Academic Writing through Student Collaboration
The abundance of grammar guides on the internet contrasts with the scarcity of opportunities for students to practice their writing in a guided manner. This project aims to create a uniquely designed course on academic writing which will be available to students online via Blackboard as part of the services of NUI Galway’s Academic Writing Centre.The course will also be made available to staff members wishing to improve the writing skills of their students. This course will establish a process which will facilitate students to learn from each other. Students will receive clear directions for weekly writing tasks; their entries will be anonymised; each student will then receive an entry for review along with detailed instructions. These reviews will in turn be anonymised and sent back to their authors. Students will then rate the feedback they received. This method of interactive learning and constructive critiquing will make the course both interesting and thought provoking. It is hoped that the course will generate a spirit of debate and a lifelong regard for the written word. The availability of this course will allow teaching staff at NUI Galway to significantly improve their students’ writing without adding to their own workload.
The project is currently at the first stage. We have examined a number of materials and some of the data collected over the past few months since the opening of the Academic Writing Centre. One source that we have found particularly useful is Kristin Dombek, Scott Herndon, Critical Passages: Teaching the Transition to College Composition (Teachers College Press, 2004). The authors' innovative approach to the teaching of writing will determine the structure of the course. We expect to have the first draft of the course ready for testing in January at which time we will contact interested students and teachers
The project has currently entered the second stage. The first draft of the course has been made; this includes the writing of specially designated tasks and the selection of reading materials. The course has been set up on Blackboard; we are conducting a few test runs to make sure the Turnitin and PeerMark software tools, essential to the management of the course, are functioning as expected. The availability of these tools has meant that we have not incurred any web development costs. (Our thanks go to Sharon Flynn of CELT for advising on the issue). We intend to increase the budget for course promotion. We plan to advertise the course and to enrol 10 students for the first test run; the students would get weekly prizes in the form of meal or book vouchers and cinema tickets. We intend to advertise the course on February 1, with the course starting on 11 February.
The project is going well. The course is now in its 7th week; some students took the option of opting out of the course before Easter, and we received some positive feedback on the course so far. We also held a workshop on the course and were able to collect further information regarding student responses to the course this way.