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How Instructors Shape DSP

How Instructors Shape DSP

Because Sweetland believes that good assessment is always connected to instruction, we are eager to have instructors from WRITING 100, WRITING 120 and a wide range of FYWR courses involved in the ongoing development and improvement of the DSP process. Since the University of Michigan’s DSP procedures were revamped in 2009, instructors have helped shape the DSP in the following ways:

  • Nominating and voting on the article that students will read for that year’s DSP.
  • Providing ideas for and feedback on drafts of the prompt for the DSP essay.
  • Contributing activities and assignments to our growing list of ways to use the DSP essays in the classroom.
  • Providing feedback on the DSP process through instructor surveys and during trainings.
  • Serving on the DSP Committee, which convenes each winter to review and improve the DSP process for the coming year.

Although the emphasis in any writing course should be on writing, instructor input increases the likelihood that the DSP article selection will be of broad relevance to students in a variety of courses. Additionally, feedback from instructors has led to the development of prompts that ask students to engage with texts and to formulate arguments in ways valued by instructors at U-M. To see our archive of past prompts, click the grey links below. To become involved in shaping the DSP, contact Sweetland Director Anne Gere at

Archive of Past DSP Articles & Prompts

Fall 2015

"We Are All Confident Idiots"
by David Dunning

In his 2014 article "We Are All Confident Idiots," David Dunning uses provocative language to make the argument that human beings regularly overestimate their knowledge of particular topics, and those who claim knowledge most confidently may in fact understand the least. Dunning offers evidence from a variety of sources and perspectives to support these statements, ultimately proposing a distinction between knowledge and true wisdom. 

Write a 4-5 page, double-spaced essay (1200-1500 words) in which you take a position on the effectiveness of Dunning’s argument. In terms of his use of language, examples, and evidence, what did you find most or least convincing? What are the effects of Dunning’s tone, as well as his use of terms like “incompetence,” “idiocy,” or “ignorance”? While you may draw on your own experience and observations in developing your argument, make sure your essay refers directly and substantially to Dunning’s article. 

Fall 2014

"The Case Against High School Sports"
by Amanda Ripley

In her 2014 article "The Case against High School Sports," Amanda Ripley puts forth a provocative argument about the place of high school sports in American education. Ripley offers evidence from a variety of sources to support her position, and she acknowledges and addresses counterarguments as well. Write a 4-5 page, double-spaced essay (1200-1500 words) in which you take a position on Ripley's argument. You may agree with Ripley, disagree with Ripley, or formulate a third perspective. While you may draw on your own experience and observations in establishing your position, your argument should respond directly to the claims and evidence that Ripley presents. 

Fall 2013

"Cheating Upwards"
by Robert Kolker

In his 2012 article “Cheating Upwards,” Robert Kolker offers several views on why cheating appears to be on the rise in highly competitive U.S. educational institutions. Read this article carefully and pay close attention to the various perspectives it presents on why cheating has become so prevalent. Drawing on one or more of these perspectives, write an essay in which you take a position on why students cheat. You may supplement your argument with evidence from your own experience and/or other texts you may have read. Be sure to indicate the source for any textual evidence, aside from this article, that you use. 

Fall 2012

by Jonah Lehrer

Summarize and analyze Jonah Lehrer’s article “Groupthink.” Present your analysis as a persuasive essay, using evidence from the article to support your claims about the information and ideas that Lehrer lays out.

Fall 2011

“Mind vs. Machine”
by Brian Christian
The Atlantic
March, 2011

In “Mind vs. Machine,” Brian Christian surveys several perspectives on what it means to be human. For instance, at one point he writes that “being human (and being oneself) is about more than simply showing up,” and at another that the ability to be “zany, a jokester, [is] a much more ‘human’ personality type.” Read the article carefully, and pay close attention to the many perspectives it presents on what it means to be human. Then, select one of these perspectives and — drawing on evidence from the article, as well as your own experience and/or other texts you have read — take a position on it. Do you agree with it or not, and why? How does other evidence from the article complicate your position?

Fall 2010

“Robots that Care"
by Jerome Groopman
The New Yorker
November 2, 2009

In 2010, we rely on machines for many of our daily activities. Some argue that this reliance on machines can enhance our lives. Others argue that it may diminish human interactions. Both views are expressed in the article you’ve read, “Robots That Care.” Based on evidence from the article and your own views, write an argument that addresses the question: “What role should machines play in our lives?”

Fall 2009

“Most Likely to Succeed”
by Malcolm Gladwell
The New Yorker
December 15, 2008

Analyze Gladwell's proposal on how to select and retain teachers in the United States, and argue for or against his proposal using evidence from the article.