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  • 8/10/2019 Engaging Ideas Chap 5

    1/26

    Engaging Ideas

    The Professor's Guide

    to Integrating Writing,

    Critical Thinking,

    nd Active Learning

    n the Classroolll

    : : JO

    SSY B

    ASS PUB

    LISHE

    S

    S

    an

    Francisco

    -

  • 8/10/2019 Engaging Ideas Chap 5

    2/26

    Published

    by

    -I

    JOSS

    EY- BAS S

    .

    A

    Wiley

    Company

    350 Sansome St.

    San

    Francisco

    , CA

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    1 wv.lw.)osseybass.com I

    o p y r i g h

    2001

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    John Wiley & Sons, Inc

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    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Bean, John C

    Engaging ldeas: the professor s guide

    to

    integrating wri ting,

    critical thinkmg, and active learning in the classroom

    John C

    Bean. - 1st ed.

    p.

    cm.- (The Jossey-Bass higher and adult education

    se

    ries

    Includes bibliographical references and ind x.

    ISB

    N 0-7879-0203-9

    1.

    English

    language-Metoric-Stud),

    and teaching 2. Critical

    thinking Stud) and teaching

    l l i t l

    e n Se ries.

    PE1404 B35

    1996

    808

    042

    dc20 95-36265

    FIRST ED m O N

    PB

    Prinhng 10 9 8 7

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  • 8/10/2019 Engaging Ideas Chap 5

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    CH PTER

    5

    Forlllal Writing

    A

    ssignlllen

    ts

    P

    ar

    t T

    wo

    of thi s

    book

    focuses on th e design of problem -based

    assignments to promote critical thinking and active engagemen t

    wi th

    cour

    se subject matter. The presen t chapter concerns the

    des.ign of fo

    rm

    a l

    woting

    assignmen ts,

    whic

    h call s for finished

    p rose Formdl writing usually requires multiple drafts and is

    thus

    di

    tin

    g

    uish

    ed

    from e

    qua

    lly

    important

    inf

    or

    mal,

    exploratory

    w

    nt

    ing

    ai

    med a t genera

    ti

    ng , de velopin

    g

    and ex

    tendin

    g thinking on a

    subject

    (How to use i

    nform

    al explora tory vvriting in your courses

    is

    the subject of

    Chap

    ter Six )

    Formal wr i ting can

    rang

    e

    from

    lengthy

    research papers

    to

    short

    (on e- or

    two-paragraph)

    micro themes, The

    chapt

    er's

    initial

    focus is

    on

    th esis-gov

    erned

    academic wri ting, bu t the cone ud ing

    sec tion su rveys

    alterna

    tive kinds of assignments that let stud ents

    wr

    ite

    in

    d more personal voice

    in

    c varie ty of m

    odes

    and s ty les

    Th

    e Tr

    ad

    itio

    na

    l et

    ho

    d of

    s

    signing

    Writi

    ng

    In Am er ican uni ve rsities, the

    traditi

    onal way to a ign writing

    goes

    som

    e thing like

    thlcc

    There w ill be a term paper due at the

    end of th e semester, The term paper can be on any aspec t of the

    co ur se

    tl

    l a t

    interes

    ts yo u , but I

    hav

    e to

    approve

    your tOpiC in

    ad vance," Abou t lv lfway thro ugh the term, s tud

    en t

    s subm it pro

    po sals for

    tl

    Tics-us ually stated as a topic area ra ther than as d

    Iesearch

    ques

    tion or tentative thes is. The ins tructor either approves

    7

  • 8/10/2019 Engaging Ideas Chap 5

    4/26

    7

    ngaging Ideas

    the topic or ad vises that it be narrowed , som

    etim

    es giving prelimi

    nary advice for bibliogr aphic items In

    man;'

    ca ses,

    no

    fur ther con

    tact be tween teacher a

    nd st

    uden t occurs . At the end of the term,

    the teacher collects

    and grades

    the peipers Some teachers

    mark

    the

    pap

    ers copiously; others make onl y cryptic end comments Much

    to teachers d isa

    pp

    ointment, many

    students

    never pick up

    their

    papers from the te

    ac

    her s offic

    e.

