Increase writing in foundation courses using trained student evaluators.

September 17, 2012
Writer: Hayden Coombs

As more teaching assistants are becoming available to faculty, the Academic Office has been working to make specialized workshops for the teaching assistants available. One of these workshops (created by faculty in conjunction with Foundations, the Academic Office, and the Writing Center) is designed to provide optional specialized training for these teaching assistants in evaluating student writing.

In the book Academically Adrift, authors Richard Arum and Josipa Roska demonstrate that "the combination of reading and writing in coursework [is] necessary to improve students' performance on tasks requiring critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills in their first two years of college."

Robert Bird, of the English Department, has pointed out that "since large numbers of students are enrolled in Foundations classes and since faculty often teach multiple sections, Foundations courses might have minimal writing requirements. Yet Arum and Roksa's study concludes that students who report reading more than forty pages a week and writing more than twenty pages over the course of a semester are those who show the most consistent and dramatic improvement in their 'critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills' (93). Therefore, an increase in significant reading and writing assignments in Foundations classes will likely improve students' academic performance."

To encourage more writing by students without overwhelming faculty, Brother Bird has been asked to work with Brian Schmidt, from the Academic Administration, and Sheldon Lawrence, from the Writing Center, to develop and offer specialized training, so teaching assistants may assist faculty in evaluating student writing.

The writing evaluation training will include watching video instruction from faculty, completing grammar and punctuation diagnostic quizzes and reviewing (if necessary) relevant rules, and participating in a student-led workshop on creating criteria and using rubrics in evaluating writing.

Teaching assistants are asked to spend about five to seven hours completing this training:

  • One and a half hours to participate in a face-to-face, on-campus evaluation workshop
  • One hour to watch five brief instructional videos and answer a few questions about their content
  • Two and a half to four hours to complete a diagnostic quiz on grammar and punctuation, review relevant material, and take a final grammar and punctuation assessment.

Teaching assistants are encouraged to complete all five to seven hours of the training.  The completion of this training will be reported to the faculty member for whom the teaching assistant works.  The clip below shows segments from the instructional videos.

For more information on the Writing Evaluation Workshop, including how to register and the fall training schedule, you can follow this link. For information on the other workshops available for teaching assistants, go to the Specialized Assistant Training Webpage.