Many of our students come to college in order to prepare for a professional career. They need to learn the content that will prepare them for future jobs or graduate study, of course, but they also need to learn how to sound like and think like a member of that profession. Sharon Roberts, Associate Professor of Biology, uses an innovative writing assignment to nurture these budding professionals.
Sharon Roberts, Associate Professor of Biology, has developed an assignment for students in her course on virology that asks students to present what they’ve learned about a particular virus to two very different audiences – an audience of professional peers and a public audience. We know that other professors have developed similar assignments that ask students to present information to a public audience, but Roberts manages to do this assignment in a course that regularly enrolls 50 students, and she has developed materials that provide instruction and support without requiring that she give up class time to help students with the writing assignment. As we explained in an earlier post, her assignment is carefully constructed to give students all four aspects of the rhetorical situation: audience, purpose, genre (or form), and content.
As we can see in the overview of the assignment Dr. Roberts provides, the assignment also requires students to use higher order thinking skills as they research a virus they have not studied in class and apply concepts from the course to that new virus. By helping students to develop flexibility in how they present the knowledge they’ve gained by moving to different situations, Roberts is also strengthening students’ understanding of this content. Instead of students writing just to her to demonstrate that they have indeed learned the material, Roberts’ assignment gives students the opportunity to develop a professional identity and learn the vocabulary and ways of talking that help professionals establish their credibility. In short, this assignment accomplishes multiple objectives by using writing to provide a rich and engaging learning environment. It’s an example of the good work Auburn faculty are doing to integrate writing into disciplinary courses.
Check out other writing resources in the Teaching Writing Library!