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.
In The Meaningful Writing Project: Learning, Teaching, and Writing in Higher Education, Eodice, Geller, and Learner (2017) study writing assignments from the perspectives of instructors and students at three national universities. Their findings describe several core elements of meaningful writing experiences: students have the opportunity to develop a personal connection with the assignment, to dig deeply into the project, and to practice abilities applicable to future contexts. While students might experience these elements without prompting, Eodice, Geller, and Learner note that instructors who developed assignments described as meaningful by students were intentional about integrating these elements into their assignments and courses.
To learn more about Eodice, Geller, and Learner’s research and about developing meaningful writing experiences in your course, please visit The Meaningful Writing Project website and a brief article describing their research; you may also consider purchasing their book (also available through JSTOR).