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Engaging Students with Writing Assignments that Outlast the Semester

I’m certain I’m not the only teacher who has given an assignment, hoping that students would find it interesting enough to do their very best thinking and writing, only to discover that students did it at the last minute and learned very little from the process. Over the years, I’ve learned that making assignments more than school exercises to be tossed away the moment they’ve been graded takes time and thought, but the results are worth the effort. Ric Smith from Communication and Journalism has crafted a meaningful assignment that students take seriously because it has a life beyond the classroom, and he uses strategies that might well be adapted by others.

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Writing for Synthesis

As we’ve worked with students on ePortfolios, we’ve had a number of them tell us that they were surprised to discover that their courses and assignments were connected. ePortfolios can certainly help students make connections between courses, but this month we feature two faculty from Forestry and Wildlife Sciences who intentionally linked their courses together with connected assignments.

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Rubrics Gone Wrong

I once had a colleague who complained that all his student papers were the same. He had carefully crafted an assignment, telling them exactly what to do in each sentence of the first paragraph and then in each paragraph of the paper. When he stopped providing such a rigid template, the papers got more interesting to read because the students had room to think and be creative. As Brandon Sams, Assistant Professor in Curriculum and Instruction, notes: sometimes it’s not them, it’s us.

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Creative Ways To Avoid Plagiarism

As educators we care about plagiarism and preventing plagiarism for lots of reasons. We want students to learn from our assignments and plagiarism gets in the way of that learning. Academics always stand on the shoulders of those who have come before, so we want students to learn to respect the scholarship of others and use it appropriately; plagiarizing signals that students don’t understand these key values of the academic world.

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Learning by Teaching Others: Writing in a Math-Based Course

Sometimes we teach students to write. Sometimes we use writing to teach something else. Students need practice and guidance to learn the kinds of writing that are valued in different disciplines. But sometimes we need to use writing to help students learn the material or skills we’re teaching. The writing to learn approach is especially valuable in courses with a heavy math or technical component as Professor Becky Barlow discusses in this month’s featured video interview.

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