Below you will find links to resources developed by Drew faculty and Writing Fellows and by WAC programs elsewhere. (Please email any resources you are willing to share so that this site can continue to grow.)
- Questions to ask as you design writing assignments
- Write-to-Learn assignments for college seminars – WTL activities & suggestions about how to incorporate them into a course
- General assignment design – Strategies for developing assignment instructions in a way that facilitates good student response.
- Sample WID & WM Assignments & Syllabi – A range of assignments shared by Drew faculty
- Paper Organization Flow Chart – a template to help in prewriting or revision for organization
- Sample Rubrics from Drew Faculty – Rubrics and strategies shared by our colleagues
WHAT STUDENTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT GRADING
YouTube video produced by students about what they value in instructor feedback.
RESOURCES FROM ELSEWHERE
- OWL Purdue: Writing Across the Curriculum & Writing to Learn: suggestions for incorporating writing and writing-to-learn activities in your classes
- WAC at George Mason University: one of the country’s leading WAC programs
- The WAC Clearinghouse: Central collection site for WAC nationwide programs. Contains many resources, including readings and is the home of Across the Disciplines
- Council of Writing Program Administrators: National professional organization for writing program administrators. Policy statements, teaching resources, and the Writing Program Administration Journal
- Central Michigan University: WAC/WID: Program description and writing center resources
- Minnesota State Writing to Learn: Description of program, sample assignments, key concepts
- University of Illinois WAC: Program description, links, resources, assignments and syllabi.
The Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program provides information on writing resources and teaching support for writing instructors. The WAC program also assists programs and departments with planning and designing writing curriculum.
WAC Support for Faculty:
- One-on-one consultation with the Director of Writing Across the Curriculum, Sandra Jamieson, to discuss any aspect of course preparation, planning, pedagogy, assignment creation, or grading
- WAC coffee hours held in the BC cafe. No appointment necessary. Hours vary.
- WAC pedagogy group
- Writing fellows program
Writing in the Major and Writing Intensive Syllabi
- Bio 22: Syllabus Fall 2010 (Miller)
Sample Assignments from Drew Faculty
Instructors who are frustrated by student papers may find it helpful to take a fresh look at the assignments that prompted those papers. There are many strategies to help faculty develop assignment instructions in a way that facilitates good student response, and spending a little more time designing a writing assignment can pay dividends in terms of students meeting your expectations.
WHEN CREATING WRITING ASSIGNMENTS, OR PROMPTS, IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO START THE PROCESS WITH THE END GOAL IN MIND:
- What is it that you want students to demonstrate in a particular writing task?
- What will a successful student text look like?
- How is this writing assignment related to the course goals?
- How will you evaluate students’ work?
By answering these questions, you will be able to situate the writing task in a particular context for a particular purpose with a clear end goal in mind.
ONCE YOU HAVE ESTABLISHED WHAT THE WRITING TASK NEEDS TO ACCOMPLISH, YOU CAN BEGIN TO THINK ABOUT WHAT FORM THE ASSIGNMENT MAY TAKE:
- What kind of writing will students need to do to reach your goals? A traditional research paper? A series of journals? On-line discussions?
DECISIONS ABOUT THE KIND OF WRITING THEN LEAD TO QUESTIONS ABOUT TIME AND PROCESS:
- How many drafts will you allow? Will you comment on them all? Will there be peer review?
- What is a reasonable time frame from the moment students get the assignment to when they turn in a draft to be graded?
- Does the assignment require any work that may require extra time like going to the library or conducting an experiment?
When you are clear about what you want students to do and how long it will take them to do it, you are ready to write-up your instructions (the prompt).
It is always a good idea to give students a short description of what you are expecting for each writing assignment. Prompts, however, do not need to be complicated and lengthy. In fact, the most effective prompts are those that provide the necessary information without overwhelming students with details.
EFFECTIVE PROMPTS INCLUDE:
- A specific description of what students are being asked to do. If you want students to write a research paper with an argumentative thesis, you need to tell them that is what you are looking for. Likewise, if you want students to report on some experimental findings without any editorializing, you should spell that out for them.
- A statement about citation system. If you want students to use a specific citation style (MLA, APA, CBE, etc., tell them at the beginning.
