Writing Matters Newsletter
A Publication of BYU University Writing
April 2011, Volume 12, Issue 7
In This Issue Endings, Beginnings, and Writing Across the
Spring WAC Workshops Curriculum
One of the things I like about teaching is that it has clear endings and beginnings. As you orchestrate the
end of this semester, I know you are also thinking about beginning the next one. Spring and summer terms
This Spring/Summer usually provide a bit more time to reflect on how to improve our classes. Upcoming University Writing
events provide chances to learn and reflect on teaching writing: the Spring/Summer WAC Book Club, the
Spring WAC Modular Workshops, and the Writing Matters Summer Seminar. The Seminar is already filled,
Register for events!
but we still have space available in the Book Club and the Spring Workshops. We hope you will register.
Here is some recent research on writing to start your reflection. In a new book published by University of
University Writing Chicago Press, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College
Campuses, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa report on the results of a
study of 2300 students from a wide variety of colleges and universities.
Engaged Writings Arum and Roksa found that after the first two years of college 45% of
and Dynamic Disciplines
students made no significant improvement in their thinking and writing
Wednesdays skills. However, Arum and Roksa did find that students demonstrated
May 11 strong improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing
June 15 skills when they took classes requiring more than forty pages of reading a
July 6 week and more than twenty pages of writing a semester.
Of course, it’s not surprising that students held to rigorous standards of
reading and writing learn to read, write, and think better.
The concern is that students are seldom held to these rigorous standards.
Read More Consider the data collected from BYU students for the 2010 National
Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Students responded to the
Spring WAC Workshops: following question During the current school year, about how much
See here for topics reading and writing have you done?
Monday–Wednesday; Monday On average, BYU freshmen and seniors reported they were assigned to
May 16–18, 23 read between 5–10 books per year. Both classes also reported that they
10am–12:00pm were assigned per year only 1 to 4 long papers (between 5 and 19
2–4pm pages). Slightly more shorter papers were assigned: both freshmen and
Read More seniors reported 5–10 short papers (fewer than 5 pages) assigned for
That means that in the 8 to10 courses a student might take in 2
semesters, they might have been assigned only one paper of more than
over 5 pages. Even the shorter papers are fairly sparse. In the 8 to 10
classes a year, only 5 to 10 short papers were reported, on average.
Brief Guide to Writing These could be as short as one page. Perhaps a student would only
By Beth Hedengren write 5 pages in a year. Even if we figure 10 papers at 5 pages each,
that is 50 pages for 8 to 10 classes, not anywhere near the 20 pages per
semester per class that Arum and Roksa suggest.
We all know that students need to learn to write. Published learning
outcomes for almost every department include something about writing well. Yet, since writing is a skill,
students can only improve if they practice writing frequently. We need to include writing assignments in
many of our classes. Come to our spring and summer workshops to learn more about how to assign and
evaluate writing efficiently and well.
University Writing Book Club
Have you ever wondered how writing in your field is similar and different from writing in other fields? Or
have you wondered how colleagues teach writing and how students perceive their instruction?
To consider these questions further, come to our annual University Writing Book Club. University Writing will
provide the book, and you will provide the thought-provoking discussion. Register early: we can only accept
twenty participants. (Register at firstname.lastname@example.org, deadline May 2.)
As you are placing book orders,
consider including The Brief This year we will be reading Engaged Writers and Dynamic Disciplines: Research on the Academic Writing
Guide to Writing. This short Life, by Chris Thaiss and Terry Myers Zawacki. The authors report on faculty interviews as well as student
booklet provides your students surveys and focus groups. Following are some questions they explored:
with a review of the basics of
good writing. It is available in the What is ‘academic writing’? How do disciplinary differences and commonalities contribute to this
Bookstore for only $1.50. definition?
How do our students grow to fluency in academic and disciplinary discourses, while realizing their
If you would like a review copy, own ambitions for learning and expression?
just contact us at
email@example.com Here’s the reading schedule. Hope you’ll be able to join us!
Click here for a link to ordering 2011 University Writing Book Club
instructions and a PDF version of Engaged Writers and Dynamic Disciplines: Research on the Academic Writing Life, by Chris Thaiss
the Brief Guide and Terry Myers Zawacki.