    lte rnative pproaches

    to

    ssign ing Writing _

    As one of many alte rna tive approaches, consider the method used

    by fin anc e professor Dean Drenk (Dren k, 1986; Bean, Drenk, and

    Lee ,

    19

    86), who re

    quires

    a ser ies of short

    essays

    , ea ch of w

    hich

    must

    support either the positiv e or the negative side of a thesis on

    a controversial question in finan ce. Th e tl,eses , ' ' ' 'hich Dr enk

    sequences from easy to d ifficult, ar e co

    nstruct

    ed to cover var i

    ou

    s

    key issues in the field such as the follovving

    Th e mark et is/is not efficient in st rong

    -form

    , random-walk

    terms.

    Bonds are / are not more risky inves tme

    nt

    s than stocks.

    Random diversification is/is

    not

    m ore reliable

    than

    selective

    di versifica bon.

    Each thesis support assignmen t re

    quires

    s tudents to unde

    rs t

    and

    and us e key course conce

    pts

    while s

    imultan

    e01Jsiy practicin g

    th

    e

    methods of inquiry, research, and argumentation in fin ance. Stu

    de

    nts

    must use library research skills to find relev

    ant

    data on their

    assigned issues, analyze th e

    data

    , devel

    op

    reas oned positio

    ns

    ,

    and

    p roduce empiricall y supported

    argum

    ents

    Dr

    en k requires stu

    de

    nts to me et minimal s tanda rds on ea ch thes is support essay

    before progressing to the next a

    nd encourag

    es

    stud

    ent s to r

    ew

    rite

    their essays for higher grades, tllUS stimulating revision. He pro

    vides fe edb ack

    through an

    evaluati\ e chec ksheet fo cusmg on the

    q uality of critica l thinkin

    g,

    the clarity of writing,

    an

    d the

    adequacy

    of empirical support

    Traditi onal and lte rnative Methods Com pared _

    The first of these methods-

    th

    e trAditional one- can be excelle

    nt

    for skilled upper-di ision students wllo hav e alr

    eady

    learned the

    conventions of inquiry

    an

    d argulllentation in a

    di

    scip llne At some

    point

    in the ir undE I t;raduate care, ; s, we want to

    turn

    students

  • 8/10/2019 Engaging Ideas Chap 5

    5/26

    Forma l Writing ssignments

    7

    loose

    and

    say, Okay, now talk

    and

    w rite like a n w m

    em

    ber of this

    discipline Go find you r ow n top ic a

    nd

    do something interes ting

    with

    [Jut for many co

    ll

    ege wri ters, such freed

    om is de

    bilita ting. Not

    ye t at home wi th academic wri ting or with th e disco urse conven

    tions of a new discipline, these students are

    ap

    t to produce wander-

    ing

    aU

    a

    bout

    papers ra ther than arg

    ument

    s or quasi-plagiari

    zed

    data dum ps with long, pOintless

    quotations

    and thinly

    disguised

    pa rap

    hrases Even

    worse,

    s

    tud

    ents may res

    or

    t to ou tright plagia

    rism . Because

    th

    e tradition

    al

    t

    erm paper

    assignment

    does not

    g

    uid

    e students toward f

    orm

    ula tin g a prob lem and developing a

    thesis, it o

    ften does not s

    timu

    la te the complex thin

    kin

    g (and

    hen

    ce

    the

    need

    for

    multiple

    drafts) that teac hers de si

    re.

    In

    additi

    on, tra

    ditional

    t

    erm papers

    oft

    en do

    little to

    enhance

    le

    arning

    of co

    ur

    se

    con tent. They

    supplement

    a

    cour

    se b

    ut

    d o

    not

    foc us s tu

    de

    nts '

    mental

    ene

    rgies on th e

    most

    important or most difficult cou rse

    concepts or

    issues.

