Motivating Your Students About Writing

Writing Portfolios in Biology: Balancing Process with Product

Author: 
Cindee Giffen, UW-Madison
Description: 
A course coordinator explains why the course evaluates biology students' drafts, reviews, and final products together in one portfolio.

In Introductory Biology 152, all students engage in an Independent Project (IP), a semester-long staged writing assignment. Students write a project proposal, a first draft, and a final paper in scientific journal article-style, and present their results to an audience of their peers and instructors.

Why Learning to Write Well in College Is Difficult

Author: 
Bill Cerbin, Assistant to the Provost, UW-La Crosse, and Terry Beck, Department of English, UW-La Crosse
Description: 
In this list, Cerbin and Beck offer insightful explanations for why students struggle when they move from high school to college writing and when they write in different disciplines. Cerbin and Beck offer instructors explicit issues to consider when designing writing assignments, working with students on writing, and evaluating written work.

The following list is not, of course, meant to rationalize sub-par writing by college students. Nor can one course instructor address all the challenges listed below.

Student-Generated Evaluation Criteria

Author: 
Beth Godbee, WAC Program, UW-Madison
Description: 
Some instructors are very successful having students work collaboratively to develop evaluation criteria for papers--an alternative to instructos giving students rubrics or criteria.  Beth Godbee offers a persuasive argument about how much students learn from developing evaluation criteria and offers detailed advice about how to do this.

Student-Generated Evaluation Criteria

 

Peer Assessment of Research and Review Teams

Author: 
Brian Manske, Biology 152, UW-Madison
Description: 
When students work regularly in groups, some instructors find it helpful to have students assess each group member's contributions.  Here's an example of that kind of assessment, from Biology/Botany/Zoology 152 at UW-Madison.

Biology 152: Research and Review Team Peer Assessment Rubric

 

Bio152 Learning Goal - Develop and apply collegial etiquette and project management skills

Putting Together Peer Review Groups

Description: 
Most instructors agree that it pays off to put some thought into grouping students for peer review.  There's no magic number of students per group, but most instructors make groups of three or four students--large enough to have some variety in the feedback but small enough so that no one student has too many drafts to read and critique.  Here's some advice about setting up groups, writtten for instructors in English 100, a first-year writing course.

There's little consensus among instructors as to what kind of student combinations make for the best peer workshop groups. Some instructors have found it helpful not to place two or more men and one woman in a group, or one student of color in an all‑white group.

How DO You Make Peer Review Work?

Author: 
Kirsten Jamsen, WAC Program, UW-Madison
Description: 
Having students review and offer feedback each other's drafts can be an effective way to stretch out the writing process and to help students learn to read their own work more critically.  But making peer review work well requires planning.  Here's some excellent advice for getting started.

After many semesters using peer review in my own composition classes and helping colleagues in Geography, Women’s Studies, Political Science, Slavic, and Art use peer review successfully in their classes, I have several specific suggestions for instructors trying peer review for the first time or refining their own methods of using peer review.

Preparing Students for Conferences

Author: 
Professor Steve Stern, Department of History, UW-Madison
Description: 
Many instructors find that conferences are more effective when they ask students to come prepared to discuss particular aspects of a paper.  The questions in this example help students prepare for a conference and to give a progress report about their research in class.

History 574:  "Sharing Exercise":  for Presentation of Paper Themes on 10 Nov. 20__, and for Office Hour Discussions of Papers.

 

1.     If I had to summarize the theme of my historical essay in no more than two or three sentences, I would state:

 

 

Preparing for Effective Conferences with Students

Author: 
Dawn Biehler, Department of Geography
Description: 
Some of the most effective writing instruction takes place in individual conferences with students.  Here's a step-by-step guide to make the most of your conference time.

One-on-one conferencing yields the best results if you …

        * Prepare well so you can think on your feet during the conference.

        * Convey a strong message to students about the strengths and weaknesses of their draft.

Offering Students Encouragement As They Revise

Author: 
Ann Burgess, Biocore Program, UW-Madison
Description: 
Students often need and really benefit from some encouragement and advice as they revise papers to meet their instructors' high standards.  In the following email sent to all students in a large writing-intensive biology course at UW-Madison, Ann Burgess, the former director of the Biocore Program, explains the feedback TAs gave on the papers, differentiates between the larger, more conceptual revisions and smaller, more local ones, and offers valuable encouragement to motivate students as they do the hard work of revising papers in substantial ways.

Biocore Students:

 

I wanted to offer you some moral support as you tackle revising your Enzyme Catalysis papers.

*We want you to succeed.*

Encouraging and Teaching Students to Revise

Author: 
Rebecca Nowacek, WAC Program, UW-Madison
Description: 
Students often disappoint instructors by doing little or shallow revision, even when writing assignments require drafts and instructors and peers offer feedback for revisions.  Here's some advice, based on research and experience.

Revision, revision, revision: the term is nearly a mantra in Comm-B and Writing-Intensive (WI) courses at UW-Madison.

Syndicate content