Better Assignments, Better Writing!
Transcript Better Assignments, Better Writing!
Shawnee PorterCare Room, The Ortner Center
1 December 2009
What Constitutes “Writing”?
That depends on the discipline.
“Writing” may take the form of any or all
term or research papers
book, film, or television reviews
a photograph, painting, or graphic
a piece of music
Use intimidating diction
Encourage fragmentary responses, idle
speculation, or frivolity
Are vague or assume students have more
knowledge than they do
Pose numerous questions that provoke
Ask for personal information
Pit novice writers against professionals
Do not stipulate audience or purpose and,
Have contradictory or conflicting
Emphasize mechanics and format over
Ask too much or do not indicate an
acceptable level of generality
What could we add to this list?
It’s Not Me, It’s Them
I don’t do any of those things! So why do
my students still turn in weak writing?
The “easy-way-out-for-me” answers:
They don’t draft.
They write in a vacuum.
They lack sufficient preparation—e.g., haven’t
done the readings leading up to the written
They have little or no foundation (translation: it’s
the elementary and academy teachers’ fault).
They are not “college material.”
It’s Not Them, It’s Me
Is it possible that we don’t always
understand how to create assignments?
Is it possible that we ourselves
rush through creating an assignment,
don’t write multiple drafts,
never or rarely seek feedback from our
aren’t really clear about what we want,
don’t try the assignment ourselves,
expect students to just “figure it out”?
Defining the Disconnect
Professors’ Expectations vs. Students’
Professors’ Goals vs. Students’ Translation
Professors’ Hopes vs. Students’ Strategies
Defining the (Re)Connect
Make clear how the assignment relates to
the course’s stated goals because students
are too often used to writing for a grade
rather than writing to learn.
Share ideas or examples of how you
yourself (or former students) would
approach the assignment because students
often need models with which to compare
and/or contrast their own ideas.
Defining the (Re)Connect
Especially for discipline-specific writing,
explain how the student’s writing may
compare to writing in the field because
students need to practice modeling the
work of professionals.
In addition to a well-written assignment,
make clear from the beginning how you
will evaluate the writing—e.g., provide a
rubric—because students find comfort in
Are tied to specific course goals
Appear in print
Clearly state purpose
Detail process/method/manageable steps
Call for a specific genre or disciplinespecific tone and style
Delineate level of (in)formality
Require a specific documentation style
Explain the criteria for evaluation
Include due dates
Are aesthetically pleasing on the page
Colleagues in and across disciplines
The Studio for Writing and Speaking
Students in your class
Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s
Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical
Thinking, and Active Learning in the
Classroom. Indianapolis: Wiley, 1996. Print.
The WAC Clearinghouse found at