Technical Writing for Skill Development



Student Pages



Turner Career Opportunity Center

The Career Opportunity Center (COB) serves the entire Turner School District. Enrollment usually hovers around 160. However, usually 25 students attend on a regular basis. The COB provides an alternative setting for students between the ages of 14 through 19, who have not found success in the traditional junior high and high schools. Students attend six, one class periods in a day. Hours are devoted to the study of mathematics, science, home economics, language arts, social studies and physical education.

Each classroom in the COB is equipped with 4 computers that students generally use to practice reading, mathematics and science skills. One computer is connected to the Internet. Each class usually has 7-8 students.

The COB students will be working on an integrated technical writing project. The unit involves using the Internet to connect students with technical specifications and technical writers from many disciplines.

This project will enable students to learn about technical subjects through a multidisciplinary writing unit that actively engages them with authentic and challenging activities.

The students will create technical writing on subjects of their choice developing their writing ability, subject knowledge and technical skills.


Students are instructed in small groups regarding how to search the Internet using Netscape and search engines. Students are taught not only how to access information, but how to view it critically. The students are taught how to collaborate using e-mail and chats. Each student is assigned an e-mail account so they can begin communicating with their clients, subject mentors and technical writing experts on the World Wide Web.

The project is clarified through the collaborative development of the project rubric. The students have many questions regarding the rubric. They frequently ask "Is this really going to determine our grade?" The facilitator, students and teachers developed the rubric for the project collaboratively over the first three days of the project. Everyone knows that the rubric can be modified if necessary and all agree to the modifications.

Students are introduced to team collaboration and team building. Student and teacher lead team building activities are used. Student comment "This is fun!". Quality practices procedures are the focus for this instruction.

Students begin learning about the process of technical writing through instructor selected web sites that focus on the topic. Students comment that some of the reading is difficult. Teachers are heard interpreting passages for students.



The students are actively investigating their technical topics on the Internet. Their questions fly fast and furiously. They have many questions about the technical questions. The teachers are heard sharing that they do not fully understand the topic and express their interest in learning more about the topic themselves. Together teachers and students weave through the Internet for more information. The students' communications skills are improving as they converse daily with their customers, mentors, teachers and peers.

Students are instructed in the basics of web page design. Small groups begin working on web pages to publish their technical writing.

All of the students begin their technical writing pieces based on the needs of their customer from the community. They continuously send e-mails of their writings to peer reviewers, teachers, customers and mentors. Many of their e-mails are laced with questions. Students are heard sharing questions that have gotten positive results.

Students begin to actually use their rubrics. Suggestions for improvement are discussed and considered. Minor changes have been made to the rubric to make it more student friendly and more guiding in nature. The students are much more vocal about the rubric at this time. Their experiences are evident as they comfortably discuss the rubric. This rubric is being used as a formative now, but everyone knows it will also be the formative evaluation for the projects.

As class begins each day, the students reflect together in groups about their experiences with the project. They buzz about what they have read, discovered and dialogued about on the Internet the day before. The students use these conversations and reflections on the past day's learning activities to clarify problems and share successes. In addition, each day each student writes in a journal about their experiences.Everyone involved is responsible for providing feedback and encouragement. For the most part, students have been coming to school early to check their e-mail and to work on their writings. They are very interested in pleasing their customers.

There are times when the students seem to loose steam. At that point, teachers work individually with the students to review the rubric and answer student questions.


Students continue to work on their projects until they are satisfied with their performance based on the rubric. Students and teachers are using the rubrics they developed collaboratively to assess their progress and products. Their products include their reflective journals, technical writing pieces and their team web pages. The students web pages are still in the process of being finished. The students are self directed for the most part and and they are fully engaged in the project.

Created for the Fermi lab Line program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office, Friends of Fermi lab, United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, and North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL).
Author: Becky Billigmeier
School: Turner Unified School District, Kansas City, KS
Created: May 9, 1998
URL: /lincon/w98/projects/yourfolder/scenario.html