Online Writing Lab

Teaching Writing

Writing is an important part of many college classes in a variety of curriculum areas.  Unfortunately, instructors are often disappointed by the quality of the essays that students write.  This often occurs because many college students have not been versed in the art of writing.  While all students pursuing a degree are required to complete the College Composition class (ENG 121), it is possible that many of the students in a particular college class have not yet completed this writing class. 

Here are some tips that instructors from any content area can use to help lead to better essays from students:

  • Create a handout with specific instructions:  While the expectations of any paper may be discussed thoroughly in class, it is quite common for students not to remember all of the expectations.  Additionally, while a student is working on his/her paper, this handout will enable him to make sure he is meeting the expectations.  It will also help the student receive more focused tutoring help. 
  • Create a rubric:  A rubric will allow a student to fully understand how she is going to be graded.  Furthermore, a rubric also has the benefit of making it easier for you, as the teacher, to grade the assignment since the guidelines and point values for grading are determined ahead of time.  Because of this, rubrics will often lead to less questioning of the grades received by students.  Providing a copy of the rubric to the student before the assignment is due helps avoid confusion and tends to lead to better written essays.  
  • Give an example:  Providing students with an example of the type of essay that should be written gives them something that can be used as a model when writing.  Even a partial essay can be helpful for students.   One of the best ways to provide a good example essay is to save a well-written one from a previous class.  (Always ask for permission first, but most students are happy to oblige and are proud that their work will be shown as a model for future classes.)
  • Spend some class time discussing writing:  While you don’t have to try to recreate a composition class, some review/instruction on important writing concepts is helpful, especially if you focus on their relation to your particular assignment.  Some discussion on overall content, thesis statements, organization, and proper citation within your particular discipline will be beneficial. 

Remember that the more class time you spend discussing the essay, the better the results tend to be.  The same is true when it comes to providing students with a variety of resources for the essay.