What Counts as Writing? The Purposes for Writing

LEGOSWhen we think about assigning writing and writing activities in our courses, we often think about it in terms of the number of words or pages we want students to produce over the course of the semester. In some cases, such as with Writing Intensive courses, we might even have a specific number of words students are expected to produce, or a program or department might require a specific number of written assignments and activities for a specific course. Continue reading

Giving Formative Feedback

In our previous post, we discussed the why, how, and when of giving feedback, and we identified formative feedback as one of our most effective tools for teaching and learning. In this post, we’ll continue this discussion of giving effective feedback by looking at what formative feedback looks like, describing both its characteristics and providing examples of formative feedback statements. Continue reading

Giving Effective Feedback

Effective feedback is context-specific, determined by the purpose of the feedback, the time in which feedback is provided, and the goal for providing the feedback. To make your feedback effective, consider why, how, and when you are giving feedback.

Why Are You Giving Feedback?

Before you set out to provide feedback on student work, consider the contexts governing your feedback.

  • Are you providing feedback on a low-stakes writing-to-learn assignment or are you providing feedback on a high-stakes assignment?
  • Is this feedback being given to facilitate revision, or is the purpose of this feedback intended to be applied to future assignments?
  • In what stage of the assignment is the feedback being offered? Are you providing feedback on a final draft accompanied by a grade, or are you providing feedback on a work-in-progress that can be revised?
  • What is the goal of this feedback? To teach specific disciplinary writing conventions? To assess mastery of the subject? To encourage deeper learning?

Continue reading

What Counts as Writing?

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When we incorporate writing into our courses through writing to learn activities, learning to write assignments, or both, we have made the conscious decision that writing is an important tool for facilitating learning. While we may agree that incorporating writing and writing instruction into our courses is important, how often do we stop to ask ourselves what counts as writing?

How we answer this question shapes the ways we teach with writing in our classrooms; it determines the concepts, strategies, skills, and knowledge we teach when we teach writing; it defines the kinds of activities and products we assign in our courses; and it governs how we provide feedback on and evaluate student writing.

So, what counts as writing? Continue reading

Supporting the Transfer of Student Writing Knowledge

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Faculty who teach with writing in upper-level courses often ask about the prior literacy learning of students in their courses. Many of these faculty are uncertain about what their students have learned and what they need to learn in order to perform well on writing projects. Because they know students have taken writing courses, they want to know how best to leverage that prior learning. In other words, they are curious about how to support the transfer of prior writing knowledge. So, what can faculty who teach with writing do to facilitate that transfer? Continue reading

Small Ways to Integrate Writing into Your Course

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One of the first questions that faculty new to teaching writing across the disciplines ask is: how do I add writing to what I’m already doing in my class? Balancing content and writing instruction is a difficult task, and often we feel like we just can’t fit everything in. And while teaching a writing course might carry extra expectations, faculty are often surprised to learn that small writing-to-learn activities can add a lot of value while not requiring a lot of work. Continue reading

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