    In

    co

    ntrast, Drenk's thesis support assignments focus di rec tly

    on course concepts and teach thesis-governed argum entation

    in

    the

    discipline. In investigating a series of issues in finance , s

    tudents

    see

    that

    knowledge

    in this discipline is

    not

    a co

    ll

    ec tion of i

    ner

    t princi

    ples and data

    but

    rather

    an

    aren

    a for

    inquiry

    and

    ar

    gu ment. More

    over, because Drenk's thesis sup port essays are s

    hort (one

    to t

    wo

    pages), s

    tudent

    s can re work them through

    multipl

    e re visions and

    transfer what they hav e learned from

    on

    e essay to the nex

    t.

    Fur

    thermore,

    D

    renk

    's

    em

    p

    ha

    sis

    on

    s

    tand

    a

    rd

    s,

    combined

    w

    it

    h

    his

    allowi ng of rewr ites, o

    ften

    leads to a surprisingly high leveJ of stu

    dent work.

    Although

    doubts al

    wa

    ys accompany teaching, Drcn k

    says, I

    know that

    I am successful as a teacher when student s con

    fes

    s that they

    learned

    more through my writing assignm

    en

    ts than

    t

    hro

    u

    gh

    any o ther academic activit

    y

    (Drenk, 1986, p. 55

    The ffect of Slig

    ht

    Va riat

    ion

    s

    in

    ss ignment

    Desi

    gn _

    When

    de

    sig

    nin

    g formal

    wri

    ting as sig

    nm

    en ts,

    ins

    tructor s sh

    oul

    d

    consider

    carefully the kin

    d

    of

    w

    ritin

    g t

    he

    y

    ho p

    e for

    and

    th

    e

    pr

    oce sses

    th

    ey wa

    nt students

    to f

    ollow

    Sometimes s

    ligh

    t

    var

    ia

    tions in the wayan ins

    tru

    ctor d esigns a w riting task can cause sig-

    nificant

    differences both in

    students '

    writing

    and

    think

    in g

    processes a

    nd

    in their fina l

    produ

    cts. Consider my infor mal experi

    ment with faculty in wri ting-acros s-the-curr ic

    ulum

    workshops at

    three different insti tutions . Prior to each

    wo

    rkshop, I wanted par

    ticipan ts to rea d

    and

    react to an article on expressi ve writin g

    by

    Ran d all Fre isinger

    of

    Mi ch ig an Techno log ical Uni ve rsi ty (see

  • 8/10/2019 Engaging Ideas Chap 5

    6/26

    7

    Engaging Idea s

    Freisinger, 1980 ). I asked facu lty to writ

    e,

    as

    hom

    ework, an essay in

    re

    sp

    onse to anyone of

    th

    e fo llm'v ing fo

    ur

    opt ions:

    pt ion 1 W

    rite

    a tw o- to three-p

    ag

    e critica l

    rev

    iew of th e

    Freisin ger article. Here is your c

    han

    ce to w rite an essay illus

    b'atin g wh at professors really want when they ask s

    tud

    ents

    to do an article or book review

    ption 2.'

    Wri te a two - to three -p age

    criti

    cal review

    of

    th e

    Freisin

    ger

    article, but structure it in the follov.ring wa y p a

    rt

    on e sh ould be a two

    -hund

    re d- wo rd ab s tract that simply

    surrun ari zes Freisinger s essay

    with

    o

    ut

    inj

    ectm

    g a ny of your

    own ideas or opinions Part t"vo s

    hould

    answ er the fo llow

    ing gues tion: "What d o you consid er to be the strengths and

    we

    Glkn

    esses of Freising

    er

    ' s \' iews

    7

    "

    p

    ti

    on

    3 . One d ay you receive the following letter:

    Dear Professor X:

    am in the p rocess o f collecting a nd repr inting major

    articles that ha ve influenced the w riting-a cross-the-cur

    ric

    ulum

    mo

    vem

    e

    nt

    in

    th

    e p as t two decad e

    s.

    Yo

    ur nam

    e

    h

    JS

    been recommended to

    me

    because of your pa rticipa

    tion in a recent writing-across -th e-cur riculum workshop.

