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Welcome to the course

Welcome to this course on ‘Developing Student Writing: Write to Learn’ which has been developed with Sandra Abegglen, Tom Burns and Sandra Sinfield. This short course for educators covers many activities for students that can help deconstruct writing and other assessment tasks (formal and informal) and develop students’ learning. It outlines a variety of writing and prewriting activities, and a range of approaches, strategies, and workshops, all of which have been designed to promote students’ understanding of ‘the point’ of writing and assessment to embed in your teaching. Also outlined are activities to support writing and to foster writing habits in students across the disciplines.

Click here to view the video transcript

Hello, and welcome, people. My name is Tom Burns. I’m a Senior Lecturer at London Metropolitan University, London, England, UK. I teach on the PG Cert, which is the Postgraduate Certificate in Education and the MA in the Center for Professional Development. I work closely with Sandra Abegglen and Sandra Sinfield, who we have taught and researched and published together for many years in the UK on academic and pedagogic practice and now across the UK and Canada. Sandra A, who is the nice one out of the three, is a researcher in the School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape at the University of Calgary, exploring online learning and teaching and design, studio practice. Sandra S and Tom B, we are the ones from London Metropolitan University, say again, are Senior Lecturers in Education and develop and deliver the Post-Graduate Certificate and Master’s in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.

Together, the three of us focus on the praxis that ignite curiosity, harness creativity, and develop power and voice in our colleagues and students. We have co-authored a free guide on supporting student writing and other modes of learning. It’s free online. Download it. In this course, we will be looking at the what, why, and how of academic writing with a special focus on assessment for and as learning, not of learning, and writing as an integral part of the teaching and learning process. Write to learn, not learning to write. Join us on the course.

“If academia is only presented as a search to find the right answer, we circumscribe and control our students’ thinking and action”

We all need to resist the too-soon focus on grammar and style and highly prescriptive, formal, right answer academic writing, and instead, create curriculum and classroom spaces where students can write to learn rather than learn to write

Encouraging students to write in this exploratory way can be life changing, and many students have reported to us that it changed forever the way they thought about and approached writing

Get Involved And Share Your Learning 

  • Share your perspective. Throughout this course, you will see discussion prompts at the end of each lesson inviting you to share your thoughts and experience. We encourage you to respond to these discussion questions and read those of other educators to benefit from theirs. When you see a comment you agree with or find helpful, hit the ‘Like’ button to help other educators find it. You can also reply to any comments from other members that you find interesting.
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  • Pick up your course badges. To earn your Course Completion Badges make sure you mark all lessons as ‘Mark Complete’ once you have completed a lesson. At the end of the course, click ‘Mark Complete’ and you will be asked a few multiple-choice questions to earn a Course Completion badge. Once you’ve had a chance to apply your learning, come back to complete an Impact Badges by applying what you have learned in the courses and answering a short survey.

If you have any questions or issues, please email us [email protected].


What types of writing tasks do students undertake in your courses? What purpose do those tasks serve?

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

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Ana Cuevas Romo
2 months ago

I teach a Documentary research techniques for communication course and I try to vary the writting assignments: essays, science communication article, infographic outline, scripts for some communication piece, etc.
Also, I ask them to keep a learning journal in which, besides their notes, they answer a reflective question about their learning everyday at the end of the class.

Last edited 2 months ago by Ana Cuevas Romo
Sandra Sinfield
1 month ago

We are big fans of the learning journal!! 😀

Adrian Bello-Uriarte
4 months ago

Now, we can start asking our students to write reflective papers about sustainability.

4 months ago

In my subject on Ethics and Law in Complementary Medicine, I ask students to do a variety of writing tasks, but the one of interest here I think is a reflective writing task. It asks them to reflect on the impact of the subject content on their own lives, thinking and ethical perspectives. The find it quite challenging.

Sandra Sinfield
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul STRUBE

We like the structure of this reflective writing task! Too many people assume reflective writing is easy – but it is often too general – or so over-prescribed (refere to this – and that and that…) that students really flounder. But reflect on the impact of this on your lives seems very pertinent and useful. How do the students respond to it?

Susan McNabb
5 months ago

For my first-year course on Viral Epidemics, we start with a “Viruses in the News” short (3 paragraph expository essay). The prompt (summarized) is: Find a recent article of interest about a virus, viruses, or its/their impact, summarize the article, and tell us how you think it’s interesting or important. Be ready to share it in small groups during class. The goal is to get students to read and evaluate media as they sleuth out recent events around viruses–not just disease but wider impacts.

Sandra Sinfield
1 month ago
Reply to  Susan McNabb

This is a great writing/thinking task – with the added bonus of getting your students reading! Great stuff!