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. These students are surprised because they experience their courses as distinct and are given few opportunities to synthesize what they learn in one class with what they are experiencing elsewhere. Of course faculty know that the required courses in any program are required for a reason and we hope that students will synthesize what they learn within our courses as they do final projects, answer final exam questions, or complete a final paper. 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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Getting on the Same Page

When I was an undergraduate, I had a course that had a weekly writing assignment. The topic was on the board as we walked into class and the essay was due at the end of the class session. The following class period we got our papers back with a grade at the top, but not a single comment. It was always a mystery to me why I got the grades I got because I had no clear sense of the criteria the professor was using to assign those grades.

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