms of employment opportunities. What I want to draw attention to is the paragraph at the end, in which one of the authors of the study says the following

Mr. Carnevale said that in surveys of employers, one of the biggest complaints about technical workers is that they “can’t talk and can’t write a memo and have horrible interpersonal skills.”

Setting aside the interpersonal skills portion, I teach a class that involves a substantial writing component. I see this too. Some years are better than others, but the ability to write is not uniform. And neither is the belief that it matters. I try very hard to explain that it does, but this year I found a new way. To introduce the students to the idea of the Annual Performance Appraisal. I was surprised how few students knew about something that they will write each year as part of their retaining their employment. There’s no programming on that form but there are sections not just for written words, but for making arguments that justify their accomplishments for the previous year. I have no idea whether this will work, I’ll find out when I get my course survey responses back. But I keep trying to find ways to explain why writing matters and so far this seems to be the most concrete one I’ve found.

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