“Good writing, clear thinking: ten features of good writing and ten ways of helping students do it” (Area 2)

Mike Webb (IHCA)
This presentation suggests that if you want students to think and argue, writing skills are central: writing does not just communicate arguments, it is largely by writing that we clarify our thoughts and form our arguments. Helping students to plan their assignments is good but not enough: they often need help with constructing their writing too. Features of writing to develop include transitions (signpost sentences, stepping stones), connectives, summary sentences, re-ordering parts of sentences, expanding vocabulary to express nuances, and precis to express ideas succinctly. Helping students to improve their writing can include weekly writing tasks, a bank of writing ‘tips’, submitting drafts and then redrafting, shared / joint writing (writing is not a solitary activity!), adding reflective paragraphs to assignments, etc. Feedback to them needs to be diagnostic e.g. three things to work on, and we should help students engage with that feedback e.g. discussing it in a subsequent module. A variety of professional support is available at UW and partner colleges to help students with their writing, and it is useful to learn more about these opportunities in order to guide students towards them. The ‘action research’ on which this presentation is based was conducted with Sociology students, but the conclusions apply to all courses.

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