When we first started brainstorming about our writing in the classroom series, my mind immediately jumped to the ‘writing workshop’ I hold twice per semester in my introductory psychology course. However, this writing workshop is quite similar to the exercise detailed by Karly in Monday’s post for this series. I agree that making a draft of their essay due for an in-class peer reviewed activity helps keep students accountable, develops editing skills, and allows students to learn from the positive and negative aspects of the other papers they review. I like to have students review multiple papers during one writing workshop so that they are exposed to a range of papers (in terms of quality) and so that students can see the edits or comments previous reviewers left. I encourage students to comment on or respond to remarks left by previous editors, because paying attention to editing style also helps students learn by example. My writing workshop also incorporates structured class discussion where we talk about beneficial and detrimental aspects of the papers students reviewed most recently. The discussion touches on micro-, meso-, and macro-level elements of the essay. At the end of each semester, students comment that the two writing workshops help them improve their essays dramatically, and I can attest to this as well as the average grade for essays in my class has increased since the introduction of the writing workshop. While I agree whole-heartedly with Karly about the benefits of using class time to help students become better writers and editors, I wanted to add something new to the series.
At my undergraduate institution, which was a liberal arts college, there was a heavy emphasis on writing in each and every one of my classes. Professors always took the time to leave informative and helpful comments on each piece of writing that I submitted. They also always encouraged submitting a rough draft of any writing assignment. After graduation, and attending graduate school, I was so thankful for the emphasis placed on writing during my undergraduate education. Engaging in four years of classes that demanded I improve as a writer fostered the development of an indispensable skill – the ability to communicate with others via the written word. The focus of a liberal arts education is to read critically, write coherently, and think broadly. By working on each of these skills in college, an individual receiving a liberal arts education is laying the foundation which will allow them to flourish in society.
To repeat a phrase from before, writing is indispensable in today’s day and age. No matter where you find yourself after graduation you will be asked to write. Writing may take the shape of sending daily emails at work, composing reports for your boss, submitting an article for publication, communicating with a client, etc. Thinking clearly and writing effectively situates an individual to work collaboratively and position themselves as leaders in whatever domain they find themselves in. In fact, according to most surveys of employers, they place great value on a job candidate’s ability to communicate through listening, writing, and speaking. These same employers also consider candidates who can do each of these three things to be candidates for leadership positions. Also, in the face of today’s job landscape, most people will switch careers multiple times. But the underlying theme across each of those careers will likely be a focus on communication, both written and verbal, being valued by employers.
Because of the opportunities that can be afforded for someone who can think clearly and write effectively, I retain an emphasis on writing in each of my classes. For example, students in my introductory psychology courses spend two entire class periods editing rough drafts (one for each essay). In addition to their term paper, students in my 400 level classes must complete weekly written reflections, and respond to a post from another classmate each week. The purpose of the weekly writing assignments is to provide students with a repository of information that can be called upon during the construction of their term paper. Further, for both my introductory courses and my upper level courses, the majority of my test questions are essays. I make it known on the first day of class that students will be asked to write in my class, and by virtue of this expectation, students will likely improve as writers across the semester. To facilitate improvement, I remind students that I am always available to review multiple rough drafts of their essays. I prefer to have these meetings face-to-face, but will occasionally comment on electronic drafts. I also offer one point of extra credit to students if they come meet with me about their essays once they have been graded. By offering extra credit, I have been able to speak with more students about their writing in a one-on-one setting. In fact, I have met with some students upwards of five times just about one written assignment. While this is not the case for every student, I like to think that the student who takes advantage of opportunities to improve their writing process and the execution of their writing, will be better situated to differentiate themselves from their peers after graduation.
In conclusion, my attitude towards writing is that it is a necessary skill to have for a majority of careers. From this starting point of viewing writing as necessary in 2019, I believe that improving as a writer presents no drawbacks. In fact, being a good writer can only help you flourish in society, which is the charge of a liberal arts education in the first place.
written by Brian Day