The workshop I attended focused on honing your professional writing skills, which is a beneficial trait for not only students but for instructors and other individuals in an academic setting. Even though this workshop was only offered to graduate and doctoral students, the tools that were taught to those in attendance can easily be transferred to an undergraduate classroom setting. As it is, most students enrolled in various graduate or doctoral programs are required to teach undergraduate classes as part of their curriculum.
In order to understand the powerful nature of professional writing workshops, let’s back up just a little bit about why I attended this workshop. I am a doctoral student at The Graduate Center in the Health Psychology and Clinical Science program. This program encompasses both the research and clinical aspects of the psychology field. In other words, lots of writing is required and as I was told by a few of my cohorts, “your writing is your voice.” So with that in mind I knew I had to enhance my writing abilities, which were not all too terrible to begin with but there is always room for improvement. Furthermore, I have to teach undergraduate classes as it is required by my program and I hoped this workshop would provide me the ability to enhance the writing skills of the students in my future classrooms. My experiences of writing at the undergraduate level were dismal, to say the least, and I do not want my future students to have the same thought.
This workshop discussed ways in which to manage various speed bumps we tend to encounter while writing including, time management, research techniques, helpful editing tips, and ways to bypass the always burdensome writers block. The workshop recommended when we teach classes about how to write in a professional manner we should assign multiple mini writing assignments. These writing assignments should be low-stake papers as they will allow students a chance to become comfortable writing in a manner they have minimal or no previous experience and alleviate any distress that students potentially experience while writing.
The techniques I took away from this workshop have proved to be beneficial in my own writing. I feel comfortable with professional and scholarly writing and my editing abilities which in turn has decreased my level of distress around paper producing. The next step was to bring the techniques that I learned at this workshop and in my personal experience to the classroom. So I, with the help of the workshop, have come up with a plan to increase the level of professional writing in undergraduate psychology classrooms.
The “How to” guide of enhancing professional and scholarly writing in the classroom:
- Low-stakes assignments
- Students will be assigned weekly mini writing assignments that correspond with the weekly required reading. This will not only help students increase their knowledge about the topics discussed in class but also provide students to practice writing in a critical manner.
- In-class writing assignments
- Most required readings are from scholarly journals which requires a certain set of skills and knowledge base, as they can be a little difficult to understand or dense to read. To help ease students into scholarly reading they will be asked to read through abstracts and spend five minutes writing a summary of what they read in their own words. This will help synthesize what is required in an abstract and to understand what was read. This idea can be transferred to other aspects of a scholarly journal including tables, results, discussion, introduction, and even the title.
- Research, research, research
- One of the major take home points from the workshop is that proper research makes writing a paper that much easier. Transferring this idea to the classroom, students will be asked to find five (or how ever many you desire) peer-reviewed scholarly journals that pertain to the topic being discussed. The students will then have to write a two-page paper as to why the articles were chosen, how they were found, and a brief summary of the articles and how they relate to the topic from the lecture.
These techniques can be molded to fit into any classroom, I focused on the field of psychology because that is the field I am studying. One thing to note, students are more likely to grow as writers through multiple mini assignments compared to one big final paper, as they say practice makes perfect or improved. To continue on that thought, it is imperative that instructors provide detailed feedback on the submitted assignments as a way to enhance their writing skills.
It is great that this workshop helped you both as a writer and as a teacher of writing. I think that it is important that we support students in learning how to read academic articles. It is really easy for us to forget what a challenge this is for undergraduates because we have become so proficient at doing it. This is a great skill to work on though and with careful scaffolding this should help students a lot. The idea of having students extract the main ideas from an abstract is a great start in the scaffolding process.
I often find that Students entering Experimental Psychology need a lot of improvement in this area. These lessons and concepts should be included in all Psychology courses. I will try to include mini low-stakes writing assignments in my Intro to Psychology course.