Writing for an authentic audience – Duke U.’s “The Reader Project”

Finding an “authentic audience” for our writing. Invaluable. When student learners write for an audience larger than just their immediate teachers, then the writing takes on an inherent value and becomes capable of making a real difference. It’s not just for a grade; it’s for a purpose.

I just received the following email from Duke. I am thrilled that my university is taking such a step to engage writers with authentic-audience readers.

From: “The Reader Project”
Subject: Duke Econ and Public Policy Alumni – Volunteers Needed
Date: September 6, 2012 1:15:00 PM EDT
To: BOADAMS
Reply-To: readerproject@duke.edu
Dear James,

I am Celia Mellinger, the Program Coordinator for the Duke Reader Project, an initiative of the Thompson Writing Program in collaboration with Alumni Affairs. The Reader Project offers Duke Students the opportunity to get feedback on a class writing project from someone outside the classroom setting who has professional experience relevant to their project. The readers get a chance to positively interact with current Duke Students, and the students get to hear how their writing sounds to a member of their target audience.

Working with the Duke Alumni Association, we thought you might be interested in volunteering for one of these courses this semester:

  • ECON 306 and POLSCI 351: Economic History and Modernization of the Islamic Middle East 
    Readers Needed: People with professional experience related to the Middle East or with professional experience in any aspect of world affairs, international economics, international politics, the global economy, or the comparative history of civilizations.
  • ECON 370: Global Capital Markets
    Readers Needed: Financial market professionals with 5 or more years of experience.
  • HISTORY 364D: American Business History
    Readers Needed: People with professional experience dealing with regulatory issues; business management in particular, also consulting, policy or legal work related to business-government relations. Please read the specific topics listed in Student Writing Assignment.
  • POLSCI 302S: Political Persuasion
    Readers Needed: Experts in fields such as political science, communications, and media studies.
  • POLSCI 664S: Leaders, Nations and War 
    Readers Needed: People with professional experience in areas such as international politics, international relations, and governmental work in foreign affairs, diplomatic work, or international journalism.

In each course, the student is working on a writing project involving multiple drafts. Giving feedback on their writing should be a simple response from your professional perspective: Does it include useful information? Is the analysis and argument compelling? Which parts are presented according to professional norms, and which not? Etc. We encourage most of the feedback to be “face-to-face,” using webcams if the reader is too far from campus for a meeting.

Volunteer commitment is around 5 hours total over the course of the semester, distributed between late Sept and early Dec. If you are interested in helping our current cohort of Duke students improve their scholarly writing skills, please reply, indicating which course(s) you are interested in, and include a short bio of your experience and relationship to Duke, to help us match you with the right student. You will receive more information about the course and a match, if possible, after the students sign up in late-September. Feel free to contact me with any questions and visit our website for more information about the project and the courses offered this semester.

Thank you so much for taking the time to engage with our students!

Sincerely,
Celia Mellinger
Coordinator, Duke Reader Project
Duke Alumni Association

4 thoughts on “Writing for an authentic audience – Duke U.’s “The Reader Project”

  1. I second Matt’s comment, but I think it would also work with bright middle school students, such as the ones we will have at TLC.

    Thanks for posting Bo! (though I am a little sad that Duke did not contact me about being a reader — not that I’d have the five hours to spare as I launch TLC)

  2. Pingback: Networks, Peer Progressives, School 3.0, and Future Perfect #IDreamASchool #School3pt0 | it's about learning

  3. What a fantastic idea. There’s no reason why this can’t work in a K-12 setting (or at least a 9-12) setting. In many ways, independent schools already have the tools to do this, and it might just prove to be synergistic. Building connections between academics and the alumni/development office can’t be a bad idea.

  4. What a fantastic idea–and there’s no reason it couldn’t work in a K-12 setting (or at least a 9-12 setting). In many ways, independent schools are already set up to do this, and it might prove synergistic. Connections between academics and the alumni/development office might just turn out to be great for both.

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