Helping Students Revise

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In our last post, we discussed the qualities of good feedback.  But as many writing teachers know, giving good feedback is only part of the equation; students still need to use that feedback in order to revise their drafts and develop as writers.  And this second part of the equation can be a significant challenge for many writing teachers and students alike; as Katherine Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj note, drafts can sometimes become “like concrete:” once they begin to set, they aren’t likely to see changes deeper than the surface.  So, the question becomes: how do we help students use our feedback and revise their writing? Continue reading

Characteristics of Effective Feedback

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Writing intensive courses are built on the concept that students improve as writers when they are given frequent opportunities to revise their writing based upon feedback from faculty.  While providing feedback can seem simple, many writing teachers recognize that the task is complex, and it’s common for faculty to feel unsure of how best to provide feedback on writing.  In consultations and informal conversations, faculty often ask us: how do I provide effective feedback, and what should I be mindful of as I provide my student’s feedback? Continue reading

What Works in Teaching Writing

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People new to teaching writing aren’t often sure what proven teaching strategies are and whether those practices are linked to research or simply lore.  

Doug Hesse addresses concerns that are often posed by many writing teachers in programs across the country, such as Professor Joseph Teller who worries about his students’ writing abilities despite much instructional effort.  Hesse, however, attempts to correct Teller’s position by stating that there are proven, research based practices to teach writing. Continue reading

Strategies to Support Mindful Reading

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Since we are still feeling inspired by the Stearns Center’s fantastic conference and its theme of “Small Changes, Big Impact,” we thought that we’d share a few more ways to support reading in the writing classroom.  This week, however, we are offering a more complete resource with a series of useful reading strategies that we can teach to our students. Continue reading

Using Annotations to Support Reading

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In our last post, we highlighted the need for faculty to think more intentionally about the ways in which they support student reading, particularly in college writing courses.  This might sound like it requires large-scale changes in teaching, but it doesn’t have to: we can start small.   In fact, the theme of this year’s Innovations in Teaching and Learning (ITL) Conference should help us realize that: “Small Changes, Big Impact.”  With that theme in mind and the conference just two days away(!), we thought that we would share a small change that can help us better support our students’ engagement with reading. Continue reading

Cultivating a New Audience

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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

What Does an Effective Assignment Sheet Look Like?

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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

Troubleshooting Assignment Designs

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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