November 26, 2012

Get Visual: A Technique for Improving Student Writing

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One of the ongoing challenges for my composition students is the task of narrowing a broad, generalized topic into a more particular, focused topic for a short research essay. To help them develop this skill, I now prescribe a broad topic for everyone to use in the first research essay. Over several class sessions, we work collaboratively to explore the general topic, identify more particular subtopics, and develop research strategies to investigate these subtopics as possible subject matter.


November 6, 2012

Informal Writing Assignments: Promoting Learning Through Writing

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The Writing Across the Curriculum movement has successfully introduced faculty across disciplines to a variety of writing, including very informal writing that faculty do not necessarily read or grade. The advocacy for this kind of informal writing rests on the old premise that practice makes perfect—that as long as students are writing something, their writing will likely improve.


October 17, 2012

Turnitin Study Reveals Types and Frequency of Comments Left by Instructors on Student Papers

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Turnitin, the leader in originality checking and online grading, announced the results of a new study analyzing instructor feedback on 2,093,396 student papers submitted through GradeMark, the Turnitin online grading tool. The study found that while instructors have accepted online grading as mainstream, they are finding the same types of grammatical and compositional errors across secondary and postsecondary grade levels.


June 19, 2012

Helping Students Write Better Lab Reports

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One of the messages of the Writing Across the Curriculum movement is that writing skills can be developed in any course and that often the best place to start is with current assignments that involve writing. That’s where chemists Gragson and Hagen started. They were disappointed in the quality of student writing in their “journal-style” lab reports. Despite giving students a sample lab, a writing manual, and lots of good feedback, the quality of the lab reports was low and did not improve across the 10 to 15 lab reports students prepared.


April 5, 2012

The Eyes of a Writer: A Strategy to Improve Student Writing

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How many times have you provided feedback in the margins of students’ papers, only to find that you’re providing the very same feedback on the next set of papers? As a new faculty member, I was left dumbfounded by this experience. I couldn’t understand why my students continuously made the same errors and why my feedback did not improve their papers. I was also surprised by the number of students who requested meetings to discuss why they felt their papers warranted a higher grade. My colleagues assured me that I wasn’t alone in these experiences, but I knew there had to be alternatives to this unproductive cycle.


June 29, 2011

Alternative Writing Assignments: The Integrated Paper

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As faculty working with students to explore topics of interests we frequently request that they review the literature to gain an understanding of what is known and unknown about a topic and then present their findings in an integrated manner. While many students are familiar with developing papers termed “literature reviews” or “reviews of the literature,” these types of papers frequently do not afford the students the opportunity to integrate what has been found. Thus faculty have begun to require that students present their findings and thoughts via what is known as an “integrated paper format.”


March 30, 2011

Time Management Strategies for Student Writers

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Is it me or do students often seem surprised by just how long the writing process takes? When I first started teaching, I never thought to address the issue of time management with my students. Over the course of my next several classes, however, I started to notice a pattern in students’ comments, such as: The work in this class is really, really time consuming; I’ve never spent this much time writing before; and I didn’t realize it would take SO much time but I am really happy with the end results.


November 4, 2010

Feedback Techniques that Improve Student Writing

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Yvonne is frustrated. She wants to do well in her language arts class, but each essay she completes fails to earn her the grade she believes she deserves. Although her teacher thoughtfully writes out corrective comments on her essays, to Yvonne these seem to run together, forming a nonsensical sea of red ink. With each assignment, she feels less capable and grows more resentful of her instructor.


September 21, 2010

Writing Comments That Lead to Learning

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Instructors who require papers spend a good deal of time emphasizing the importance of audience and purpose in writing. Writers who remember their readers and their writing objectives are much more likely to use good judgment about the decisions that go into creating an effective piece of writing. This is equally true of the comments instructors write on students’ papers. I’d like to share some suggestions, some of which I learned the hard way.