Faculty Services

Course, Assignment Design

Articles Concerning Writing in the Disciplines
Assessing Writing Assignments
Consultation Example
Grading and Marking
Microthemes


Articles Concerning Writing in the Disciplines

The Writing Program will be pleased to provide faculty members with references to books and articles describing the techniques of using writing in various disciplines and dealing with the theoretical justifications of using writing as a pedagogical tool. Many of these are available in the Writing Program offices. Follow the link above to an index of available materials.

Assessing Writing Assignments

In cooperation with participating faculty members, the Writing Program has conducted studies of how the use of various types of writing assignments can increase the effectiveness of teaching and of student learning. In the past, the Writing Program has assisted in assessment efforts conducted by departments, schools or colleges, and the campus. The results of such efforts may be kept confidential; contact the Writing Program for further details.

Consultation Example

Follow this link to see the results of a consultation between the Writing Program and the Biology department. Biology requested a menu of assignment types which would meet the variety of needs that might be felt by instructors of future TOPICS courses. Lisa Kurz of the Writing Program helped to develop a rather extensive array of model assignments which includes an annotated list of assignments by type, some example assignments (taken from a variety of disciplines), and references to relevant journal articles.

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Grading and Marking

Representatives of the Writing Program can be called upon to meet with faculty members to discuss any aspect of the grading and marking of writing assignments.

One technique which many people find useful for responding quickly and yet effectively to student papers is a system of brief, telegraphic marks known as “minimal marking,” based on the notion that there are sound pedagogical reasons for NOT marking student papers heavily. Some of these reasons and some techniques that grow out of them are discussed in the articles “A Rhetoric of Paper-Marking,”by Ray Smith, and “Minimal Marking” by Richard Haswell (College English, Vol. 45, No. 6, October 1983); the Writing Program will distribute the Haswell article on request.

A document based on ideas similar to those discussed in the article is the Quick Guide to Lite Marking, which the Writing Program makes available to instructors in handy desk-reference form, and which is here presented online. (If you'd like to request a copy, call the Writing Program and ask for one; you can also follow the next link to view and print off the pdf version.) Also available for the students of instuctors who are using such techniques is the accompanying Student’s Guide to Lite Marking. Faculty members are encouraged to study (or appropriate) these materials, consult with members of the Writing Program, and develop their own systems of responding to student papers.

Another document which can figure in discussions of grading student papers is the Skeletal Scale for Evaluating Papers, outlining basic criteria for assigning letter grades to written work. The scale can be refined to apply to the requirements of a particular faculty member for a particular assignment or course; it can then be helpful in training AIs to grade consistently, and it can be distributed to students to clarify an instructor's criteria and intentions. Again, instructors are encouraged to use this document either in its present form or as a basis for developing their own guidelines; representatives of the Writing Program will be glad to assist.

Any other aspect of grading and marking written assignments can be discussed at an instructor's request. In addition, the Writing Program can be called upon to organize workshops not only on grading and marking, but on the design of writing assignments, or on other aspects of using writing; workshops can be arranged for faculty members or Associate Instructors in an entire department or school, or just for the instructors in a particular course.

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Microthemes

One type of writing that faculty members may not have considered using is the “microtheme”—a short, focused essay intended to sharpen students’ thinking without adding greatly to an instructor’s grading load. An article by Ray Smith discusses the use of a sequence of microthemes and the pedagogical advantages of such a system. (By the way, this article and another on the same topic, “Microtheme Strategies for Developing Cognitive Skills” by John Bean et al., are in the Writing Program’s library; copies are available on request.)

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