Paper No. 65-3
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM
WRITING TO LEARN: USE OF INFORMAL WRITING ASSIGNMENTS TO DEEPEN COMPREHENSION IN GEOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE COURSES
It can be challenging to successfully encourage students to review course material on a regular basis outside of class time. Additionally, science students generally get limited writing experience. Frequent informal writing assignments can both help students learn to think more clearly/deeply and improve their writing skills. These assignments do not need to be graded to be effective. This presentation will cover a range of writing assignment types and how they are integrated into coursework. In upper division courses at University of the Pacific, a variety of informal writing assignments are used. In the Earth Materials and Petrology courses, there is daily in-class informal writing (at the beginning and end of class) related to content covered in class. The writing is not graded, although feedback is provided to students on content and/or writing, as needed. In the Environmental Science Capstone Seminar, that relies more heavily on (non-textbook) reading assignments, students submit daily reading reflections prior to class. These reflections are not graded but are periodically peer-reviewed by the class. Instructor feedback is provided if the content is lacking depth or if the writing is especially turgid. As result of the daily writing and the peer-review discussions, student writing skills improve and their understanding of the reading material improves. The practice of daily writing helps the students improve their comprehension of content and their writing clarity. Student responses to exam questions improve and the quality of their formal writing improves. Because the assignments are not graded, the impact on instructor time is limited. More frequent writing leads to better thinking, and better thinking contributes to better writing.