While writing specialists broadly understand that writing helps students learn, we also advocate for writing assignments that prompt students to think rhetorically: how writers use texts to convey meaning appropriate to an audience in a given context. As a part of this conversation, writing specialists talk about the importance of audience, but research in writing studies, including here at Mason, reveals that college writing assignments do not commonly address an audience beyond the instructor, who typically is addressed as an evaluator. Continue reading
It recently occurred to us that, while we have been sharing resources about designing assignments this semester, we haven’t actually shared any samples of designs. These resources are helpful when considering how to design our assignments, but they don’t show us how to communicate that assignment through a prompt sheet. So, they compel us to ask: what does a good assignment sheet actually look like? Continue reading
This semester, WAC Mason has been thinking about and studying the ways in which faculty design writing assignments. While it seems common for instructors to think about the content of writing assignments, we sometimes forget to talk about the process of writing assignments: how do we develop them? What should we consider as we develop them? Continue reading
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
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
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
If you are new to teaching (with) writing, the responsibility may feel overwhelming. Many new instructors (and veteran ones as well) often find themselves asking: how am I going to fit all of the content I want to teach? How am I going to guide and support my students’ writing? And how am I going to evaluate all of that student writing? Continue reading
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.
Writing Across the Curriculum is proud to sponsor “Partners on the Page,” a special event at George Mason’s annual Fall for the Book festival featuring an evening with author Laura Micciche as she showcases the power of partnerships in the writing community and the genre of written acknowledgments.
Partners on the Page will take place on Thursday, October 12 at 4:30pm on the 3rd floor of the Johnson Center in Meeting Room G.
WAC is also excited for our partner’s event, “Research in Rhetoric: Digital, Visual and Archival Methods.” The George Mason University chapter of the Society for Technical Communication brings Dr. Douglas Eyman, Dr. Laurie Gries, and Dr. Jennell Johnson together for a panel discussion about research methods in the fields of rhetoric, composition, and communication.
Research in Rhetoric will take place in Meeting Room G of the Johnson Center at 6:00pm following the Partners on the Page presentation.
Don’t miss these two great, back-to-back events!
Fall for the Book runs from October 11th – 14th. Find more information about the many incredible authors coming to campus at www.fallforthebook.org.
For the 16th consecutive year, Mason’s Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program has been ranked among the best writing in the disciplines programs in the US by US News and World Reports. In spring 2017, US News invited college presidents, chief academic officers, deans of students and deans of admissions from more than 1,500 schools to nominate up to 10 institutions with stellar examples of writing in the disciplines. Mason was once again included in the final listing.
Mason’s WAC program supports the efforts of faculty across the curriculum to make student writing a priority in course work for the major. Established in 1993, WAC was designed to develop students’ understanding of the writing in their disciplines, as well as their ability to communicate as professionals within their respective fields. The program fosters a number of ideals, but the core of the program advocates that students should have frequent opportunities to write in diverse contexts and for diverse audiences, to receive feedback, and to engage in revision strategies. This foundation helps students to think more creatively and critically, engage more deeply in their learning, and transfer their learning from context to context.
The list of educational institutions ranked by US News and World Reports includes Brown, Cornell, Duke, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and several others.
Congratulations to Mason WAC!
To see the listings, go to: