Research Proposals/Papers

What worked best as you sought to help students learn course content through writing?

Students are required to read, discuss, and summarize all of the weekly assigned readings. To help internalize the topics, students are required to write reaction papers for each week's topic and relate these subjects to their own personal knowledge and insights, including family and village experiences for heritage students. The writing of reaction papers enables students to develop writing styles representative of adult academic writing in the Samoan and English languages. Small group discussions enable students to incorporate shared experiences and additional insights into their re-writes. The use of written reaction papers rather than oral reports permits students to develop their thoughts and styles through several revisions and also lets them analyze the thoughts and styles of others in the class. Each student is also required to write a research paper. Students will further their academic writing and will allow them to develop research skills and knowledge of the topic. Mayer, SAM452, F12.

The "Reacting to the Past" games provide students with a clearly defined perspective and set of clear objectives with which to approach the history of a particular historical moment (Athens in 403 BC, China in 1587 AD). Writing, researching, public speaking, and small group work are integrated as students work together to propose laws or policies, debate them, and make alliances. It is clear to them that writing has a direct impact on their ability to accomplish their "victory objectives." Because their proposals must be historically plausible, they are responsible for proving to me that they have done their background research. They then, in turn, inform their fellow students of particular aspects of the historical background of the game. Thus they learn about a topic, write about it and then teach it to their peers. The debate engages them with the content at an intellectual and, more importantly, affective level. Schwartz, HON291H, F12.

One of the best ways I found to help students learn course content through writing was to provide students with a context for writing the assignment. The context was directly related to the subject matter as well as current events and active community projects in which I and other community members are engaged. For example, in one of the assignments, work is being done by the Department of Health and various health associations in regards to healthy public policies, and many students chose to write on a related topic that is undergoing discussion at the legislature. Watters, FSHN451, F12.

The memos were very effective in teaching students how to organize the information that they had gathered about particular planning issues and present it in written form to a professional audience. It not only familiarized them with what planners do and how planners think about these issues but also encouraged them to suggest recommendations to improve existing conditions. The responses to guest lecture questions were also very useful in getting students to think critically about the topics discussed and then write their reaction in a few paragraphs. The final paper allowed students to select any planning-related topic of their interest. I provided a list of possible topics. However, students could modify the topics according to their interests. This helped to spark an interest in doing research and writing about the topic they selected. Das, PLAN310, F12.

What worked best as you sought to help students learn to be more effective writers?

I used a progressive approach which moves from understanding how academics write by closely examining articles assigned for class, then to having students pen their own abstracts and research papers. In addition to examining examples of effective writing explicitly in class, I tell students that every assigned reading should also be thought of as a guide to writing. Saethre, ANTH425,F12.

Reaction papers are turned in to the instructor and are then re-written based on comments from the instructor. In small peer groups, students are allowed to share their writings and are able to get feedback on styles as well as content. These activities work very well for this class and students seem to benefit a great deal from the peer-level interactions. Each student is required to write a research paper on an approved topic related to Samoan language, culture, and socio-linguistics. Papers may be written in Samoan or English, but students must demonstrate an ability to use the Samoan language as a research tool in the completion of the paper. The first draft of the paper is handed to the instructor by the 8th week. A conference is held with the student to discuss content, accuracy and grammatical form. The paper is rewritten and presented to the class. Students can rewrite the paper based on feedback. The process helped to develop an academic style of writing and revising papers. Mayer, SAM452, F12.

Because they are writing for one another, the students develop a sense of audience. Posting papers for their peers to read on the blog (under pseudonyms) holds them accountable for doing a good job. In the 2nd & 4th papers (Athens #2 and especially China #2) I require students to respond explicitly to ideas in other students' papers. I also found that the spontaneity of the games forces students to think on their feet. More than once, a student has prepared a carefully researched paper on a scientific proposal but by the time they get up to present it, the dynamics of the in-class discussion has made their proposal moot. I have found that students who have already put time and effort into thinking through an argument by means of writing it are more flexible when it comes to adapting. This underscores my philosophy that writing is a dynamic process that is inextricable from thinking and listening. The students will beg me for an extension to revise their paper. I allow it, knowing they gained feedback from peers. Schwartz, HON291H, F12.

The primary source analysis paper has been useful in challenging students to do close readings in writing and to expand meaningfully on their interpretations. To help make sure they really "get it" and fully benefit from the assignment, as well as improve weaknesses in their prose, I've introduced a first draft requirement. I also do a one-day in-class writing workshop that the students seem to enjoy. Matteson, HON396B, F12.

I post citation guides. The majority of the students write papers very well, however do not cite sources appropriately. Springer, SOC100, F12.

Please explain any changes you plan to make in the W aspect of your class.

I would like to have Eileen Herring come and present to the students on conducting effective literature searches so they have the necessary background information for writing. Watters, FSHN451, F12.