    One of the ar ticles that has

    be

    en nominated for my

    co llec tion is Rand all Fre isinger s "Cross -Disciplinary

    Writing Workshops: The

    or

    y

    and

    Pra ctice. " Since you were

    ask ed to rea d this articl e for one of vour workshop s, am

    very in teres ted in y

    ou

    r reaction to i t Did you

    think

    it was

    an

    imp

    or

    tant ar ticle

    7

    WhGlt imp act did it ha ve

    on ), 01l

    7

    W

    ould

    yo u recommend th a t o ther pe ople inte res ted in

    wri ting across the curriculum read this article

    7

    Any infor

    mati on you could give me on yo ur reactions to

    thi

    s a rticle

    wo

    uld be most appr ec

    iat

    ed .

    Sincere

    ly,

    Snav ely Snodgrass

    Write a letter to Snavely resp onding to hi s gu es

    ti

    ons.

    pt

    io

    4

    .

    Write a mini-play

    in

    whicll two or m

    or

    e facult y mem

    bers get in an arg

    um

    ent over Freisinger 's ar ticle. Choose an y

    setting vou w o uld like for yo

    ur

    p la y, su ch as a faculty

    lo un ge or a loc al ta

    ve

    rn . f yo u \ ant, yo u ca n h a ve

    Freisinger himself make a ca

    me

    o a

    pp e

    arance in y

    our

    play.

    Yo

    ur goal here is to ha ve at least one person who enthusias

    ticGl

    ll

    y suppo

    rt

    s Fr

    ei

    s

    inger

    's vi e\

  • 8/10/2019 Engaging Ideas Chap 5

    7/26

    .1

    ormal Writi ng Assignments

    whe reas nearly ha lf chose

    option 2.

    Pe

    rhaps

    su

    rp

    risingly the

    more

    p re scr

    iptive

    of the

    hrst

    tw o

    assignments

    was

    the more

    popular.

    Appare ntly a large proport ion of faculty as welJ as of stud en ts,

    prefer assign ments with some gu iding c

    on

    straints.

    [ he o the r fr

    eq

    uently chosen op tion-ab ollt 40 percent of facul

    ty-

    wa

    s option

    3,

    the informal letter. But the difference in process

    between writers of option :2 and ootion 3

    is

    re vealing. Option 2 peo

    ple reported spending t

    wo

    or three hours on the assignment and

    w ri ting at least tw o dr afts. Thev also reported a careful rereading of

    the Freis inger article in ord er to compose the ab stract. Option 3

    people, however, usually repo rted spending less than an ho

    ur

    on

    the assignment. (In fact , many say they chose op tion 3 because it

    seemed to require less

    wo

    rk.) Most option 3 writers composed their

    letter in one sitting

    fe

    w rep orted revising their letters or rereading

    the Freisin ge r article pr ior to writing . Despite less time on task,

    however, the option 3 people often wrote more lively, provocative,

    and interestin g pieces than the option 2 peop le

    What is the lesson here? I hypothesize that an option 2 assign

    ment encourages ca reful planning (including, in this CdC e, rereading of

    the article)

    and

    formal to

    p-d

    o

    wn

    organizing. An option 3 assignment

    encourages more personality, voice, ene r

    gy,

    and spontaneity.

    IlL

    my

    own courses, I hy to give students opportunities for both kinds of wri t-

    ing.

    My

    experiment with option 3 has led to the occasional thought

    letters I often require of my students as part of their ex ploratory w rit

    in

    r

    for my CO

    UIses

    s

    ee Chapter

    Si;x).

    But I use assignments like option

    2 to encourage

    th

    oughtful study of difficult material and to teach struc

    tured, analytical reading and response

    The las t assi

    gnmen

    t t e mini-pl ay- was chosen by onl y a

    handful of workshop particip an ts, but the ir engagement w

    ith

    tb e

    assignm ent wa s intense . They got into it, often reporting six or

    seven hours of wor

    k.

    In several instances, th

    ei

    r pla ys evolved into

    humorous sa tires of their own institutions. Whereas the other w rit

    ers wrote out of dut y, the op tion 4 people' wrote for their own plea

    sure

    (In the ja rg on of

    composition sp e

    cialists, th e assi gnment

    became self-sp onsored. ) The task become a crea tive project like

    writing

    the script fo

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