by: Mikal Cardine
Mikal is a senior studying English at George Mason. She previously worked with WAC to create disciplinary writing guides for student use. To reach her, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The average undergraduate will hear a variety of conflicting viewpoints from their university professors on the topic of Wikipedia. While some professors will openly express distrust of Wikipedia as a source for research, others are more open to the use of Wikipedia as a learning tool. While Middlebury College outright banned undergraduates from citing Wikipedia in any academic essay—stating that “students need to be taught to go for quality information, not just convenience” (Jaschik, 2)—professors such as Mark Kissling argue that faculty do a disservice to their students if they don’t help them to understand why instructors are concerned about the source. As Kissling writes, professors have a duty to teach “their students to learn to critically read Wikipedia…helping them understand how it is created, how it defines and positions knowledge, and what it makes possible and fails to do” (Kissling, 1).
As an undergraduate, I have to admit that Wikipedia is in. Originally branded as untrustworthy, the site is now our go-to research tool – but why? Has student scholarship fallen so far? Or has Wikipedia possibly become a useful research tool? Prompted to learn more, I decided to do a little research and created a simple survey to determine Wikipedia’s current value to both professors and students.
Jessica McCaughey is an Assistant Professor at George Washington University in Washington, DC, where she teaches and writes about the intersections of academic, creative, and professional writing. You can reach her at email@example.com and find her online at jessicamccaughey.com.
When it comes to communicating with students, all writing instructors face two hurdles:
- Students have different learning styles, so not all students understand or retain the written word in the same way, and
- Sometimes it’s just easier to speak than it is to write.
The latter is a challenge that becomes especially clear when I find myself crafting embarrassingly long emails that could have been presented orally and visually quite easily. I have—although I’m really not proud of it—taken four paragraphs to clarify a homework assignment. I have written multi-page emails detailing the wonder that is the inter-library loan system. Most writers—and writing instructors—I know love the quote, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time,” by French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal. (You may have heard a similar quote falsely attributed to Mark Twain.) Concision takes time in writing, especially writing that is intended to teach in some way. And so it was with genuine pleasure that I discovered and began implementing the use of Jing, a program that supplements and improves the way I teach writing in so many ways. Continue reading
Mason WAC’s learning module on best practices for writing assignment design in any discipline!
Assignment Design Principles
By Dr. Steven J. Corbett
What do we know about assessing student writing across the disciplines? In terms of designing effective writing assignments and scoring guides—from the cross-curricular research and practice of teacher-scholars across the country—we know quite a bit. And we are learning more every day . . . Continue reading