From You Tube videos in organic chemistry (Franz, 2012) to position papers in public relations (Powell, 2012) to posters in physiology (Mulnix, 2003), teachers are helping students to write in genres that immediately connect them with the real readers of their future professional settings.
(See also Blakeslee, 2001; Guilford, 2001; Jebb, 2005; Le Bigot & Rouet, 2007; Mizrahi, 2003; Motavalli ., 2004; Freedman & Adam, 2000; Spinuzzi, 2010) have explored the reasons why writers attentive to specific contexts are more successful.
But even if your particular class doesn't allow you to pair students with actual clients or other readers, consider ways in which you can create a meaningful context with readers beyond the teacher in the classroom (see, for example, Ward, 2009). (2012), for instance, describe in detail how, drawing on materials from The Council of Writing Program Administrators and The Foundation for Critical Thinking, they developed a case study writing context for first-year general chemistry students.
As they explain, Our initial case-study assignment, used for the first two years of the course, required students to explore the scientific principles involved in the Bhopal disaster where thousands of people died in an industrial chemical accident....
Setting up your writing assignment so that the target reader is someone other than you, the teacher, might result in the most improvement in student writing.
Students, after all, have had extensive experience writing to teachers, and students know that teachers are a "captive" audience.Using Technology How can computer technologies support writing in my classes? Good writing assignments always start with a clear goal that the teacher can express, usually on the assignment sheet so that students understand the goal as well.Designing and Assessing WAC Programs What is a WAC program? Good writing assignments also often take shape by thinking backwards.In particular, workplace literacy and socio-cognitive apprenticeship theory (among related theoretical perspectives) both emphasize the role that knowledgeable mentors within a workplace play as they initiate newcomers to the communicative context.(See especially Beaufort, 2000, and Ding, 2008, for social apprenticeship studies and Paretti, 2008, on situated learning and activity theory.) As Dias Written discourse...Many senior design projects and management projects in engineering and natural resources involve pairing students with actual clients so that students must take into account the particular needs of their readers.Across many disciplines, teachers are investigating alternative methods to connect undergraduate writers with real audiences, including client-based partnerships (Kiefer & Leff, 2008; Kreth, 2005; Planken & Kreps, 2006;) and service-learning opportunities (Addams ., 2010; Bourelle, 2012), among other options.Students responded positively on affective surveys, a typical reaction to carefully designed writing tasks.More significantly, "students in this chemistry course outperformed the majority of students across all undergraduate levels at the university" (506).For that reason, the first key to writing a good assignment is tying the task to the specific course goals.After taking your class and its goals into account, though, several other principles can improve the writing tasks you assign and the writing you get from students.