A key component of the M-Write approach is for faculty to identify key concepts that students need to understand. With the assistance of M-Write staff, writing prompts that address these concepts are developed. Prompts that have been used recently appear below along with guidelines on developing prompts.
Creating a Writing-to-Learn Assignment
The assignment as a whole
WTL assignments are made up of three steps to maximize student learning. First, students are given a prompt to write to, which deals with a key concept in the course, usually one that students have some difficulty learning. Next, students go through the peer review process and interact with the content through others’ perspectives. Finally, students re-engage with the material by revising their own first draft, drawing on both their reading of their peers’ responses to the prompt and comments they have received from peer review.
What are the processes involved in creating these assignments?
- Each assignment is course and content specific, so the creator should focus on understanding course progression and the material being presented.
- Disciplinary terminology should be used so that students become more familiar with the language commonly used in the given discipline
- Assignments should encourage connecting concepts rather than defining concepts.
- Students should learn to understand the terms ‘in their own words’ and be able to use/apply the terms correctly.
- Each writing assignment should have an authentic scenario that provides exigency for the writing. Identifying an appropriate scenario requires disciplinary knowledge as well as knowledge of students.
Each prompt consists of four parts: the content students should focus on, the scenario, students’ role, and the audience they are writing to. Together, these four pieces guide student learning through the writing process.
The focus of the prompt
- Consider ommon misconceptions
- Identify a problem you actually want students to solve/learn about
- Fashion a context
- Look at popular news items
- Think about applications of context
- Use a genre descriptor. Such as memo, editorial, proposal, etc.
- Define the student's position as the author, providing for them a task to accomplish directed toward the given audience. Examples: policy maker, experienced student helping freshman, explainer, etc.
- Decide what level of expertise you want to assign to the audience in the prompt.
- The audience should be realistic in the context and with respect to the level of explanation required.
Other things to keep in mind
- What else is being used in the course?
- Are there examples in the text or course that match the scenarios we are presenting?
- What genres are more accessible to earlier students?
- Does the assignment match a genre/form that is presented outside the WTL assignment?
- You can use prompts to build up knowledge by starting with a prompt built around understanding the concepts and then later have students apply the concepts to a more complex system.
- In creating, try to avoid:
- Propagating potential areas for misconceptions.
- Prompting for a more complex answer than required.