Writing skills training objective
Lots of students have trouble writing well. The Academic Writing Skills training course was developed to help them with this. The course aims to have students practice their writing skills in a targeted way, without teachers having to spend time on providing instruction and feedback. The course comprises seven digital programmes, called Diskits, in which different sub-skills can be practised independently.
These are, e.g.:
- how to create a good structure of your paragraphs
- how to create coherence between sentences and paragraphs
- how to formulate a question.
Every Diskit comprises:
- an explanation
- a rule (a kind of guideline)
- a number of short exercises
- a good example of an answer: the expert version
Teachers may apply here for a free Teacher's Copy & Account. This will also allow them access to the student tracking system.
Access to the student portal
Students will have to purchase the Academic Writing Skills book to obtain access to the student portal. The book includes an access code with which they can gain entry to the portal.
Academic Writing Skills should be used as a source of reference. It contains all the information included in the digital programmes and so allows for easy referencing.
The Diskits can be employed for writing skills training in many ways. As the teacher, you are, of course, free to choose how to use them. Here's an example of how the Diskits are used in writing skills training at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, where the instruction method was developed.
Writing skills training under the Psychology programme there comprises two courses spread out over Years 1 and 2 of the Bachelor degree programme. Central to each of the courses is a writing assignment supported by their digital modules. Both writing assignments ask the student to write a brief report in which a question is answered based on sources found in literature research. The assignment featured in Year 2, however, requires students to take a more critical view of the literature they incorporate into their reports. Students complete all writing skills Diskits in Year 1, and then in Year 2 the Diskits are used for revision purposes to get them ready for that year's assignment.
At the Institute we dedicate a ten-week period of each academic year in which students don't merely focus on writing, but also on other courses. The writing skills training adheres to the three stages of writing, i.e.: preparation, writing and revision.
Over the first three weeks students are allotted time to prepare for their writing assignments. This will involve subject orientation, researching and reading literature, coming up with a central question and any additional literature research that will need to be conducted as a consequence. During those initial three weeks students will put their efforts towards drafting an action plan: a sort of structural set-up of their report. In it they are asked to include the headings for their paragraphs along with a short explanation of what they'll be discussing in them and which sources they are looking to use. This period will also see them complete the first four writing skills Diskits. They'll then have to apply the rules of thumb they learn during that period to drafting their action plan. The action plan will need to be completed and handed in by the end of the third week. It is not marked as such, but students will receive feedback on them and the action plan is a mandatory requirement for continuing in the programme. The reason the action plan stage was inserted was due to the great difficulty students have shown to have with coming up with a decent structure for their reports. The action plan is an aid that will support them in getting that right structure in place.
The next three weeks will see students work on their initial draft versions. Diskits 5 and 6 are also completed during that period. The rules of thumb they learn here will then need to be applied to the drafting of this version. Draft versions will need to be completed and handed in by the end of the sixth week. This also receives feedback and is also a mandatory requirement for continuing in the programme. Given the fact that students have a tendency to delay their efforts until the clock pressures them into completing their assignments, the revision stage is often skipped. The course features this interim deadline as it is important that students learn to proof their own writing.
Once the initial draft has been handed in, students then get stuck into rewriting their drafts. They will have four weeks to spend on that. During which time they'll also complete the final writing skills. Taking note of the rules of thumb, they then proceed to proof their work one sentence at a time to check for room for improvement. Final version will then have to be handed in by the end of week ten.
The criteria employed for marking these papers are based on the writing skills. These criteria are included in the book.