DESIGNING ASSIGNMENTS TO SUPPORT THE WRITING PROCESS Suzanne Withem UNO Writing Center ASH 150 DAVID BARTHOLOMAE’S “INVENTING THE UNIVERSITY” “The student has to “invent the university by assembling and mimicking its language, finding some compromise between idiosyncrasy a personal history, and the requirements of convention, the history of a discipline. They must learn to speak our language. Or they must dare to speak it, or to carry off the bluff, since speaking and writing will most certainly be required long before the skill is ‘learned.’ And this, under-standably, causes problems.” WHY WORRY SO MUCH ABOUT EFFECTIVE ASSIGNMENT CREATION? Students can’t mind read Overly prescriptive assignment can be incredibly difficult non-linear thinkers who need freedom Overly broad topics can paralyze a student who needs specific instructions or parameters in which to explore With a carefully designed assignment, instructors can guide students toward predetermined learning objectives WHY WORRY SO MUCH ABOUT EFFECTIVE ASSIGNMENT CREATION? Shouldn’t the bulk of the work in a writing assignment be on the students’ shoulders? WHY WORRY SO MUCH ABOUT EFFECTIVE ASSIGNMENT CREATION? Yes, but consider thinking of assignment design as your writing assignment for the course. PROVIDE A PRINTED ASSIGNMENT SHEET Distributed a the beginning of the writing project Helps students stick to the assignment and meet criteria set forth Helps you identify and address potential problems in the assignment Helps anyone who may assist the student, e.g. Writing Center Consultants, understand where they should focus the consultation session. CLARIFY YOUR EXPECTATIONS Allow time in class or make yourself available to answer the questions about the assignment. Offer examples of A papers from previous classes. If time allows, give several examples and have students discuss the structure, strengths, and weaknesses of each. Talk about how you would (or did) grade each. GROUP ACTIVITY FIVE MAJOR ELEMENTS PRESENT IN EFFECTIVE WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Format requirements Expectations about the process to be followed Criteria for evaluation Task Role and audience LESS EFFECTIVELY DESIGNED ASSIGNMENTS Write a paper about some aspect of the political situation in the Middle East LESS EFFECTIVELY DESIGNED ASSIGNMENTS Begin with one of the five attention getting strategies outlined in the textbook. End the first paragraph with your thesis statement. Compose three paragraphs that each support the thesis. Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence supported by three sentences of information concluding with an explanation of how that information supports the topic sentence. Finally, write a concluding paragraph which summarizes all of the main points in your paper and restates your thesis. LESS EFFECTIVELY DESIGNED ASSIGNMENTS Explicate Christina Rosetti’s “The Goblin Market” Discuss the benefits of students engaging in Writing Across the Curriculum LESS EFFECTIVELY DESIGNED ASSIGNMENTS In the graveyard scene of Hamlet, Shakespeare alters his sources by adding the clownish gravediggers. How does the presence of the gravediggers influence your interpretation of the scene? Do you think they are funny? Absurd? Blasphemous? How does Hamlet’s attitude toward the gravediggers affect the scene? Do you think it is appropriate to sing while digging a grave? What about the jokes they tell? Do you think that Yorick was more like the gravediggers or more like Hamlet? Do you think it is appropriate to have a lighthearted moment like this in the middle of a tragedy? Is the scene really lighthearted? THESIS DRIVEN WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Offer a thesis statement for students to refute or defend. The proposed accounting recommendation is/is not the best solution to the client’s question. Homeschooling is/is not the best solution for students with (ADHD, Down’s Syndrome, Asperger's Syndrome, fill in the disability). Electric cars are/are not currently the best solution to limit carbon emissions created by transportation. THESIS DRIVEN WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Give students a problem/research question, the answer to which will be a thesis statement. In the graveyard scene of Hamlet, Shakespeare alters his sources by adding the clownish gravediggers. How does the presence of the gravediggers influence your interpretation of the scene? What are the similarities and differences between the biochemical pathways of aerobic respiration and photosynthesis in eukaryotic cells? THESIS DRIVEN WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Have students develop a thesis on their own providing a specific structure you want your students to follow. Use the structure outlined in the APA Manual for a formal scientific research report including the following sections: introduction, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. Use an introduction to explain the significance of your issue. Your thesis should clarify your position on the issue. In the body of your paper, give and defend using evidence three to five reasons why your position is correct. The conclusion should reiterate your thesis in light of the new information you’ve presented. MORE PERSONAL FORMS OF FORMAL WRITING AND ALTERNATIVES TO THESIS DRIVEN ESSAYS Exploratory essays – thesis seeking essays Reflection papers – reader response papers Con Argument – write from the opposite POV Dialogue – consider issue from two perspectives Subject Specific Autobiography – student considers and explores a subject from a personal perspective STUDENTS PEER REVIEW, SO WHY DON’T YOU? Is it clear? What might a student misunderstand? Is it interesting and challenging? How difficult will the average student find the assignment to be? What kinds of students will enjoy the assignment? Who will dread it? Is the suggested audience clear? Are the grading criteria clear? Are the mechanics of the assignment clear? Is the process expected of the students clear? How easy or difficult will the assignment be to coach and grade? QUICK WRAP-UP Students are learning to participate in the conversation. A well-designed assignment can help them be more successful in joining the conversation. Think of the creation of the assignment as your writing assignment for the course. Provide a written assignment sheet. Clarify your expectations on that sheet or in class discussion Include the five elements of effectively designed assignments Ask a colleague to help you review/revise. WORKS CONSULTED Bean, John. Engaging Ideas. Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication. Print. Gottschalk, Katherine and Keith Hjortshoj. The Elements of Teaching Writing. New York: Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2004. Print.