2008 Teaching and Learning Symposium

2:30-4:30 p.m., May 6, 2008
HUB Ballroom

Session Description



Learning Paragraphs: A simple tool to develop student writing skills and metacognition.

Mary Pat Wenderoth - Biology

Two major concerns in undergraduate education are how to help students engage in meaningful learning and how to develop their writing skills. Research on human learning indicates that being able to monitor your learning (metacognition) is critical to gaining a deep and meaningful understanding of the material. If metacognition is such a powerful learning skill, how do we help students develop this skill? Similarly, we know writing is central to all learning. Yet most faculty view writing assignments as a labor intense activity that is only effective with small groups of students. Can any meaningful writing be done with large classes? One possibility is to design what are called “low stakes” writing assignments. These assignments provide much needed practice in writing without fear of “the red pen markings”. As a part of my project for the 4X4 Writing Initiative, I instituted a weekly writing assignment called “learning paragraphs”. The weekly assignments facilitated student reflection on two topics: connections they made between course material and everyday life and the effectiveness of various learning techniques introduced in class while also giving the students an opportunity to write. Students submitted their paragraphs via Catalysts WebQ. which made it easy to collect and view and the length of the assignment made it easy to read (even with a class of 120 students). The weekly learning paragraphs turned out to be amazing gems as they gave students regular opportunities to write, they provided students with a weekly opportunity to reflect on their learning as well as giving the instructor valuable insight into what students were learning and how students were contextualizing the information in their world. Examples of weekly writing assignments, student responses and “keys to success” to making this assignment work in your class will be presented.




Index of Symposium Presenters