Troubleshooting Assignment Designs


As many instructors know, it can be difficult to know how well-developed a writing assignment is, how clearly the prompt is written, and how students will respond to the project, especially when the assignment is brand new.  Soliciting feedback from colleagues, writing specialists, or students can be an effective method of developing prompts, but instructors aren’t always able to take advantage of that opportunity.  Continue reading

The Meaningful Writing Project

Fenwick Library

Developing good writing assignments is a complicated task, one not simplified by the multiple ways in which students sometimes interpret them.  Instructors often find themselves asking: Are my instructions clear?  Do they align with the course’s learning objectives?  And perhaps most important, will my students find this project engaging?  Michelle Eodice, Anne Ellen Geller, and Neal Lerner can’t provide the answers to all of these questions, but their research is helping us to understand what a “meaningful” writing assignment might be for students.  Continue reading

Designing High-Impact Writing Assignments

College of Science

We often think of writing as a tool that prompts deep learning, but we don’t always talk about how to use writing assignments to realize this goal.  That might let us assume that assigning any kind of writing will lead to deep learning, or it might prompt us to wonder if there are particular practices that promote this goal more than others.  According to research by Paul Anderson, Chris Anson, Robert Gonyea, and Charles Paine, the answer is the latter: the quality of the assignment design has a greater impact on learning than the amount of writing students are asked to compose. Fortunately, their research has begun to uncover several high impact practices that instructors can use to design writing assignments across the curriculum. They describe these practices as follows:  Continue reading

Undergraduate Column: How Do We Create Our Writers of Mason Profiles?


The Writers of Mason, based on the Humans of New York, attempts to capture the diversity of writers on campus by profiling students, faculty, and staff through interviews and photos. To date, we have published 45 profiles on the blog, are currently processing multiple different profiles, and have snapped 189 photos of writers in our Mason community. Because we strive to showcase the human experience, creating a profile for an interviewee takes time and patience; each profile must go through a series of stages: conducting the interview, transcribing the interview and selecting the quotation to publish, taking and adding the finishing touches on the photo, and then editing and publishing the profile. Now that we have been publishing these profiles for a while, we thought we would share a little bit about the process of creating our Writers of Mason profiles.  Continue reading

Preparing for Writing After College: The Archives of Workplace Writing Experiences Project


Throughout the course of the school year, faculty members at universities across the country assign a plethora of writing assignments. Whether for an English, Chemistry, or Art History class, professors understand the importance of teaching college students how to write well, not only for the sake of the students’ academic career, but also for their professional careers as well. Upon graduation, however, many students are finding themselves unprepared to write for their new jobs, which means they might not be successfully transferring what they have learned about writing in college to the workplace. This lack of transfer presents a real challenge for faculty members, who find themselves asking: how do we better prepare students for writing in the workplace? Part of the solution, according to Professors Brian Fitzpatrick of George Mason University and Jessica McCaughey of George Washington University, is for faculty and students to better understand the expectations of writers in the workplace, so the two researchers teamed up to explore the numerous types of writing professionals produce in the workplace.

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