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Grant to support research of how Design Thinking Studio students adapt to writing in different genres

Rebecca Pope-Ruark was awarded the two-year, $10,000 grant by the Conference on College Composition and Communication Research Initiative. 

Rebecca Pope-Ruark, associate professor of English, has been awarded a two-year, $10,000 grant to research how students adapt to writing for different audiences and in different styles while participating in a new immersive semester program at Elon. 

Rebecca Pope-Ruark, associate professor of English

The grant from the Conference on College Composition and Communication Research Initiative will fund Pope-Ruark's study of the work of the 14 students participating in the Design Thinking Studio in Social Innovation, a new pilot program at Elon. Through the studio, the students are using the design thinking framework to help craft solutions for the broader community in partnership with the Alamance County Wellness Collaborative. 

Pope-Ruark played an integral role in helping to develop the new program, which has students completely immersed in the semester-long experience that will count for 16 semester hours — a full course load. Working with the collaborative, the students will identify a complex problem impacting the broader community, and then work in a variety of ways to help craft potential solutions. The nature of their work will have the students communicating in different genres, which could include writing proposals, developing web-based content, writing a white paper and communicating between the team members. 

Pope-Ruark said the nature of the studio is such that students will be communicating in both academic and workplace environments, allowing a unique opportunity to see how they learn to adapt their writing to best communicate their message. "What all my classes do is to help students to be effective communicators in whatever situation they find themselves in," Pope-Ruark said. "We give students a lot of general academic practice and a lot of written assignments throughout. With this program, we don't know exactly what set of skills they are going to need."

Pope-Ruark added that the studio will be process-based, with a focus on "deeply understanding a situation and deeply understanding the audience you're communicating with, and what they need from you."

The Conference on College Composition and Communication Research Initiative seeks to support research that can affect discussions about literacy and writing instruction, with a focus on areas including writing in organizations, communities and cultures, the transfer of writing ability across contexts and formal and informal writing instruction. 

This new research builds upon Pope-Ruark's earlier work focusing communications by marketing professionals, and how marketing agency writers learn the communications conventions used by the clients and organizations they work with, and use them to communicate with broader external audiences. In the Design Thinking Studio, the students will face some of those same challenges. "Because there is so much ambiguity in this program, I'm curious how they are going to figure out how to communicate with community members," Pope-Ruark said. 

The grant funding will help provide equipment for the studio, including whiteboards, camera equipment, software and other technology, as well as support Pope-Ruark as she dives into qualitative research of the work that the students produce throughout the semester. 

Owen Covington,
1/31/2017 3:05 PM