Writing: It’s Just What We Do Being a “Writing Teacher” in Any Discipline Teaching Assistants’ Workshop September 2007 Dalhousie Writing Centre
Before we beginWhat is your image of a writer? Are you a writer?
Three Step Program1. Acknowledge your problem - you are a writer2. Accept your role - you are a writing teacher3. Accept that you are part of a team - you are not the only writing teacher
1. Acknowledge your problem: You are a writer• What are your feelings generally about writing?§ Are you a fairly competent writer? Where are your major challenges?§ Do you see writing as a process or as a product?§ What is writing like in your field or discipline?
2. Accepting your role: you are a writing teacher – in your discipline• Who are you teaching? § Undergrad or grad? § Majoring / honouring or other? § Year / age? § Experience in the discipline? § Intelligence? Aptitude? Interest? § Gender? Nationality/ethnic group? § ESL or native speaker? § Previous writing experience?§ How will their background affect their writing?
Being PracticalWhat can you do to help your students become good writers in your discipline?
What can you do?• Decide what you want students to achieve (behavioural objectives)• Indicate evaluation method (rubric) and explain it in detail before assignments• Allow students to discuss evaluation methods (What do they see as important in writing/subject?)• Introduce them to the writing conventions of the discipline (You will need to recognize them.)• Provide examples of work (e.g. a lab report or an essay) • What makes them good? What makes them poor? Go through them with the students. Discuss.
Evaluating writing• Evaluate for both content and writing (rubric must reflect both) – the journal editors certainly do• Don’t edit – you waste your time!
How to comment on work• Find the first instance and comment (tell them to look in the document for more of the same problems)• Tell them where the writing meets expectations and where it doesn’t• Refer them to reference books (“See p. 34 note on passive voice or parallel structure”)• Teach them about spell checkers and grammar checkers• Show examples of how you would like a section structured or worded (e.g. discussion section)• Introduce them to the discipline’s jargon when• If you have the time, allow them to rewrite or to do a similar assignment• Watch for signs of plagiarism, cheating, etc.
3. Accept that you’re part of a team of “writing” teachers• You are not alone• You have a faculty member• You have a librarian subject specialist• You have peers (faculty and grad students)• You have the CLT • You have the Writing Centre
Additional resources• www.writingcentre.dal.ca and www.library.dal.ca/how/how.htm• Faculty sites - http://users.cs.dal.ca/~eem/gradRsources/thesisHints.html• Keene, Michael L., Adams, Katherine H., & Clow-Bohan, M. (2006) Instant access. Toronto: McGrawHill.• Buckley, Joanne. (2003). Checkmate: A writing reference for Canadians. Toronto: Thomson Nelson.• Secretary of State of Canada. (1997). The Canadian style: A guide to writing and editing. Toronto: Durham.• Murphy, C.,& Sherwood, S. (2003). The St. Martin’s sourcebook for writing tutors. Boston: Bedford St. Martins.
More resources• Day, R.A. (1998). How to write & publish a scientific paper. Westport: Oryx• Northey, M.,& Jewinski, J. (2005). Making sense: A student s guide to research and writing. Toronto: Oxford.• Pechenik, J.A. (2004). A short guide to writing about biology.Toronto: Pearson.• Adams, K.H.,& Keene, M.L. (2000). Research and writing across the disciplines. Toronto: Mayfield.• Crème, P.,& Lea, M.R. (1997). Writing at university: A guide for students. Maidenhead: Open U.• Writing Centre website for more links to discipline-specific writing guidelines www.writingcentre.dal.ca