Writing to Learn in an Active Learning Classroom… OR Writing
Transcript Writing to Learn in an Active Learning Classroom… OR Writing
Writing to Learn in an
Writing without FEAR
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Biology Core Curriculum (Biocore)
Evolutionary theory made simple…?
Colored Paper Poll
Examine the cartoon. Based on your understanding of evolution by natural
selection, how did the long necked dinosaurs arise? Consider the following :
Long neck dinosaurs arose because they needed to be able to eat leaves on
progressively taller trees with each generation. [YELLOW]
Increase in neck length of dinosaurs followed an increase in stem height of trees, little
by little with each successive generation resulting in tall trees and long necked
Following an increase in tree height, a genetic mutation induced by the environment
caused a change in the dinosaurs neck lengths allowing them to obtain food from the
taller trees. [ORANGE]
With a large variation in neck lengths in dinosaurs and tree heights in the original
population, long necked dinosaurs could more easily obtain food, had higher
reproductive rates, and came to predominate over time.[PINK]
Goal: Explain Evolution by Natural Selection
Examine the cartoon. Based on your understanding of
evolution by natural selection, generate a biological
scenario that explains the change in neck length of the
Write your answer in your carbonless notebook and be
prepared to report out.
Why is writing different?
How did your thought process differ in the two
Why have students write (vs. other types of
What are the challenges you and your students
face concerning writing in class?
Multiple Choice, T/F
Types of In-Class Writing
1. Writing at beginning of class to probe subjectReflection or Engagement
2. Writing during class to refocus lagging
discussion or cool off a heated one--Mental
3. Writing during class to ask questions or express
confusion-- Muddiest Point
4. Writing at the end of class to sum up a lecture
or discussion--Minute Paper
5. Reading, reflecting and discussing
other students writing-- peer review
6. Revising previous writing samples
after instruction--rethink response
John Bean’s Engaging Ideas: The Professors Guide to Integrating
Writing, Critical Thinking and Active Learning in the Classroom.
Jossey Bass Inc. Publ., San Francisco, 1996.
T. Angelo & P. Cross Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook
for College Teachers. Jossey Bass Inc. Publ. San Francisco. 1993
Benefits & Challenges of
Increased attendance and engagement
Students process challenging concepts right away;
recognizing what they don’t know earlier, focusing study
Instructors are more cognizant of and focused on student
learning difficulties earlier
Students may not see benefit right away. Unless they are
Takes time (5 min write; 5 min feedback)
Do early/ often/ consistantly (≥ once/week) so they expect,
How do you do it--without being overwhelmed?
With reliability and limited variability?
Feedback to students?
To grade or not to grade…..
No need to read & grade everything
Several students present work to class
And then there are Scoring
The Wonders of Using
Tool for learning (both teacher and
Tool for evaluating students’
Scoring Rubric for In-Class Writing
Addresses the question.
States a relevant justifiable answer.
Arguments in logical order.
States relevant assumptions.
Acceptable style and grammar.
Demonstrates an accurate and
complete understanding of the
Uses logical reasoning to build
arguments that support the
Does not address the question
explicitly, although does so
Relevant and justifiable answer.
Key points present, but weak.
Argument could be better organized.
Uses acceptable style and grammar
Demonstrates accurate but only
adequate understanding of
Reasoning is somewhat flimsy or
vague; leaves much to
Less thorough than above.
Does not address the question.
Answer is not relevant.
Lacks clarity or logical organization.
Does not use acceptable style and
grammar. (many errors)
Does not demonstrate accurate
understanding of the question or
did not answer the question.
Lacks reasoning, is not logical, or
No Answer- 0
Student Writing Samples
Read students responses to the
Sort into piles according to quality of
Rate from 1-5
How do you develop a
Develop performance standards
Goals: reasoning, critically evaluate info,
state assumptions, logically communicates
understanding of concepts
Look at student work and differentiate
levels of responses based on clearly
Rate (assign value) the categories
Evaluate sample responses
Advantages to Scoring
Improve the reliability of scoring written assignments and
Convey goals and performance expectations of students in
an unambiguous way
Convey “grading standards” or “point values” and relate
them to performance goals
Engage students in critical evaluation of their own
Saves grading time, and improves assessment
Limitations of Scoring Rubrics
Problem of criteria
Feedback is not custom made for students
Conversion to letter grade; normalizing with non-rubric
Problem of practice and regular use
Scoring Rubric resources :
Arter, J. A. and McTighe, J. 2001. Scoring rubrics in the classroom: Using
performance criteria for assessing and improving student performance. Thousand
Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.
Ebert-May, D. 1999. Field Tested Learning Assessment techniques, scoring rubrics
http://www.flaguide.org/cat/rubrics/rubrics7.htm NISE, Madision, WI
Session FeedbackMinute Paper
DIRECTIONS: Read the following questions, and write a brief answer to each one.
What is most important point conveyed during the session?
What is one new teaching activity you are willing to try?
What is 1 question you have about the session?
DIRECTIONS: Read each statement in the scale below. Circle the degree to which you
either agree or disagree with it.
SD=Strongly Disagree D=Disagree N=Neutral A=Agree SA=Strongly Agree
I was comfortable with the pace of the session.
I found the content to be relevant
I found the activities to be useful.