Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Academic writing

I was teaching academic writing to computer science students again last week. The session went ok but I can't help feeling it could be much better. My experince resonated with much of what we have discussed in our sharing practice meetings about teaching writing. I had a quite a few exercises, most of which were specific to the discipline - but it always seems hard going doing this for 40+ students. Has anyone tried any activites recently that worked well? One that worked quite well for me was getting them to paraphrase some short articles my summarising them verbally to a partner. And what can we link them to online so they can do more exercises in the lecture. And will that work? Lots of questions!


  1. 69chevywitha39618 March 2009 at 10:30

    I think we sometimes we come up against certain limits to one-off skills training. We should, and do, continue to tailor our training to specific disciplines, with appropriate examples, texts, essay questions etc. However, even when we do so, I think there will always be students for whom this remains peripheral to the day-to-day business of doing their degree. The situation is different in the case of central workshops, since students who attend these have decided for themselves that they want to develop their skills. Therefore the pressure is less on persuading them of the need for skills developemnt, and more on providing learning experiences in which they feel they have indeed moved on.

    The active learning approach we currently take in departments does elevate the training beyond mere instruction and let's be clear there are plenty of sessions were students engage in exercises and make active use of the tools we provide - sometimes a particualr group just isn't "up for it" in the way last week's were, if you see what I mean.

    However, even subject-specific training materials are to some degree abstracted from mainstream study. A genuinely experiential approach would, in my view, see training linking much more directly with assessment and feedback for real work the students are producing. There is potential scope for us to build this approach in those departments where we enjoy a more sustained engagement with students and academic colleagues. This way, we would be doing more than providing plausible simulations of real life academic projects, but rather providing training that was linked, directly and experientuially, to assessed work the students had to complete, receive marks for, and receive feedback for. In this context, the workshops we run would address a stage, or stages, of the experiential learning cycle, rather than seeking to get students through all the stages in one or two sessions.

    Just a thought...

  2. Session? It ain't going to happen. Writing cannot be learned in a session.