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.”
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
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.
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.
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.
“Why are teachers afraid of sentences that begin with ‘I feel’ or that draw on personal experience?” Margaret Mott asks, repeating a question she read in an essay early in her career.
In one of my favorite A Midsummer Night’s Dream passages by William Shakespeare, Theseus comments on the creation of poetry. Informing us that the “poet’s eye” in a “fine frenzy rolling” glances from “heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,” we learn about the process of making sense of the world and composing something about it.
Before embarking on a writing assignment, I challenge my students to imagine a skeptical reader who expects them to answer five important questions. Answering these questions demands critical writing and thinking, and helps the students develop thoughtful content, efficient structure, and clear sentences.
As a very young teacher, I remember pulling all-nighters to get my students’ essays back within the one-week limit I set for myself. Even in those days this “cram grading” was miserable and exhausting; but now at 50—especially with the added responsibilities of husband, father, and homeowner—this style of grading papers is all but impossible.
How often does this happen to you? You pore over students’ writing assignments, adding what you feel are insightful and encouraging comments throughout each paper. Comments you hope your students will take to heart and use to improve their writing next time around. Then you return the papers and the students quickly look at the grade and stuff the paper into their backpacks … perhaps mumbling something under their breath as they do.