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2007 Innovative Writing in Teaching Recipient

Erik Trump, Department of Political Science

I believe that my responsibility is not just to assign written work but also to teach students how to write effectively. I have developed a system of assignments that both requires students to engage with the course content and gives them directed practice in writing.

I try to support students' development of effective writing skills. Specifically, I do three things. First, I offer general guidelines about effective thesis statements, organization strategies, and so forth. Second, I provide examples (drawn from students' homework) of "promising" first draft materials; I then revise and annotate that material to demonstrate how one can use the writing process to deepen and extend one's thinking. Finally, I create a model paragraph "template" that we use for in-class writing exercises and/or as a prompt for discussion.

This collection of assignments modifies the typical "draft and revise" model by having students practice the final assignment several times with different topics each time. I have them write about each ideology that we study. These short assignments require the students to take information from lecture and the textbook and apply that information to an ideological argument.

Each week students complete one of these short assignments, and we then use their responses as the basis for class discussion. The short writing assignments thus ensure that students stay focused on the course goals, reading (for example) Robert Bork with an eye to identifying his ideology rather than to simply find reasons to disagree with his argument. In the final assignment, students take one of the shorter responses and expand it. This exercise gives them practice in deepening and extending their critical.

Scott J. Kowalewski,
Writing Program Administrator

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