Date Time Place Reading
Wed, Noon- 4116 Chapters 1 & 2 (pp. 1-45)
May 11 12:50 JFSB “What’s Academic? What’s ‘Alternative’?” and “Faculty Talk
Teaching Tip About Their Writing, Disciplines, and Alternatives”
Writing in Spring or Wed, Noon- 4116 Chapter 3 (pp. 58-88) “How Our Informants Teach Students to
Summer Classes June 15 12:50 JFSB Write”
Wed, 4116 4116 Chapter 4 (pp. 95-134) “Students Talk About Expectations,
Since Spring and Summer
July 6 JFSB JFSB Confidence, and How They Learn”
classes go by so quickly,
sometimes teachers are tempted Wed 4116 4116 Chapter 5 (pp. 136-170) “Implications for Teaching and
to cut back on writing Aug 17 JFSB JFSB Program Building”
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Instead, consider how writing can
especially enhance Spring and
1. Break up long class
sessions. Half way through
Spring WAC Workshop
class, ask your students to Many of you have told us that, even though you wish you could, you simply can’t take a full week from your
write for 5 minutes. Possible research and teaching to participate in our Writing Matters Summer Seminar. No worries! We have
topics include: developed a program for people like you, one in which you can choose to attend as many or as few
Summarize what you sessions as you want.
have learned so far.
Each of our Spring Writing Matters Modular Workshops is a self-contained 2-hour unit. If you can take two
Write questions you hours from your spring work, then you can take this course. And for each 2-hour workshop you complete,
have about the content. you will receive $50 for your research account.
Discuss applications of Even if you have previously attended the summer workshop, consider attending a module as a refresher
the material learned. course, another chance to think carefully about how you can improve your teaching.
Have students share their Just let us know you’re coming; to register, email firstname.lastname@example.org by May 1.
writings, and use them to
help you focus on students’ Here is the schedule, so you can choose which workshops you would like to attend:
needs in the next hour.
Spring WAC Modular Workshops, May 16-18 and May 23
2. Assign several short
microthemes rather than Register (email@example.com) for as many as you like; $50 research money for successful completion
one long paper. Design an of each module. Deadline for registration: May 2
assignment that is very short
(only 1-2 pages) with
rigorous expectations. If the Date Time Place Topic Presenter
expectations are similar for
each paper, the students will Monday, 10-12 4188 The Power of Exploratory Writing: How Beth Hedengren, Associate
learn to write better through
May 16 A.M JFSB 5 minutes can Improve Student Coordinator of University
the repetition. And, because
Learning (Without Adding [Much] to Writing (WAC)
the papers are very short,
your grading will be Your Workload.)
Monday, 2-4 4188 Visualizing Success: Designing Danette Paul,
May 16 P.M. JFSB Posters, Brochures and PowerPoints Associate Professor, English,
specializing in Rhetoric and
Tuesday, 10-12 4188 Transforming Readers to Writers: Three Beth Hedengren,
May 17 A.M. JFSB Steps to Creating Effective Writing Associate Coordinator of
Assignments University Writing (WAC)
Tuesday, 2-4 4188 Teaching Students to Talk in Class: Brian Jackson, Associate
May 17 P.M. JFSB Oral Communication Skills Coordinator of University
Writing (Advanced Writing)
Wed, 10-12 4188 Styling Written English: How Knowing a Debbie Harrison,
May 18 A.M. JFSB Little about Grammar Helps You Be Specialist in Writing and
Cool English Language
Wed, 2-4 4188 Minding the Research Gap: Teaching Beth Hedengren,
May 18 P.M. JFSB Students to Use Sources Effectively in Associate Coordinator of
Support of Their Own Arguments University Writing (WAC)
Monday, 10-12 4188 A Physician, Not a Judge: Teacher Beth Hedengren,
May 23 A.M. JFSB Comments Can Help “Heal” Student Associate Coordinator of
Writing University Writing (WAC)
Monday, 2-4 4188 Making the Grade: How to Evaluate Joyce Adams,
May 23 P.M. JFSB Student Papers Fairly and Consistently Writing Specialist for the
College of FHSS
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Beth Hedengren, Associate Coordinator, University Writing (WAC) o 4110B JFSB o 801-422-3486 o firstname.lastname@example.org
University Writing Secretary o 4110 JFSB o 801-422-3565 o email@example.com