When my office was in the basement of Coates, I walked in one day to find a rat scurrying up and down my blinds. Not this rat, but this one...
At least that’s how it appeared to me. I hate rats. I slammed my door, walked down to the Writing Center and called facility services. This was not my job. I wanted no part of solving my rat problem. Later that day, it hit me that some people at the university, walk into their offices or labs every day and handle rats. Not me. If I’d wanted to work with rats, I would have gone into the sciences, not the humanities, not English. But I didn’t. I deal with student texts, not rats.Why do I tell you this story. Because I realize that for some of you, walking into you office and realizing that you have a stack of essays to read it like encountering a nasty rat.
Teaching writing may be as scary to you as working with rats is to me. But it doesn’t need to be.
Why is it important to teach writing across the disciplines?
And this relationship is not just relevant to English courses. Writing is both a process and a product of critical thought. Writing requires thinking and writing is evidence of thinking. So let’s think about what it means to teach a writing-intensive course and how it can affect student learning.
WRITING-INTENSIVE COURSESGive students ample instruction on the conventions of discipline-specific writing, including detailed directions for the assignment itself and grading descriptions or formal rubrics for assessment.
"When thinking about course design, we need to think beyond the topic to the specific content--what we want students to know--and to the specific skills--what we want students to be able to do with that knowledge" It would really be better if we could combine this slide and the next one.
Here are the sample learning objectives in a course called "Literature in History"I've highlighted the phrases that indicate the course content and the skills related to communication that students will develop in this class
Related Communication AssignmentIn this assignment we can see how the objectives have been translated into related activities.What kinds of guidance will the professor most likely need to provide if students are to do this assignment successfully?
3000-level Ecology courseIn this slide, we see the course objectives for 3000-level ecology course. Again, I've highlighted the skills and content students will learn. In these four activities, we see a kind of progression--from gathering and analyzing data, to recognizing a problem, applying the research skills, and presenting a poster. We'll talk more about this scaffolding sequence in this afternoon’s session. You saw evidence of it in the assignment sequence you read for homework.
LEARNING: Students participate in a minimum of five “informal” or “formal” writing tasks throughout the semester that engage them in good writing techniques and critical thinking to learn course content (e.g., summaries, annotated bibliographies, journals, lab observations, reflections, blog posts, discussion boards). These tasks may be done in or out of class, have no length requirement, require only minimal feedback, and may be graded or ungraded.
Keep in mind that students engage with their eyes, hands, brains, as they write to learn.
Don’t have to grade formally
So when might you have students do informal writing? ANYTIME!Before class (outside of class)At the beginning of classDuring class (middle)At the end of classAfter class (outside)
Ask students toidentify terms, concepts, or processes that are difficult to understandpose a problem that requires use of new knowledge to solve itgive a preliminary answer to a problem or issue to be discussed in class. At the end of class, have them revise their responses and explain how and why their ideas may have changed.
At the beginning of class, summarize what was covered in the previous class—where did we leave offidentify the most interesting thing in today’s reading—evidence that you’ve read!Offer a tentative solution to a problem that today’s lecture will coverDuring classShare that solution with a neighbor and see if you’re on the right trackAt the end of classexplain what you didn’t understand in today’s classexplaining how the concepts apply in real-world situations
Sample Informal Writing Prompt - Psychology courseWhat would students have to know to answer this question? It could work well as before or after the lecture response.
Sample Informal Writing Prompt - Ecology courseWhat skills would students need to answer this prompt?
Course involves formal writing assignments that result in a minimum of 10 double-spaced pages that have been through the draft-feedback-revision process (the 10-page requirement of formal writing does not have to be a single project; for example, it can be one 5-page project and several shorter projects to equal the 10 pages of revised, edited writing.) Give students ample instruction on the conventions of discipline-specific writing, including detailed directions for the assignment itself and grading descriptions or formal rubrics for assessment.
Writing teachers are well aware that poor writing is oftentimes the result of a poor assignment. Think carefully about what you ask students to write and why.What do I want students to do? Why?How do I want them to do the assignment? Assignment should address the process you want students to undertake as well as the product you want student to produceTo whom are my students writing? Issue of audience—not just the teacher; someone with more or less knowledge?When and how will students do the assignment? Build in requirements for drafts, nutshell papers; same bibliographyWhat will students do with the assignment? Can you design an assignment with an authentic purpose?How—assignment should address the process you want students to undertake as well as the product you want student to produce
To design effective formal writing assignments, think…
Context: Your are a nursing professor with two goals for a research paper: Deepen students’ thinking about controversies in alternative medicineIncrease students’ abilities to read professional literature critically. You decide to have students investigate therapeutic touch (TT), a procedure in which the healer is said to effect therapeutic changes in the patient’s energy field by moving his or her hands slightly above the patient’s body. Bean, Engaging Idea, 92Here’s a possible assignment. What do you think?
Who’s the writer, the audience, what’s the purpose. What skills will the student need to complete this assignment?
