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CTE - Teaching Writing

This guide provides resources and best practices on teaching writing, creating writing prompts and rubrics, and providing feedback on student writing.

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After you determine that you will use writing to engage and assess student learning, you will need to help students through the writing process.  This task can be daunting for faculty outside of the traditionally writing-intensive disciplines.  However, there are a number of ways that you can help students actively engage in the writing process.


First, let's discuss process over product.   This theory of writing pedagogy summarizes the idea that we want students to engage with the process of writing (pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing) rather than focus on the product (the final assignment and grade).  


Let's look at the writing process and it's components: 



When students are encouraged to look only at the final assignment and the grade they'll receive, they will skip over some steps that will make this ultimate product truly successful.  


We implicitly or explicitly encourage students to focus on the product when we

  • emphasize the product through our prompts, rubrics, and weights
  • fail to address writing and the writing process in our classrooms 


We can encourage process-over-product by

  • writing prompts and rubrics that are clear, specific, and transparent
  • walking students through the steps of the writing process
  • assigning, collecting, and commenting on rough drafts
  • encouraging the use of writing resources


First, we must ensure that our writing prompts and rubrics discuss the importance of the writing process.  Prompts and rubrics should emphasize the phases of the writing process by looking for evidence of organization, structure, development, revision, and editing.  They should also provide specific resources from the course and the campus that will help them from assignment conception to assignment submission. 


Next, we must schedule time during class to address the writing process.  Depending on the nature of the assignment, you will want to discuss the elements of the writing process over several classes, perhaps using each class as a "check-in" on that specific step.  You can also use class time to hold group conference, writing workshops, and peer review sessions.  In so doing, you help to model the academic writing process for students and demonstrate how professionals in the field engage in scholarship. 


Here are two peer review models to help you conceptualize the process: 


Another way to emphasize process is to assign, collect, and comment on drafts.  When assigning a summative assessment in writing (such as a research paper, literature review, or persuasive essay), you will want to assign rough draft deadlines to help keep the students engaged and on-track with their writing.   Collecting rough drafts throughout the terms keeps students on pace and focused on improving their work.  It also provides you with an opportunity to intervene in the process, provide feedback, and offer resources.  These interventions will improve the overall process and end-product for the students and for you.


Finally, it is crucial that you encourage the use resources.  The campus has many resources available to students such as the library, learning center, and online guides.  When assigning writing, it's important that you know about these resources and can easily direct students to the resource that is most beneficial for their needs.  Pointing students to these resources helps to model problem-solving and gives them support that they can use beyond your class.  Moreover, if you have student models that you can use with permission, then you should include these as additional resources.