What kinds of writing assignments?
In academic settings, writing assignments tend to fall into four
- Journal writing
- Creative writing
- Academic writing
- Pseudo or real professional writing
When students write in journals, they are not writing to perform; instead,
they are writing to think on paper about new ideas they are encountering.
Journals provide a great opportunity for students to learn by writing,
and they encourage students to be reflective. Journals should not be
graded except on the basis of having been done with sufficient care. For
extra resources on journals, go to Ideas for Using Journals.
Creative writing invites students to be imaginative and to entertain
the reader. Although this writing may seem most appropriate for creative
writing classes, it can be used in a variety of ways in other courses as
well. For instance, in Philosophy, students might assume the persona
of one philosopher (say Spinoza) writing to another in a different
era (say Aristotle) in response to having read something (say
Nichomachean Ethics). Although the resulting text is literally
it calls on students' powers of imagination and on their knowledge of the
philosophies of both the hypothetical writer and reader.
Almost all writing done in schools falls into the category of academic
writing, which is writing that asks students to assume the role of
themselves as students writing to the instructor as the examiner. The
direction of information flow is reversed from typical communication
situations in which the writer is instructing the reader. As a result,
writers of academic prose are displaying their knowledge; they are being
scrutinized by someone who knows more. Typically, academic writing will
be a response to an essay exam question, a critical essay, a lab report, or a
research (term) paper. Students try to display their mastery of subject
matter and of the conventions of writing within a discipline.
Pseudo or Real Professional Writing
Professional writing is writing in the genres and in the situations that
professionals in the field write in. Professional writing assignments
are most appropriate in finishing courses, such as senior-level design
courses. In order to make these assignments effective, the teacher needs
to study the kinds of writing the new professional is likely to encounter
on the job and then to set up situations that ask students to try on the
persona of a professional. Often assignments can be given in the form of
a memo from a supervisor to an employee.
Which of these could you use in the course you are developing? What,
specifically, would the assignment be?
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Revised: April 7, 1997