Staff Suggestions for Writing Excellence at Elon

This page displays many of the suggestions that Elon staff have made in response to these questions:

  1. What steps can the Writing Excellence Initiative take to help students improve their writing?
     
  2. What are the most important steps Elon can take to help you with your writing?

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SELECTED SUGGESTIONS POSTED MARCH 22, 2013 (Total Suggestions - 11)

QUESTION 1: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help students improve their writing?
“If writing is to become ‘a signature experience of every student’s Elon education,’ then both the instruction and practice of writing must be made something every student knows they will do throughout their four years at Elon.  In the same way that study abroad, internships, and/or service learning are a part of the Elon experience, so must quality writing become one of the expectations that students have for themselves and one another during their time at Elon. 

Since the other signature Elon experiences mentioned above are a part of the General Studies program, perhaps more intensive and focused writing instruction/practice could supplement the GST requirements already in place.  (A supplemental writing requirement would move beyond the first year College Writing course…maybe students would have to serve at the Writing Center, publish something, etc., etc. before graduating from Elon.)  After all, the goals of the Writing Excellence Initiative seem to be clearly and directly aligned with those of the GST program.  I don’t know what a partnership between the Center for Writing Excellence and the General Studies program would look like in terms of programming and staffing, but such a partnership could be the best way to ensure writing’s place among Elon’s signature experiences.”

QUESTION 2: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help you with your writing?
“Lunch time professional development programs are already offered for staff members.  Why not incorporate some type of writing workshop series throughout the year?  Perhaps a different mode of writing could be featured at each session.  I know that faculty members are already so busy, but it would be great to tap into the talents of different faculty members by having them present each workshop.  Unfortunately, these lunchtime workshops would give preference to 8am - 5pm staff members; if possible, some sort of alternate program could be offered for those staff members working 2nd or 3rd shifts.”

QUESTION 1: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help students improve their writing?
“It is sometimes easier for students to go to other students for help with writing, especially editing and critiquing papers. Although the writing center is a useful resource, it could be vastly improved by having students fill out a short survey at the end of their time there to receive feedback on how helpful the center was to them. Furthermore, Elon should increase the number of students in the writing center, and ensure that they are proficient in editing (as editing assistance is in high demand).”

QUESTION 2: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help you with your writing?
“Elon could offer a contact list of professors who are adept at writing in a variety of disciplines who are willing to help students edit papers, develop theses, and work through their writing whenever students email them. This could be useful because many Elon students are very busy and don't seek out writing assistance because it is too inconvenient, or they don't want to feel like they are wasting a professor's time. Furthermore, many students have trouble writing papers for specific disciplines, and so having a variety of professors willing to help with writing skills in their field of study could be extremely beneficial.”

QUESTION 1: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help students improve their writing?
“A capstone writing project for every major.”

QUESTION 2: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help you with your writing?
“Workshops about professional writing for staff in general and library staff specifically.  For example, workshops about: how to publish, where to submit, writing style, etc.”

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SELECTED SUGGESTIONS POSTED MARCH 21, 2013 (Total Suggestions - 8)

QUESTION 1: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help students improve their writing?
“Emphasize to students the value of using a librarian's assistance in their research and writing process.  We can hone their skills in what scholarly communication looks like, and in writing in the disciplines.”

QUESTION 2: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help you with your writing?
“Encourage faculty to USE their librarian liaisons as co-teachers and as research support for student assignments.”  

QUESTION 1: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help students improve their writing?

“I think there needs to be a campus-wide reframing of the purpose of writing here at Elon. This means:

* Everyone in every department should feel responsible for a students' writing success. Because they are.
* We need to begin actively using student writing in everything we do. Marketing/Advertising, publications, messages. TLT does this by challenging their ELITE students to create, edit, and maintain technical support articles on the Technology Wiki, as well as writing and posting articles to our technology blog.
* Challenge students to recognize how much they unconsciously read every day (signs, emails, articles, texts, status updates, marketing blurbs on commercials, etc). Do this while emphasizing that someone out there had to write it, and that it was written with a specific purpose in mind.
* Challenge students to critically analyze all of that writing with one simple question: How could it be better?
* Challenge students to write in as many different formats as possible. Essays are classic, but technology has exploded the number of writing options. Students can now:

Collaborate with other students in a Google Doc
Tweet on Twitter
Write a blog or journal
Contribute to a wiki
Share information in a visual way in Prezi
Write scripts for a video, screencast or podcast
Have interactive discussions of a text in Google Drive (http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2013/02/using-google-drive-for-online.html)
Embed information into images using a tool like ThingLink (http://www.thinglink.com/)
Creating guides on mobile devices using apps like SnapGuide (http://snapguide.com/)
Create an online survey, collect the results, and report out on them
Take collective notes in a Google Doc

Each of these requires a different style of writing, and a sensitivity for the author's audience.

* Most importantly, I think we need to collectively be on the same page when we tell students: Writing is a means of clarifying and sharing ideas. It's a process, and you will only rarely "get it right" the first time. Revision and reflection is an essential part of the writing process.

I say all of this because Elon has committed to an educational philosophy (Engaged Learning). But they have yet to commit to a writing philosophy, and I think that's a great place to start. If students are looking at writing as a means to an end (a grade), rather than a valuable process, nothing we do will have any measurable impact.”

QUESTION 2: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help you with your writing?
“Find a way to recognize the writing of faculty and staff. I know that sounds a bit silly, but seriously consider it: how many people on campus are recognized for the writing they do? It's my belief that people take more ownership of and pride in work that's publicly recognized. Here are some of my ideas:

Why not an annual award for best departmental social media account (Facebook or Twitter)?

