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Designing Effective Writing Assignments

A GVSU FTLC Workshop, February 2009

Online resource guides

Advice from consultants at the GVSU Writing Center

Dr. Ellen Schendel, Director of the Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors, collected these tips from the undergraduate writing center consultants who regularly assist students in decoding writing assignments.

Apply best practices from technical and professional writing

Some best practices from technical and professional writing can assist with improving document readability.

Tips for designing collaborative writing projects

The following tips are less about how to write up the assignment and more about overall project design strategies.

  1. Provide a means by which students are evaluated on their participation. For instance, project logs or a peer collaboration evaluation form.
  2. Specify how much (if any) students should meet in person during the project.
  3. Specify how much (if any) class time will be given for their team work. A good practice is to allow at least a few minutes once a week at the end of class for teams to establish and update objectives and deadlines.
  4. Communication is considered one of the most important factors for success in collaborative work. Require students to check email regularly during a project.
  5. Have students elect a facilitator (not a leader) who will provide reminders to the team about deadlines and agreed upon responsibilities.
  6. Students should be provided some instruction on how to work collaboratively. Teachers might share some insight into how professionals collaborate in their discipline. UC Davis's Group Work and Collaborative Writing acts as a good guide for understanding group dynamics.
  7. Free, web-based application suites such as Adobe's Acrobat.com and Google Docs are collaborative tools which make it easier for students to write and share their work electronically. For instance,
    • Students can write more collaboratively instead of writing their documents independently and assembling them immediately before the due date.
    • Students can see who is doing work, as opposed to assembling independently where team members have not seen each other's work until the deadline is upon them.
    • The teacher can be added as a collaborator and view the version tracking to see who has contributed what.
    • Students learn effective electronic tools for collaboration in the professional world.
  8. See the SWS Collaborative Writing Workshop, FA08 for sample materials from a collaborative writing project.
  Last Modified Date: October 27, 2010
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