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Tips on Writing Writing Assignments:
Tollefson (2006) notes that shaping a writing ass ig nment to ge t wha t you want from a student is not easy. He describes some keys to writing a writ ing assignment that help elic it the respon se you are looking for fro m your stude nts:
1) Regardless of they assignment you decid e upon, spend some time in the classroom preparing yo ur st udents for the work you ex pec t them to provide to yo u. For example, if you are ass igning a book reivew, provide the students wtih several examples of goo d reviews that they can model from, From the discu ssion in the classroom , students can better understand yo ur expec tations and grading cr iteria, and they will begin to learn how to critique a piece of writing-their own and othe rs ,
2) If it is a lon g te rm paper or research paper , plan to lay out the assignment in steps and devise severa l wa rm-up exercises that students ca n complete before the fina l paper is due. This allows stude nts to practi ce basic paper writing sk ills such as crea ting thesis stateme nts, summarizing researc h, co mpos ing abst racts and citing sources -the basics. They also need wr iting activities that deve lop the co ngnitive skills required to procude a we ll thou gh t out and prepared paper.
3) Tr y to ask only one question as students are mor e likely to produce co herent, wellorga nized essays if you present them wi th only one question at a time, If you combine two or more qu estions in an assignment , remind them to answer all of the qu estions posed .
4) Use typ ography to dist inguish subord ina te po ints-place the key question in a paragraph of its ' own and place all other points regarding answering the question in a separate paragraph,
5) Phrase yo ur qu estion utilizing the words "how?" or "why" as thi s gives students a head start in developing a clear thesis. In con trast , yes /no question s or who, wha t, where and whe n questi on s te nd to prompt list-li ke res po nses ,
6) Clar ify yo ur te rm ino logy-Be sure that stude nts understand what yo u mean by wo rds such as "analyze" , "compare/con trast" or "co nclude ", Be precise in wha t you want them to do and do n't assume they know what you mean,
7) Sketch out a response to the questi on as thoug h you were a stude nt and dou ble-check it for clarity , foc us and compl eteness-your stude nt s should be working on interpreting the materi al they arc studying and not the paper topi c or exam ques tion itself.
8) Spec ify form at requirements inc luding leng th, reference, for m. presentation of charts and tables, etc .
9) Remem ber th at your bes t students will do we ll no matter what-it is the rest of yo ur stude nts that wil l s ink or swi m depe nding on the clarit y of the topic writte n by you.
Procter (2006) also sugges ts the following:
1) Dem onstrate how writ ing is used for learning and thinking in your discipline: e.g. by analysing the sty le and organizat ion of readings, looking at examples of good j ournali sm , asking invited speakers about their writing pr acti ces, referrin g to your own writing.
2) Demo nstrate your awareness of writing as a process and a part oflearning: e.g. gradual , requiring "deep" revision and rethinking; difficult but rewarding; necessar y for exploration of ideas.
3) Ask stude nts for various modes of writing, not always essays and reports: e.g. government briefing paper, environmental impact sta tement, museum display notes, letter to the author of your textbook, manua ls for clients or the public, abstract of a required reading, sum mary of one side of a controv ersy, interpretation of given set of data, solution of a quandary.
How to make essay topics more effective: some examples (Tollefson, 2006)
The follo wing before-and-after exa mples apply the preceding points to paper top ics from a variety of field s.
From Political Science
In hi s di scussion of presidential campa igns, White presents an anal ysis of the three bas ic soc ia l issues we discussed earl ier in the course-the cold war , the decline of European influence, and the rise of the third world.
Compare White's analy sis of each of the se issues to those offered by other authors earlier in the cour se, identifying the basic points of agreement or disagreement in each case.
While it is cl ear what information this instructor expe cts the students to discuss, the question as posed might lead many students to produce a patchwork response (one paragraph on White and author A on the cold war; one paragraph on White and author A on the decline of the European influence; etc. ), By revising the second paragraph of the as signment, the instructor could point students toward a more coh esi ve thesis and a more integrated form of organization:
Ho w do White's analyses of these issu es differ from the analyses offered by authors whose works you read earlier in the course?
From. As trono m.y
Write a paper on one of the followin g phen omena. You should attempt to discuss something of the his tory of the theori es about thi s phenom enon, including the latest stud ies and conflictin g interpretations. Be sure to c ite at least three different sou rces .
Tect onic features throu ghout the so lar system
The rings of Jupiter The moon 10 The "tenth planet"
Here the phrases "attempt to discuss" and "something of the history" are confusingly tentative. The first paragraph of this assignment should be reworded.
Choose one of the following phenomena. Write a paper in which you discuss the history of theories about the phenomenon, including latest studies and conflicting interpretations.
In order to adquately cover the range of opinion and theory, you will need to work with a minimum of three sources, Be sure to cite them.
Well-designed assignment engage students more thoroughly and productively, and they produce better work. That in turn makes the work of the instructor more rewarding. It's a good deal all around ,
Procter, M. (2006) . Designing assigrunents and presenting them to students. Retrieved on October 22,2006, from http.z/ww,..... utoronto.ca/writing/design.html.
Tollefson, S. (2006) . Designing effective writing assignments. Retrieved on October 22, 2006, from http ://wW\V-writing .berkeley.edu/wab/l-2-designing.htm.