I read the following in an NPR (National Public Radio) transcript: I'm articulate, which means that when it comes to annunciation and diction, I don't even
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“There is a really big issue in the transition from school to university, and it’s getting bigger,” said Dr Adam Smith, UCL History. He is talking about first-year students and the difficulty they face in adapting to undergraduate essay-writing.
The problem, he says, stems from changes made to the A-Level curriculum over the past 10-15 years. As mark schemes for A-Level essays become more prescriptive, so students grow used to being spoon-fed essay plans. In some cases, that has left them unprepared to deal with the rigours of a university humanities programme.
His Provost’s Teaching Award-winning solution was to create Writing History – a first-year module unlike anything else on the programme.
In just its first year, it was better attended and more popular than any other compulsory course, with 100 percent of students agreeing the course was ‘good’ or ‘very good’. Every feedback respondent also said they’d benefitted from small group teaching – one of the hallmarks of the course – and Dr Smith’s colleagues agree student essays have improved as a result.
Although he is quick to point out the style and structure of Writing History might not work for every discipline, there are a number of elements that others could find useful. Here are his key tips for improving essay-writing among undergraduates:
1 No-one likes generic skills courses, so don’t teach writing in isolation
I didn’t want to create a generic skills course. People find them boring. So we link Writing History to the topics that students are studying in their other modules.
The course kicks off with a few introductory lectures that introduce academic writing and research. After that, we match small student groups to tutors who have expertise in a subject the students are currently studying. As a result, the group can use examples and exercises that make sense to everyone and help them with those other courses.
You can’t artificially divorce content from form. That consideration was really key to the concept of the course and saved it from being a generic skills course that students would probably have hated.
2 Small group teaching offers major benefits
I’m really passionate about this. Across higher education there is still an obsession with contact hours. I think this is misplaced. Students don’t care about contact hours – they care about the quality of the contact.
One of the things that is completely new on this course is we break students into very small groups of three or four. That is what students really like and that’s what’s distinctive about it.
In these small groups, we then set practical writing exercises and discuss them with each other. It’s an opportunity to build confidence and ask questions in a situation that isn’t intimidating. It also gets them into the habit of peer assessment.
I don’t think you can’t replicate that in a standard seminar group or lecture.
3 When it comes to writing exercises, start small
All tutors have some leeway in designing their own tasks. What they have in common is the use of small writing assignments and group discussion.
In advance of my first tutorial session, I set a question relevant to my specialism. Students are asked to email their 150-word responses to me and the other students in the group. Then, in the tutorial, we pick them apart and discuss each other's. Why have they chosen those words? Have they communicated the idea they wanted to get across?
The discipline of writing 150 or 200 words is phenomenally helpful. It doesn’t sound like a lot of work, but is very difficult.
Other tasks include writing a synopsis of a book or condensing an argument in a short paragraph. I also present sentences taken from different parts of an essay and ask them to consider where they may have come from – the intro, the main body or conclusion. From here, we work up to planning and writing essays.
4 There is no formula for a perfect essay, but there are some key principles
A-Level students become used to receiving essay templates and detailed guidance. In Writing History, I present some key principles, but it is vastly less prescriptive than what they would be used to.
Really, the main thing I’m trying to do in laying out principles is explain the terminology tutors will be using in their feedback. I’ve noticed over the years I’ve been teaching that students can be confused by terms such as sources and structure, and I felt we weren’t spending enough time translating them. We are so ingrained in academic writing, we forget how difficult that initial introduction can be.
5 Feedback on the first attempt is crucial
Every History student writes their first essay in the context of this course. They each get to produce a first draft that they can discuss with their tutor. They then get feedback before producing a final draft.
Because students feel they are under a different assessment regime and aren’t sure what is expected of them, they are understandably anxious about writing, so the idea that the first time they give it a go they will get quality feedback on a draft is immensely reassuring.
Via Charles Tiayon
Over the years I've talked to hundreds of people about writing grants. As I think back over those conversations, most of them seem to center on three big hurdles that grant writers face. Tackle those three hurdles and you'll be getting grant money before you know it.
Beth Dichter's insight:
Harvard University has a website on visual thinking that is designed for educators and students. Silvia Tolasano, the author of Langwitches Blog, has taken a number of their routines and created visualizations that would be useful for students, visualizations that you might post on your walls or provide copies of for students to put in their binders.
To go directly to the site at Harvard use this link: http://www.old-pz.gse.harvard.edu/vt/VisibleThinking_html_files/VisibleThinking1.html/. And if you are wondering why you might use visible thinking routines consider this statement from the website on visual thinking (at Harvard):
"Visible Thinking has a double goal: on the one hand, to cultivate students' thinking skills and dispositions, and, on the other, to deepen content learning."
Via Beth Dichter
"Critical Thinking" may sound like an obnoxious buzzword from liberal arts schools, but it's actually a useful skill. Critical thinking just means absorbing important information and using that to form a decision or opinion of your own--rather than just spouting off what you hear others say. This doesn't always come naturally to us, but luckily, it's something you can train yourself to do better.
share with students, read it for yourself, share with friends and relatives. Writing instruction is a good place to review this.
