CAL is working with the Center for Advanced Proficiency in English (CAPE) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) on a three-year project to provide online instruction in advanced English writing skills for federal personnel. The program will enable Department of Defense and other federal personnel who are non-native speakers of English to improve their cultural and linguistic competence as writers of professional English.
UMBC’s TESOL Professional Training Programs designed the writing course, which consists of 10 weeks of instruction provided through UMBC’s BlackBoard learning management system. The course focuses on a wide variety of writing skills, from advanced grammar topics to intercultural communication and organizational patterns. Specific topics include the following:
- Writing strong sentences
- Using connectors effectively in compound and complex sentences
- Organizing ideas for clarity, brevity, and emphasis
- Structuring paragraphs and longer text to achieve writing purpose
- Understanding the conventions of U.S. business writing
- Recognizing and using appropriate style and tone
In the program’s first year (2014), UMBC piloted the course with one cohort of 20 participants. CAL provided technical assistance on program design and development, with special emphasis on the characteristics of professional proficiency in English writing as defined by the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) descriptors commonly used in the federal government. CAL also conducted entry and exit assessment of participants’ English writing proficiency and carried out an evaluation of the program.
In 2015, the program plans to offer three iterations of the course. CAL is continuing to provide technical assistance on program design and will conduct entry and exit assessment for all three cohorts. In addition, CAL is developing a series of participant self-assessments and unit quizzes based on course content provided by UMBC.