Video’s description: Effective writing assignments
Today we’re going to talk about writing assignments. We give our students all kinds of writing but the biggest Simon’s can often be the most challenging, so we want to make sure our students are prepared.
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Let’s think about what a writing assignment actually adds first.
Too often people think of it
- merely as proof of attendance;
- some think of it as a test of knowledge over the course material;
- while others see it as a justification for a grade in the course.
All of these things can be sort of part of the truth, but there’s so much more to it. Remember that writing is still a learning tool; it’s part of the process. A big writing assignment is a chance for your students to synthesize and apply what they’ve been learning.
Of course, a lot of professors are asking: “One of my students write such crabby papers.” Well, the answers are a little more complex than you think. Some common misconceptions are that my students are: just lazy or maybe they just don’t care enough. Still, others think that their students just want the basic instructions and then they’ll give them what the professor is looking for.
But often people think the fewer directions they give, the more room there is for their students to do some critical thinking that’s maddening the truth about crap is really that some assignments seem too disconnected from the students personal or academic experience. There’s no relevance there for them; or maybe the professor has unrealistic expectations even worse hidden expectations their students have no idea what they’re really hoping for.
Still others have a hard time because there’s a lack of guidance or support through the process; because remember writing is a process. The biggest reason that we have crappy papers are poor instructions. For you, that big writing assignment may seem pretty easy and even exciting because you see what’s coming next or you have an idea of what you’re hoping to find. It’s just a puzzle that hasn’t been completed yet right? But it’s clear where you’re going you have a picture in your head. Your student is, however, see it as a puzzle all right, but it’s just a jumble of pieces and colors and no context, no sense of what it’s going to be in the end. Remember your students can’t write in a vacuum they need a sense of context and a sense of direction. So make sure you give it to them.
Let’s look at the elements of an effective assignment
- First and foremost get physical. Seriously give them a hard copy of instructions to help them put together this writing assignment in the way you envision it.
- Think of it as a contract between both of you. You will live up to your end of the bargain as long as your student does as well.
- Make it concrete and make it clear. You could just give them some information about how long you want it to say: “ I want five to seven pages. It needs to have APA format and three to five sources. That’s clear, right? Well if that’s all the instruction you’re willing to give that’s no wonder you’re going to get crap back.
Remember you reap what you sow, and if you’re sowing unclear jumbled writing assignments, that’s exactly what you’re going to get from your students.
- Try reaping something better. Consider making your assignment relevant to your students and to the audience.
- Make sure your expectations have clearly stated: no students should have to guess what the professor wants in order to get a good grade.
- The audience should be clear not just an assumption made by the professor or by the students.
- Be sure you define the purpose of this assignment.
Let’s take a closer look at the RELEVANCE
As you’re designing your writing assignment make sure you consider things like a culture where does your student come from and where does the audience come from; what elements could make this particular assignment more relevant to them. Consider their age and experience, and how that might help them write a better paper. Also give them room to consider things outside of academic life family worked. Their field of study is important, but it also connects to them personally. So you can give them a point of relevance that’ll help them write a better paper.
Of course expectations need to be clear, and they need to have high expectations for your students as long as they understand what they are.
Let’s start with the basics
l You can start with something simple like format.
Make sure your students know what the margins font and layout should be of your paper. The length of the paper is also important but remember it does more than just decide how long this paper should be. It indicates the depth of critical thinking that’s involved and how to develop their ideas must be. You might also consider
certain required elements especially if you have a particular kind of writing like a case study or a journal article.
Give them the information about the type and number of sources you need, questions it should be addressed, what kind of documentation they should use that sort of thing.
These are the basics. But don’t stop there your students aren’t psychics they can’t guess at what you’re looking for overall in the paper. So make sure you explain what the evaluative criteria are.
Give them a rubric that will help guide them as they write this paper.
The audience is also important to remember it’s kind of a given that you the professor are the audience but your audience should be a little broader than that.
Consider the students in the class they’re professionals and training they could be your students colleagues but also consider professionals in the field who might be part of this audience.
He purpose is also important your students
Need to know what they’re trying to accomplish. You can link the purpose to
the course goals that you’ve laid out in your syllabus. You also want to avoid vague terms like discuss, analyze or critique, unless you’ve clearly defined what they mean sometime during class periods. And use questions to help students develop a thesis and guide their research and organization. But be careful don’t overwhelm them with a hundred and fifty questions. Give them enough to get started and to guide them. There’s another aspect of purpose as well how it fits in the field to consider the kind of documents your students should be learning to write.
It could be something like:
- research proposal
- professional journal article
- simple critique
It could even be a case study but make sure they understand what each of those things is.
Remember it all comes down to having clear instructions, and for that you need a clear assignment sheet. So we’re going to take a look at this assignment up close right off the bat you can see that we know exactly what the purpose of this assignment is. It’s to create an action plan. You’ll also see that right at the top we’ve got the basic context.
Now, too often professors and teachers stop there they consider this enough information and they’ll just leave it up to their students to do the critical thinking involved to write a great paper. But they need more than that.
As you’ll see the first step is to consider how this issue is important. Right away this professor is asking her students to find the relevance in the assignment. Now she could just tell them what’s relevant about that, and that’s okay too, but this is nice in that it involves the students in thinking about the problem in a bigger way and helping to define what that relevance is.
You can see here she’s also asked her students to consider who could take part in this action plan. Who would she consider speaking to? And right away the writer is thinking about the audience. And the writer is also taking part in defining who that audience is. As the professor, you could certainly tell your students consider
your audience to be a B or C whatever you define that as but you could also involve them in defining that audience for themselves. But you have to make it clear and obvious don’t just assume they’ll do it on their own.
If you look for this assignment as a whole, you’ll see that it’s a well thought-out list of steps to create the plan that this professor is looking for.
She has given her students clear direction, and points for critical thinking and they can develop a very clear and specific paper in response. to help them even further she’s provided a clear rubric, so they’ll know exactly what their paper will be graded on. They have clear expectations. Now, this is both helpful in knowing how it’s going to be evaluated but also what they need to cover how in depth they need to go and how they can hone those skills along the way. Remember writing is still part of the learning process. So when you’re ready to get that assignment, and you get this whole pile back, and it makes you just about ready to tear your hair out. Consider how you got there. Remember that you reap what you sow.
You have to consider things like:
So that your students can consider those as well and you put all of that down in written instructions English.