adapted writing guide, a few thoughts on writing and pedagogy

i just spent some time summarizing and adapting someone else’s adaptation of someone else’s guide to writing (specifically for ethics and philosophy but many of the points apply more generally). i have attached it in case it is of use!

i am now assisting with this particular ethics course for the first time. it was therefore no longer surprising  but still unsettling that on almost every midterm i graded last week, i wrote “a thesis sentence would be helpful.” i‘ll note that this is a masters-level course. i thought about reintroducing the (as noted by a friend, colossal “In-and-Out 4-by-4 Animal Style”) sandwich as teaching tool but opted against it.

i find it upsetting that in a school of public health – covering topics for which communication skills are ostensibly quite important – there so little direct emphasis on improving writing and public speaking.

first, for better or for worse, at least in my department, TAs do the vast majority of the grading. we generally don’t have the time (nor, ahem, the commensurate pay) to comment on writing style and grammar as well as content.

second, the writing resources at school are limited to one man. he does a great deal of good work but we can hardly assign all students to go to him before a paper is due, as in undergrad the professor could mandate that a paper went to the writing center before it was turned submitted  (where you were forced to read your paper out loud, which was both terrifying and extremely helpful).

third, the above point is all the more upsetting given the school’s cultivation of an international student body. that there are no writing resource that ESL (or, likely EnL) students can access when working on a specific paper is fairly upsetting.

fourth, i am of the firm opinion that one really learns how to write or present by having to comment on or grade good and bad writing or presentations. however, most times when i try to insert a mandatory “read your paper out loud to another student” or “grade a fellow student’s paper” into a curriculum, it is shot down for one reason or another. yes, it’s a pain. yes, students might go easy on each other. nevertheless, i still think is a good idea and a necessary component of taking good writing seriously. rating other students’ presentations seems to go over slightly better – but only slightly.

Writing for ethics_HEL2013

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2 thoughts on “adapted writing guide, a few thoughts on writing and pedagogy

  1. Jess Keim-Malpass says:

    I was literally just thinking of this today – how there should be more of a focus/guided help in graduate school related to writing. We had several seminars on aspects of academic writing, but not focused work on the basics.

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    • yes, that and presentation skills. especially in a public/policy oriented fields, it seems like there should be more explicit focus on the ability to communicate an argument or point of view. i think i have really only had one professor really try to shape the way that we ask and answer questions — not fun while its happening but important.

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