- Final length of project. If there are page requirements, state these clearly in the prompt.
- Any miscellany that will affect their grade. If you are a teacher who deducts a certain amount of points for comma splices, students need to be made aware of that up front. If you don’t want students to write in first person, make that clear.
Finally, spend some class time reviewing the prompt and answering questions.
Melissa Nicolas, 2011.
QUESTIONS TO ASK AS YOU DESIGN WRITING ASSIGNMENTS
What do I want my students to learn, why, and how?
As you develop a write-to-learn assignment, consider the following questions:
1) WHY DO I WANT STUDENTS TO COMPLETE THIS ASSIGNMENT?
- What will students learn from this writing activity?
- What will I learn from their writing?
2) WHY DO I WANT STUDENTS TO COMPLETE THIS ASSIGNMENT AT THIS POINT IN THE CLASS?
- How will this assignment build on what I have already done in the class?
- How will it prepare students for future writing activities in the class?
- How might it prepare students for future writing assignments in or outside of/beyond college?
3) WHAT HAVE I DONE/DO I NEED TO DO TO PREPARE STUDENTS FOR THIS ASSIGNMENT?
- Do students understand why I have assigned this writing activity?
- Does the assignment specify an audience?
- Have I allotted sufficient class time for discussion of this assignment?
- Has class discussion reflected the ambition and complexity of learning that the assignment requires?
- Do students have enough information to make effective choices as they write?
- Will it be useful and appropriate for students to see good examples of this assignment?
4) HOW DO I WANT STUDENTS TO COMPLETE THIS ASSIGNMENT?
- Do I want students to work alone or in pairs/groups? (How does this decision fit with 1, 2, & 3 above?)
- Will they hand it to me, post it on Moodle, read in class, etc?
- Do I want other students to read this before class? If so, have I made the deadlines and guidelines clear?
- Have I allowed sufficient time for student to complete this assignment?
5) HOW WILL I INCORPORATE THIS WRITING INTO THE CLASS TO AVOID THE FEEL OF “BUSY WORK”?
- See over for some suggestions, but there are many more!
- Be sure to vary the assignments and answer 1, 2, 3, and 4 above each time.
- Students learn by repetition, but two or three times is generally enough before the writing seems rote
6) WHAT WILL I DO WITH THIS COMPLETED ASSIGNMENT?
- Will I grade this piece of writing? If so, have I made my grading criteria clear to students?
- What kind of feedback will I give and how will it connect with 1, 2, & 3 above?
7) HOW/WILL THIS ASSIGNMENT CONTRIBUTE TO THE GRADE FOR THE CLASS?
- WTL assignments tend to be ungraded or “low stakes” assignments that feed into class discussion and help accomplish broader learning goals. Not all WTL assignments have to be ungraded, but the advantage of assigning at least some ungraded writing is, to quote the Penn State WAC program, that informal writing can “relieve obsession with surface correctness . . . [allowing students to] begin to see writing as a tool they can use, rather than as just an occasion for numerous small failures.” (Penn State Writing Across the Curriculum Program, “informal Writing”). One of our goals for the seminar.
Letter or Check-Plus, Check, Check -Minus Grades
- Some of you may prefer to grade some WTL assignments, in which case think about which ones it is most appropriate to grade and how you might explain to students what you expect. The benefit of √+, √, and √– “grades” is that they give the student a sense of improvement (or not) without carrying as much stress as letter grades. A student can be graded on the progress from √- to √+ (or the extent to which he or she tried to learn from previous assignments).
- Others may prefer to use “contract grades” where students receive a grade for the number of assignments completed with or without regard to quality (10 =A; 9 = A-; 8 = B+; 7 = B, etc)
- The principle of the portfolio is “collect, select, reflect.” A learning portfolio invites students to revisit the paragraphs and questions they wrote for a unit of the course and use selected examples to support an extended reflection on what and how the student learned. This can take the form of a narrative (see G-3 above) or a reflection where they summarize or describe (and quote from) a WTL assignment and then reflect on what it taught them, why they were pleased with that particular piece, how they might incorporate that strategy into their learning in the future, and so on.