“I Cannot Prepare Students to Write Their (History, Philosophy, Sociology, Poly Sci., etc…) Papers” by John Warner

First year composition courses are often expected to cure students of all their writing woes.  John Warner addresses this false assumption by examining why students’ writing often falters outside the first year composition classroom.  Not only are students often underprepared and still learning content material, but they do not grasp the requirements of different genres and rhetorical situations.  Even when armed with an understanding of rhetorical questions to consider when writing, students often struggle to apply these to a new field of study.   Continue reading

“When More is Less” by Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty reviews a new study, a collaboration between the National Survey of Student Engagement and the Council of Writing Program Administrators, which finds assigning more writing assignments does not necessarily mean better student writing.  Instead, the study’s authors suggest that better, not more, assignments (ones that are interactive and deeper) improve students’ writing and learning.  “Meaning making” writing assignments, or those assignments that require students to construct their own knowledge by interpreting texts or learning experiences, are especially helpful for students’ growth, the authors report.

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The High School/College Writing Classroom Disconnect by John Warner

John Warner’s assessment of the disconnect between high school and college writing classrooms is surprisingly more critical of college professors.  In fact, Warner argues that professors are responsible for connecting college writing assignments to the outside world.  In addressing primary and secondary teachers, he acknowledges that they have good goals in teaching their students restricting writing rules, but he would instead have them, along with all writing teachers, help their students focus on the rhetorical audience and purpose.

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Authentic Writing

photo-1414919823178-e9d9d0afd0acEmily Chambers is an English M.A. student in the Teaching Writing and Literature program and a Graduate Research Assistant for Mason WAC.  She taught sixth grade English for five years in Culpeper, VA before beginning her studies at GMU.  Emily’s main interests are in teacher development and curriculum resources.  She can be reached at echambe5@masonlive.gmu.edu.  

Educators often note that much of the writing students do in school settings (from k-12 to their first few years of college) is written for the “teacher as audience.” Many have suggested that “authentic writing” opportunities are more helpful to students, teaching them to consider audience and motivating them to write. Defined in simple terms, “authentic writing” is a phrase that describes writing for “real life” audiences and purposes. Examples might include asking students to write web text for a non-profit, proposals to granting agencies, letters to the editor, or pieces that will be submitted for publication.

In my five years of teaching middle school classes, the most successful and rewarding authentic writing experience was when I asked my students to submit to the America Library of Poetry Contest.  My sixth-grade students used the writing process to compose poems, and after peer- and teacher-conferences, they submitted these poems to be read by national judges.  We spent time through this lesson reading poems and talking about the strengths of good poems in our class sessions. This summer, I happened to read a short autobiography by a former student, written for a fundraiser.  As one of her interests, Lindsay listed “writing poetry,” and mentioned that she was a winner in a national poetry contest.  She had won! I was overjoyed to see that a classroom writing assignment had become a proud moment in my student’s life, and that she had taken on a role as a writer.   Continue reading

National Census of Writing report released

Carl Straumsheim’s Inside Higher Ed article summarizes and highlights the newly released National Census of Writing, a comprehensive data-based survey of writing at national two-and four-year public and not-for-profit institutions.  The researchers offer open access to the data, which includes contributions from the 2014-2015 George Mason WAC program team.  Data was collected from 900 colleges, and the survey is the most comprehensive survey of its kind.   We are eager to learn from this new report, which makes writing instruction trends clear on a national level.

Read the full article here: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/10/20/national-census-writing-releases-survey-results

Error in Student Writing: A Balanced, Developmental Approach

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By Paul T. Corrigan

Paul T. Corrigan teaches writing and literature at Southeastern University, where he serves on the steering committee for Writing Across the Curriculum. He writes at Teaching & Learning in Higher Ed. You can reach him through Facebook, Twitter, and paultcorrigan.com.

Errors in writing may irk and confuse readers, imply ignorance or negligence on behalf of the author, and have unintended consequences in the real world. For these reasons, many teachers feel compelled to try to “cure” students’ writing of errors, often by prescribing heavy doses of red ink. I am grateful for the thankless efforts these teachers make to help students become clearer, more accurate writers. But I bear bad news. There is no cure for errors in student writing. We need to be absolutely clear on this. Short of not writing, students will continue to err, no matter what we do.

Butlet me hasten to addthis bad news is also the good news. Continue reading

Mini and Mighty: How the One-Minute Paper can Transform Your Teaching

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By: Tom Sura

Tom Sura is an assistant professor of English and the undergraduate writing coordinator at West Virginia University. Tom would love to know if you use one-minute papers in your courses and what discoveries they have led to. You can find him several ways: @tom_sura on Twitter, thomas.sura@mail.wvu.edu on email, and tomsura.tumblr.com online.

One of the most powerful tools in a teacher’s toolkit—regardless of the discipline—measures just three inches by five inches. That’s right. The standard-issue index card has a remarkable power for increasing student engagement, assessing pedagogy, and providing evidence of exceptional teaching. Continue reading

Portfolios in Writing Classes: Instructor Goals v. Program Assessment

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Editor’s Note:

Writing Portfolio (n.) : Since the mid-1980’s, portfolios—collections of student writing that have been workshopped and revised during a term or over series of terms—have become a fixture in writing classes and programs across the US. These tools are useful for program assessment, but they may have a number of positive pedagogical effects as well, such as increasing students’ attention to the process of effective writing, attuning students to the importance of feedback and audience awareness, allowing students’ ideas (and so work) to mature over time, and presenting opportunities for metacognitive reflection.

For those interested, the following websites offer more information about the use of portfolios in support of undergraduate writing:

Washington State University, Junior Writing Portfolio

University of Massachusetts-Boston, Writing Proficiency Exam and Portfolio

University of Washington-Bothell, IAS Degree Portfolio

– Dr. Michelle LaFrance, Director of Writing Across the Curriculum
  Editor, The Writing Campus

Portfolios in the Classroom: A Reflection

By: Cat Mahaffey

Cat is the Associate Director of First-Year Writing in the University Writing Program at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.  She teaches various levels of Writing and Inquiry in Academic Contexts.  She is an avid blogger.  Visit her teaching blog at catmahaffey.wordpress.com, follow her on Twitter @CatMahaffey, or email her at chmahaff@uncc.edu. Continue reading