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Many students believe several falsehoods about academic writing, that you should only write when you know exactly what you want to say, that lecturers set essays to torture their students, that marks for an assignment will be determined by spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and that they can save time by last minute one draft writing. Similarly, lecturers tend to believe that academic writing is a skill and one that students should already have before university. Students not proficient in formal writing are seen as lacking, needing catch-up teaching delivered by academic support services. None of these beliefs are true and they get in the way of student learning, of student writing, and of staff teaching.

When we discovered how to help lecturers and students better understand the point of academic writing, when they see it as an integral part of the learning process, everything changed. If you want to help your students develop their writing proficiency and embrace writing as something developmental, analytical, and critical, set up your classroom such that students are aware that you are embedding meaningful writing in the curriculum. Frequently write to learn, set aside regular class time for writing. And when we have done this, not only did students receive the best grades they had ever received, they also enjoyed the whole learning process more. Things that students have said were, “Now, I understood why I was writing.” “For the first time I felt I could say what I want.” And, ” I figured out I can be creative in my work.” This is the point of this course.

In our experience, although we academics tend to see writing errors – like spelling, punctuation, and grammar – and identify these as student problems; the typical biggest writing problem for our students is their fear of writing and fear of failure.

Writing in the disciplines (WiD) and across the curriculum (WAC) embrace the notion that we write to explore, to play with ideas, to think through and to think about: we write to learn. If we want to facilitate significant student learning, we need to initiate meaningful writing through meaningful activities in our classrooms – rather than focus on decontextualised ‘mechanics’, for example warnings about how to reference correctly.

Academic writing is a process: We write to become academic. It is an initiation into and participation in wider professional and academic discourses. This course is an invitation to develop in your students an appreciation of the power and purpose of academic writing. It encourages you to move beyond the ‘technics’ of writing to make writing meaningful, engaging, interactive and fun. It is only after students have engaged in writing as an exploratory and developmental process that they can move to targeted writing, review, and revision (and the spelling, punctuation, and grammar) that shapes their ideas into a formal academic piece ready for submission.

Abegglen, S., Burns, T. & Sinfield, S., (2021). Supporting student writing and other modes of learning and assessment: A staff guide. Calgary; Prism.


Think about your own writing. When and where do you write? How do you approach your writing - and the writing process itself? What is challenging? What is rewarding? What do you hope to gain from this course?

Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.

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