Now who is the audience, the writer, what’s the purpose? What might the teacher do with this assignment?
NSSE finding: The number of writing assignments in a course may be less important than the design of the writing assignmentsGood assignments: let students get early feedback on their drafts (guidance during the process)encourage meaning-making clearly explain the instructor’s expectations and purposeAuthentic audience.
“decenter”; writer-based prose to reader-based proseidentify missing informationrecognize problems with organization (“and then” or “dump”)eliminate unnecessary materiallearn genre conventionsformative evaluation; benefit from teacher comments when it still matters
So while I had facility services come to take away the rat…
you too have support services you can tap to help you teach writing—CxC Staff and studios
The relationship between the amount of writing fora course and the student’s level of engagement—whether engagement is measured by time spenton the course, or the intellectual challenge itpresents, or students’ level of interest in it—isstronger than the relationship between students’engagement and any other course characteristic. - Richard Light, “Making the Most of College” cxc.lsu.edu
LEARNING OBJECTIVES By the end of the course, students should know… and be able to do… cxc.lsu.edu
Students will learn to examineproblems in the interpretation ofliterature through historical contextswith a focus on 20th century America.Intended for students with backgroundsin History and Literature, the studentswill teach each other about their owndisciplinary training and assumptions.Students will develop criticalreading, oral and visualarguments, discussion skills, andcritical thinking in order to writeabout literary art and its role in
ASSIGNMENT:In a team with 2 “history” experts and 2“literature” experts, • explore a set time period and at least two pieces of literature related to it. • individually, prepare a 10-15 page research paper explaining how knowledge of the historical period enriches interpretation of the literature and vise versa. • as a team, prepare a 10-minute video documentary to teach classmates about your project, both the history
Course Objectives:1. Develop quantitative skills necessary for ecological data analysis.2. Learn field and laboratory techniques commonly used in ecological studies.3. Develop an appreciation of a current ecological problem.4. Prepare a scientific poster and
RESOURCE:How to write studentlearning objectives cxc.lsu.edu
# 2LEARNING:Five or more informalwriting experiences cxc.lsu.edu
WRITING TO LEARN (informal) Motivates students to prep for class Increases academic rigor Helps students learn, retain knowledge Checks comprehension before exam Encourages active, authentic, meaningful learning cxc.lsu.edu
RESPONDING TO INFORMAL WRITING +, , – and reader response notes scan for common misconceptions have peers respond praise new insights & clear thoughts cxc.lsu.edu
If we limit student writing to theamount we can read and respond to indetail, they will not get enoughpractice writing to improve theircommunication skills. cxc.lsu.edu
INFORMAL WRITING –INSIDE & OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM before beginning end middle after cxc.lsu.edu
INFORMAL WRITING PROMPTS reflect on readings / lectures explain concepts or processes compare understanding (before & after) summarize content apply to real-world problem cxc.lsu.edu
Write 1 paragraph... summarize what was covered in the previous class identify the most interesting thing in today’s reading explain what you didn’t understand in today’s class explaining how the concepts apply in real-world situations
Every morning, when Prof.Felina opens a bag of catfood, her cats run into thekitchen meowing and rubbingagainst her legs.What examples, if any, ofclassical conditioning, operantconditioning, and sociallearning are at work in thisscene? NOTE: both the cats andthe professor may be exhibitingconditioned behavior here.
Study this table. Whatpercentages surprises you?Explain why you thought thestatistics would be different. % ofContents of US Landfills volume Plastic 18% Paper 47% Metal 8% Organic materials 20% Other (glass, rubber) 7%
LEARNING TO WRITE (formal)Students demonstrate knowledgeof disciplinary content inappropriate style and genre requires feedback that generates multiple drafts graded with significant weight cxc.lsu.edu
ASSIGNMENT DESIGN HEURISTIC (Lindemann) What do I want students to do? Why? How do I want them to do the assignment? To whom are my students writing? When & how will they do the assignment? What will students do with the assignment? cxc.lsu.edu
ASSIGNMENT #1Write an 8-10 research paper ontherapeutic touch in which youargue for or against the treatment.Use at least 5 sources, followingAPA style.
ASSIGNMENT #2You are a staff nurse at an urbanhospital which recently attractedpublic attention when three nurses werediscovered to be using TT on patientswithout permission. The hospitalgoverning board reprimanded thenurses and has forbidden the “non-scientific quackery” of TT. Research theliterature on TT, especially forevidence-based studies. Then write a 4-5page paper to the governingboard, supporting or challenging their
ASSIGNMENT #3Do a literature search to find severalempirical studies of TT. Chose onestudy and write a critical review (2-3pages) of the article. Summarize thepurpose, method, and results of thestudy in your own words and analyzewhether the article provides ordoesn’t provide a scientific bases forregarding TT as evidence-basedmedicine.
FEEDBACK ON DRAFTS HELPSSTUDENTS – “decenter” identify missing information reorganize content eliminate unnecessary material understand genre conventions learn when it still matters cxc.lsu.edu