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Office of University Writing

Office of The Provost


Office of University Writing

Office of The Provost

Writing to Learn

What does it mean to write to learn rather than learn to write?

Research suggests that students learn and retain more content when they are active participants in their own learning. This means that students must be asked to do more than repeat information that they have heard or read. Writing is a crucial component for students being active in their learning. It is a way for students to access higher order thinking, integrate information across the disciplines, and reflect upon their own learning process. It should be noted that writing in this case is much more than learning grammar, style, and mechanics.

So how can instructors across the disciplines guide students to write to learn?

  1. Refrain from teaching grammar – Students should be entering college with some understanding of formal writing skills. If they are struggling with the very basics of academic writing, refer them to the Miller Writing Center for consultation. Your job is to focus on the content of your course.
  2. Think informal over formal – Writing to learn activities can actually be quite short, even ungraded, and yet be structured in ways that let students work with the content and practice written communication and articulate key concepts in their own words.
  3. Create opportunities – Students should be assigned and/or encouraged to write for themselves such as in the form of taking notes, brainstorming, asking critical questions, or mapping ideas.

What are some resources for teaching students to write to learn?

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