Five Ways to Improve Your Writing-Intensive Course

Professor Hannah Muller holding a paper and speaking with a student in class
  1. Use writing assignments to teach concepts rather than letting writing reflect already acquired knowledge. Students will feel more excited about an assignment that forces them to wrestle with the central concepts of your class than an essay that asks them to line up the information presented in a previous lecture.
  2. Use sequenced assignments that ask students to perform smaller tasks which add up to a larger assignment. Sequenced assignments give students opportunities to explore ideas they are less confident about but which might be promising. Smaller assignments also allow the professor to intercede early in the development of an unsuccessful idea and get the student on the right track.
  3. Design assignments you actually want to read.
  4. Create a structure in which students must read and incorporate your comments into meaningful revision. You could ask students to respond in a letter to your grade comments. You could organize your comments according to the elements of the academic essay (thesis, motive, evidence, analysis, structure, style) and thereby encourage them to work on specific skills. We have rubrics that feature the elements of the academic essay.
  5. Use rubrics or standards, and stick to them. Don’t accept papers that fall below your page minimum. If a paper is grammatically messy or has too many language errors, hand it back and give the student 48 hours to fix the errors and turn the paper in again.