HEATHER POOL'S POINTERS TO IMPROVE WRITING ASSIGNMENTS
Pool, with Assistant Professor Allison Rank of State University of New York-Oswego, co-authored a recent article published by the American Political Science Association. The article offers a series of suggestions for faculty about how to construct writing prompts that accomplish course goals while being comprehensible to students.
The abstract of the article states: “Although most instructors care deeply about student writing, they often give little attention to the part of the writing process over which they maintain complete control: the assignment itself. Yet, the written prompt that we distribute is often where student confusion (and confused writing) begins. Using Bloom’s taxonomy as inspiration, we offer instructors a typology directly linked to course objectives, which we believe can be readily understood by student writers.”
The article goes on to outline five general types of assignments - those that summarize, relate, analyze, evaluate and create – then offers a five-point writing metric that succinctly covers objectives, terms, benefits and prerequisites of writing assignments.
The goal of the article is to help instructors think through the goals of each writing assignment and then use the metric to create an assignment that matches those goals. Rank and Pool conclude “The literature on integrating writing into curriculum provides invaluable suggestions about why and when we ask students to write, which is a crucial step. However, as early-career instructors seeking to integrate writing into our own courses in a meaningful way, we found little guidance about how to ask students to write. Our aim in this article is to provide a resource for our peers as they help students to become better writers.”