Writing prompts don't need to be bland/boring. These photos tell stories and are packed with emotions. Students can explore these stories as disconnected from the news story or through the somewhat current event. Students can also develop descriptive language to describe the images they see.
KIPP King Collegiate High School principal Jason Singer trains his teachers to lead Socratic discussions (above); Katie Kirkpatrick (right), dean of instruction, developed a step-by-step framework --
Is it possible to both teach students critical thinking and prepare them for the state tests?
You can make sure students are ready for the state tests as well as infuse critical thinking into the curriculum. Most of those tests are very knowledge-based; they don't require kids to do much critical thinking. So you can ramp up the content by having the kids analyze it and evaluate it. When they do that, the learning sticks.
I used to spend hours grading students essays and felt extremely frustrated by the subjectiveness of my system. It was very difficult to think about all six traits of effective writing–ideas/content, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions–at one time while grading. I’d often get sidetracked by mistakes in one area, such as spelling or …
Via Charles Tiayon
Toolkit of ideas and techniques to help your creative and critical thinking including problem solving, logical fallacies and decision making.
When trying to think of new ideas and solutions to problems it is very tempting to go with your first ideas. However, first ideas are not always the best. Edward de Bono developed the 'Concept Fan' technique for taking a step back to get a broader perspective and thereby a new view of the subject, what you want to achieve and new ways of solving the problem.
"David Liben, who was involved in the creation of the Common Core and is now Senior Content Specialist at Student Achievement Partners, provides this simple explanation of evidence under the new standards: “It means asking children two questions:
‘What is your evidence?''How did you figure that out?’
The point is to ask students to answer not just based on their thoughts or opinions, but on evidence in the text.”
Via Mel Riddile
useful to post or share for student notebooks. Critical thinking posters like these are also useful for research, writing.
In studying the etymology of the word paragraph , we find that it origin- ated in Greece. The term paragraphos meant a mark in the margin of a manuscript to set off part of a text. (Para = "beside"; graph = "mark"). As scholars have pointed out, since these early writers didn't indent the way we do today, or actually write in paragraphs as we know them, they used these marks in the margins to draw the reader's eyes to certain points. The contemporary use of paragraphs is very closely related to this practice.
There are two (2) kinds of paragraphs: the Topic Sentence Paragraph and the Function Paragraph. As pointed out by Neeld (1980), the "Topic Sentence Paragraph takes one main idea and develops it. The topic sentence (sometimes stated, sometimes implied) tells the readers what you are about to discuss, focuses the reader's mind on that particular thing, and then provides enough information to prove or explain or illustrate or otherwise develop that main idea." The author of Writing/2nd Edition, Dr. Neeld adds that "thus it is possible to break a Topic Sentence Paragraph down into two parts: the topic sentence itself (the main idea, either stated or implied) and the additional sentences (directly related to the topic sentence and developing it)."
Getting your kids into comic strips is easy. Just pick up a newspaper or visit a comic strip website likegocomics.com. Then, you can extend the educational value by helping them create a strip of their own. Some kids need only a blank piece of paper and pencil to churn out box after box. For those who need a prompt, you can enjoy the fun of creating one together. You’ll be surprised how easy it is. Try these ideas:
Draw a row of story boxes or print one from the Internet— try printablepaper.net. A few large boxes is best at first. Your child can work up to a grid when s»he’s ready for a longer sequence.Brainstorm with your young cartoonist. Will the characters be humans or animals? What emotions might they display—happiness, sadness, anger? Where does the story take place?Think about real-life situations to depict, such as a joke Dad told yesterday or a wacky thing that happened on the way to school. Move on to fantasy if your child wishes.You can either draw by hand or use a free online comic strip generator (like my site,makebeliefscomix.com). http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/parent-child/how-comic-strips-help-kids-learn-to-read-and-learn?utm_source=buffer&utm_campaign=Buffer&utm_content=bufferb0b31&utm_medium=linkedin#!
In a world with more information than ever, figuring out how to use the brain to its fullest potential, as well as filling it with as much knowledge as possible, is the main focus of a vast amount of people in this world.
I’ve made it clear on many occasions that I believe in the importance of being a perpetual learner. One of the key activities associated with learning is exploring and understanding the way the human brain functions, and using the results of this to properly hack the critical thinking process. For example, did you know that something called a cognitive bias exists? This term refers to the tendency to think in certain ways.
Cognitive biases range from the bandwagon effect – when truths are accepted because a large amount of people also accept them – to the confirmation bias – when people believe information that confirms what they think or believe in. According to those who study psychology and behavioral economics, hundreds of cognitive biases exist. It’s necessary to educate ourselves on these biases so that we can overcome them and make sure we’re thinking as clearly and critically as possible when it comes to decision making and information processing.
Critical thinking is an increasingly important skill that has been overlooked by many as information becomes more accessible and superfluous. Today, a critical thinker is able to set him or herself apart by lending his or her brain to the many others who have not yet figured it out. Becoming this “thought leader,” if you will, is beneficial in many ways, including the ability to gain the trust of those with whom you wish to connect as well as the authority in the space in which you have established your expertise.
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Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc