variety of writing demands is great, the time
needed to learn how to write and to mark writing is long, and writing is just plain hard work.
Research suggests that small, frequent writing
tasks are more effective than large tasks at
improving students’ writing. We need to plan
and integrate more small assignments, including
those that require minimal marking, if we want
to help students learn to write better by practising their writing.
Ms. Samuels is manager of the writing centre at Wilfrid Laurier
University and is completing a doctorate on writing.
as a former writing tutor at Carleton University’s writing tutorial service, I am currently a
research intern learning to write in a new workplace context: I contribute to reports that are
designed to inform science policy in Canada.
Coming at this from a “generalist” perspective
(my BA was in history and my MA was in writing studies), I have found that my writing style
is seen as effective by my team leaders.
My point is that it’s possible to adapt writing
to different situations if writing instructors, writ-
ing coaches and professors raise awareness
among students of the need to write for different
purposes and audiences. Including an aspect of
genre analysis will only improve the likelihood
that young graduates will be able to succeed in
the workplace. I believe writing should be taught
from the perspective of rhetorical genre studies:
research your new environment and the genres
being used and then try to negotiate your way
into the community through your writing. That
is what I tried to do with students visiting the
writing tutorial service and is what I am trying
to do in my own workplace learning and coach-
ing of other entry-level employees.
Mr. Falconer is a research intern with the Council of Canadian
Good feedback helps
some students may never value learning to
write well, but research suggests that many students don’t act on feedback because much of it
isn’t very helpful. Having worked in writing centres for many years, I’ve seen countless examples
of feedback on student writing that is vague, confusing and contradictory. Providing students
with useful feedback is a difficult skill that TAs
and less experienced instructors need to be
taught. As for getting students to read and act on
teacher comments, if – as Roger Graves points
outs – students had more nested assignments and
received more formative feedback, they would
be more likely to act on the feedback.
Dr. Williams is lecturer, writing instruction, in the faculty of arts
and science at the University of Toronto.
They need grammar
i really liked the article “Why students
struggle with writing” and intend to incorporate
some of the recommendations into my courses.
Adieu, cours en classe!
Comment inverser les choses?
Reversing brain drain
A review of the Harper
government’s goals for science.
Are you in or out?
Job searching tips for in or
outside of academe.
Rochelle Mazar gives her two
cents on MOOCs.
What’s new online! Nouveautés en ligne!
However, the author doesn’t address one key
issue in student writing: in North America, students are taught virtually no grammar in high
school. As a result, students are totally unprepared for academic or professional writing at or
beyond university. Some students learn how to
write through reading, but many do not. The
writing skills of many of the students who get
to graduate school are, frankly, abysmal. While
the small writing groups recommended in the
article are a great idea, there is no guarantee that
the teaching assistants are capable of teaching
undergrads how to write.
Dr. Koper is associate professor with the Natural Resources
Institute at the University of Manitoba.
Where’s the peer review?
i think that crowdfunding of scientific
research has some potential, but also has some
limitations (“Academics turn to ‘crowdfunding’
to get research projects off the ground,” October
issue). There is no peer review of the proposed
research. Just think if someone makes inordinate
claims about treating some health problem,
which misleadingly may attract funding from
persons afflicted with such a problem.
Dr. MacLennan is head of the department of psychology in the
faculty of arts, University of Regina.