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A Professional Memorandum

Writing Workshop

Patricia Elliott, MPH

Candidate for DrPH

Boston University Instructional Innovation Conference

March 2, 2012
 Innovation purpose

 Workshop components

 Application to other courses

 Questions
 Course: Women, Children and
Adolescents: Public Health Approaches

 Assignment: Craft a professional

memorandum informing a decision maker
of a health issue along with a
programmatic or policy response.

 Need for innovation: Students lack

professional writing experience.
Goals of the Memo Assignment
 Synthesize information

 Present ideas clearly and efficiently

 Build career related skills

 Create a polished writing sample

Challenges for Students
 Professional writing ≠ academic writing

 It is difficult to break successful habits

 Short assignments are the enemy of

Innovation: Memo Workshop
 Students need practice and support to
build new skills

 Multifaceted skills-building workshop

◦ An interactive in-class session
◦ Students work with their own material
◦ Uses lecture, individual, and group work
 Instructional lecture

 Individual brainstorming

 Group collaboration

 One-on-one instructor interaction

 Class-wide group discussion of prepared

Section 1- Memo Dissection
 A close look at each memo section:
o Introduction o Proposed program/policy

o Scope of the problem o Major constituencies

o Current approaches o Conclusion

 The importance of
being concise and direct

Instructional Lecture
Section 2- Partner Time
Practice being succinct and clear
 Students turn to their neighbor and must
summarize in 60 seconds:
◦ The importance of
their health issue
◦ A brief description
of their policy or
 Class discussion of challenges
Group Work
Section 3- The Art of Writing
 Presentation of the nuances of
professional writing with a focus on:
◦ Tone
◦ Formatting
◦ Content

 General writing tips

◦ Active/passive voice
◦ Grammar
◦ Citations

Instructional Lecture
Section 4- Practice with Topic
 Individual work
◦ guided by a handout
 Partner work
◦ present ideas and ask
questions to neighbors
 Faculty work
◦ one-on-one questions
addressed by roving
faculty and TAs

Individual and Group Work

Section 5- Analysis of Examples
 Examples of each memo section are
displayed on-screen and in a handout
 Class-wide discussion of strengths and
weaknesses, followed by faculty analysis
 Slides, with faculty analysis included, are
posted to course website after class

Class-Wide Group Work

Section 5- Analysis of Examples
Application of Innovation
 Direct use in other courses
◦ Any course that requires students to write a
◦ Applications in public health, public policy,
business sector, etc.
 Expanded use for the format
◦ This multi-faceted format for skills building
can be applied across the curriculum to help
student acquire a variety of new skills
 Improves students’ understanding of the
nuances of professional writing

 Engages and challenges students to work

through their own topic in a way that
identifies hurdles and provides immediate
support from peers and faculty

 Offers flexibility for a range of audiences

and educational goals