Suggested Classroom Practices for a Writing Intensive Course

  1. Talk about why [the course] ideas should be put into written form. Spend time early in the class talking with students about the relationship between the ideas with which the course will engage, the practices students will engage in during class time (discussion, experimentation, problem solving), and the writing students will do in and for the course.
  2. Allow time for in-class discussion of discipline-specific diction, organization, and even syntax. The Yale University Writing Center’s “Putting Sources in Conversation: Verbs and Clauses” offers a useful list of, in particular, verbs to pick and choose from in order to demonstrate, for example, that “hypothesize” and “postulate” are not synonyms. Likewise, students are often told to eradicate passive construction from their sentences, where some scientific writing may privilege the passive construction in order to deemphasize the author/researcher.
  3. Structure and scaffold peer review. Even if you do not take time to have peer review happen in class, take the time to discuss effective evaluation practices and methods of providing feedback so that students are prepared both to give and to receive feedback on their drafts.
  4. Provide and work through (during class time) models of effective writing in the discipline, published or not.
  5. Discuss different ways of reading and help students practice reading like a writer, evaluating what they read for the following (for example): purpose/motivation; intended audience; register and tone; kinds of evidence; integration of evidence; quality of evidence; rigor and thoughtfulness of evaluation, interpretation, results, and discussion sections; moments at which convoluted syntax or inappropriate diction results in ambiguity and/or damage to credibility; bias and assumptions implicit (or explicit) in text.
  6. Spend time in class talking about how to form a clear, generative, balanced question and modeling those questions. Go over the relationship between a topic, a research question, and an argument (thesis, claim). Model the process of developing an argument, thesis, main claim, hypothesis, etc.
  7. Workshop student writing in class, not only in peer review groups but also as a full group so that students can hear from each other and the professor at the same time.
  8. Encourage metacognitive discussion and assignments in which students reflect on the way writing shapes disciplines. Evidence shows that learning transfer (from course to course and into post-college professional life) is most likely to occur when students have the opportunity to think about their own thinking, reflect in writing or orally their learning, methods, writing practices, and finished work, and participate in metacognitive moments in the classroom. Metacognitive work also helps facilitate transparent pedagogy.