Why not a temporary, interdisciplinary blog? It'd run on a short-term basis (no more than a month), would be focused on a specific topic, and would have a clearly defined "expiration date" at which point it will no longer be updated. A month of blogging! With guest bloggers from departments from all around campus!

Why not a awards recognizing excellence in different forms of writing? At awards shows they recognize best writing in comedies, dramas, documentaries, etc. Why not awards for excellence in writing for campus marketing campaigns, campus policies (if someone can make them clear enough to understand they deserve an award), academic writing, blog writing, departmental webpages, etc? Heck--do it for sustained excellence in EMAIL. (Nominations would come from supervisors and colleagues.)

As a separate idea, I'd also like to see a central area (dare I say repository/wiki?) where faculty can share activities, strategies and ideas they've been able to use to promote student writing in the classroom. This could be supported and run through CATL and/or TLT and/or CEL. And if you could take it to the next level by actually going into classrooms and capturing these things on video, or interviewing faculty and students about their experiences, I think that'd be pretty amazing.”

QUESTION 1: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help students improve their writing?
“As a librarian, I frequently get requests from students for citation help or how to write a business or marketing paper.  While I refer them to the Writing Center or suggest that they visit their professor during office hours, it might also be helpful to offer full-day writing seminars for students to prepare them to use citations, the different citation methods, and the basics for writing a paper.  This won't be of interest to all students, but it’s worth a trial.”

QUESTION 1: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help students improve their writing?
“By the nature of my work (communications), I work with students who have excellent writing skills. That being said, I know writing can be a daunting task for those who don't think they have what it takes to write a coherent story. Part of that, I think, it's because we do not emphasize enough that writing is a process that takes more than try. I always tell students to write what comes to mind first without worrying about sentence composition or whether it sounds right. Once you have it down in paper, you can edit your work and shape it into whatever form you want. Perhaps if we involve students in the editing process -- have them edit each other's papers -- they can better grasp how this process works.”

QUESTION 2: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help you with your writing?
“I think it'd be neat to have writing contests for staff. It'd be a great way to encourage us to write about topics we're interested in that have nothing to do with our daily work. It'd also be good to offer workshops on nonfiction and fiction writing or similar topics.”

QUESTION 1: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help students improve their writing?
“More guided opportunities:  students can write and write, but without proper and consistent feedback across the entire curriculum and from every discipline, their writing becomes pointless meandering if they are not consistently guided along a path toward better writing.  I believe an important part of our Elon University Writing Initiative should be making sure that faculty and staff are all made aware of what is expected of them as educators and of what they are to expect of the learners.

Awareness of the many forms of written communication and appreciation for exhibiting excellence in every word of written communication:  in this age of texting, misspellings, abbreviations and slang have become accepted pieces of communication.  I believe that within the Elon University Writing Initiative, we need to educate the learner to understand the prominent place communication has in our daily lives; and we all need to learn how to distinguish between the appropriate level of language usage within each form of writing.  Then, with that understanding we should also emphasize the purpose and importance of clear communication, thus instilling in our entire Elon community the mindset of excellence in all of our written communication.

In this .com age, all information needs to be able to be conveyed and received in a written.  Our Elon community will continue to rise above our peer educational communities when we understand the need for and the benefit of writing not simply to write but writing to live and to succeed.”

QUESTION 2: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help you with your writing?
“Every day I use written communication in some form.  As a high-school-English-teacher-turned-coach, being in the coaching community and out of the educational community in particular, I do not have as many opportunities to remain current on the nuances of our written language.  I am already planning to attend a resume course offered at our Career Services Center, but I would love the opportunity to attend more classes regarding written communication.  I believe that each individual Elon athletic program has at least one person who is responsible for sending out communications regarding their sport.  I believe that Elon athletics would enhance our opportunity to create great impressions on a national scale - not simply for our programs, but for our entire university - by further developing our written communication skills - especially since such communication from our sport programs is often the very first impression that many students have of Elon University.  As coaches, we owe our greater Elon Community the honor of making a great first impression.”

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SUGGESTIONS POSTED MARCH 11, 2013 (Total Suggestions - 3)

QUESTION 1: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help students improve their writing?
“We can expect a higher degree of professionalism in their writing. This may mean more time on our part to check and make them fix any problems, but in the end it would improve their writing.”

QUESTION 2: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help you with your writing?
“I am not sure that much can be done to help my writing, I am a bit hopeless. Actually I believe tailoring what is taught about writing to the individual departments would make it seem quite a bit more relevant. For example, I would be more interested in writing for the web as that is the majority of writing that I do. That style, in and of itself, is completely different than other styles.”

QUESTION 1: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help students improve their writing?
“Further encouraging them to seek assistant (through the writing center, as an example). I haven't had an opportunity to explore writing projects with the student workers in our office, but encouraging staff who have that option to use it for the students' benefit would be an excellent way to continue improvement.”

QUESTION 2: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help you with your writing?
“What resources are currently available? I'm not sure I know the answer off the top of my head (though I could certainly give the web a good search if I were in need)...Maybe a bi-annual facstaff email explaining opportunities for staff would help keep those at the forefront of our thinking.”

QUESTION 1: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help students improve their writing?
“Integrating writing across the curriculum for all students is critical.  Assigning a reflective journal or 1-minute paper works in all classes, from math to foreign language.  Presently I help develop student blog writers by providing suggestions to enhance their natural talents.  Consistency, articulation, and chunking materials are suggestions I often provide.”

QUESTION 2: What are the most important steps Elon can take to help you with your writing?
“I feel confident in my writing abilities.  I do like to read books, blogs, journals and articles about current trends; and I always like to see stellar examples of ‘good’ writing!”