WAC Clearinghouse Teaching Exchange

Articles and Webtexts about Teaching Writing

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Formal Writing Assignments

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Many teachers, departments, writing centers, and faculty lounges have a file drawer full of workable assignments. These are often used to help new colleagues, inspire those who want to try new approaches, and "save" those who don't have time or inclination to reinvent the wheel.

The WAC Clearinghouse Teaching Exchange provides a space for sharing such resources for teachers who use writing—formal or informal, discipline specific or transdisciplinary—as part of their classes. Please feel free to browse through these offerings, which are categorized by purpose. We hope you find something educational, provocative, informative, and useful. And we hope you'll recommend additional resources to include in the Exchange.

— Justin Jory
Teaching Exchange Editor

Category: Formal Writing Assignments

A Collection of Formal Writing Assignments
http://writing.colostate.edu/gtpathways/assign/
This website presents a collection of formal writing assignments in disciplines such as Psychology and Political Science. All of these assignments encourage the use of writing to facilitate critical thinking.
Contributor: Sue Doe and Colleagues, Colorado State University
A Fish Thinking About Water: Revealing the Paradigms of Our Disciplines
This assignment asks students to identify a central or highly significant paradigm of their discipline, describe how it functions to create problem-solving strategies, and describe the paradigm that it has replaced, gathering information from both interviews and library sources.
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Contributor: Richard Kahn, Bloomsburg University
Email: rkahn@csiu.org
Communication Disasters
This assignment calls for students to investigate a particular disaster (or at least a severe problem) in their field caused by miscommunication or lack of communication. It works well as an initial assignment in a technical writing course with students from several different disciplines.
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Contributor: Randolph Cauthen, Bloomsburg University
Email: ccauthen@bloomu.edu
Phone: 570 389-4428
Home Page: http://departments.bloomu.edu/english/cauthenmain1.htm
Consumer Products and Gender Performance
http://www2.eou.edu/~nknowles/gend/project1.html
Suitable for classes in gender studies, marketing, mass communication, sociology, rhetoric, and English studies, this assignment asks students to research a particular product that is sold as "for men" or "for women" as a means of answering the question, "What might we learn about the way consumer products work if we consider gender as an act, a performance, a set of codes and costumes, rather than a core aspect of essential identity?"
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Contributor: Rosemary Powers, Eastern Oregon University
Home Page: http://www2.eou.edu/~rpowers/
Cutting Edge Issue
This assignment asks students to research and discuss the most (or one of the most) exciting, potentially revolutionary, cutting-edge developments in their field.
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Contributor: Randolph Cauthen, Bloomsburg University
Email: ccauthen@bloomu.edu
Phone: 570 389-4428
Home Page: http://departments.bloomu.edu/english/cauthenmain1.htm
Perspectives Piece
This assignment asks students to research using a number of different sources and to present their research in a multimodal fashion, from a number of different perspectives. It works well as either an initial or a final assignment in research-intensive courses, and/or as an online project.
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Contributor: Melissa A. Goldthwaite, Saint Joseph's University
Email: mgoldthw@sju.edu
Home Page: http://www.sju.edu/academics/english/Faculty/goldthwaite.html
Research Guide to the Major
This assignment asks students to evaluate major library and Internet resources in their fields for an audience of other students who are new to the field.
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Contributor: Todd Preston, Pennsylvania State University
Theory into Practice: A Teacher-Ethnographer’s Notebook
This assignment invites pre-service teachers to observe language events occurring in the world around them in light of the sociolinguistic theories they are learning in class in order to reflect on the implications of these conceptual frameworks for their own classroom pedagogies. While it was originally designed for graduate-level courses, it can just as productively be used in any undergraduate teacher education program or professional development workshop setting for in-service teachers, as well.
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Contributor: Connie Kendall Theado, University of Cincinnati
Email: connie.kendall@uc.edu
Phone: 513.556.1427
Writing for Academic Aims: Discovering Argumentative Writing in Your Discipline
This assignment asks students to research, analyze, and advance an argument about conventions of scholarly discourse in their disciplines.
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Contributor: UCCS Rhetoric and Writing Program, UC-Colorado Springs