Thursday, January 14, 2016

Elaboration of class summaries in turns

A lot can take place in a four-hour class. Essentially, the teacher aims to help students develop certain topics: he or she introduces concepts, presents certain notions that are developed in the literature, explains them, clarifies student's concerns, promotes new ideas, responds and asks questions, refers to notions addressed in previous classes, etc. From the start, the teacher is always aware of the key concepts that make up the subject of the study. By contrast, an important part of student learning is to rebuild the topics of the class, a process that involves making inferences, generalizations, and the establishment of a hierarchy between the notions being worked. The writing I propose focuses on this kind of activities. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Simulate an essay with students

This affects how they select the content to be written, and the planning and organization of texts. The simulation helps them become aware of the need to build an autonomous text, and to control how the subject is presented progressively. The simulation also looks for students to begin studying for the exam earlier than usual, so they can anticipate how they will be evaluated (questions to be asked and correction criteria), so they are better prepared for what the teacher expects of them; to show what they learn and their difficulties without receiving an evaluation, receiving guidance instead, so when they review the texts they can play the role of readers and evaluators, so they can incorporate all of this when they take the actual test.
Students highly value this activity. Studying for an exam simulation from a list of questions, drafting a response with constraints in time and length, receiving comments on the produced texts, seeing the teacher's evaluation criteria in action, and receiving written corrections and a model of ideal answer; all these instances reduce the uncertainty in the future evaluation and decreases the usual anxiety. To participate in the analysis of the answers of fellow students puts everyone in the position of reader-reviewer-evaluator, and this helps them keep in mind the reader's point of view when writing for others, as well as the criteria by which the teacher corrects them. Finally, the teacher receives fewer questions about the correction of the exam because he or she has already shown the correction criteria, and because the students have been able to understand the situation beforehand. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Help your students by proving questions in advance

The aim of giving a set of questions in advance, from which those actually made in the examination will be made, is to help organize their studying: to reduce the infinite possibilities in their mind, and place the students in the analytical perspective required by the teacher. One might object that, in this way, students study less: this is perhaps the reason why it is customary to only give the students the questions during the actual examination and not before. Personally, I don't agree with this, and neither do the students: they manifest being able to study in a different way, but still preparing for a wide range of questions (there are 30 questions, which demand coming and going between different texts!); Some share the task and write the answers as a group. In the real test, they may not use these notes because the exam is still a closed-book test. What they do use is the knowledge they developed while reading, writing and receiving peer reviews.

On its part, the simulation has several objectives. First, it promotes thinking of a central feature in the test, which is the paradox that students eventually face: the need to communicate the subject to a reader (teacher), as if that person didn't know anything about the topic of the class, even if they actually do.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Similarities between these three situations in academic writing

Tutoring for group writings, essay reviews through a simulation, and class summaries, are conceived as instances of support and guidance for students that are faced with the task of writing on a subject that they still don't master. This challenge characterizes learning in higher education, but has gone unnoticed by many. The dual nature of this rugged enterprise requires a two-faceted approach from teachers, in order to help students join a community of specialized discourse as much as specialized knowledge.
The three situations described above share the goal of giving some visibility to the need of reviewing writing, not only at the superficial spelling and syntax level, but also at the level of concepts and discursive organization. All three provide the opportunity to share with others the role of reader-reviewer. All three let you review language and ideas together, as a way of progressively getting closer to the concepts and to the specific language of the discipline. In this sense, the teacher provides feedback focused on the conceptualization of the content, which is what provides the most appropriate logic structure for writing.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Helping students prepare a work plan

In the first school, the students come to class with an index for the text to be produced, and the teacher helps them narrow down the subject, define a focus and the main idea, relate concepts, and think of the structure of the text in different sections with the corresponding subsections; in short, the teacher helps them prepare a work plan, asking questions and pointing to the need to plan which ideas should be driving and organizing the work. In the second meeting, the teacher reads the drafts and asks the authors to define the main problem they faced while writing, making relevant suggestions, but never losing sight of the hierarchy, selection, and organization of the concepts to be included. The teacher stresses the need to create an autonomous text, and for them to think like producers, since the reader should be able to reconstruct the author's thought through the clues left in the text; the teacher indicates problems in the cohesion and coherence of the text (conceptual leaps that need to be marked with connectors, with transitional sentences or separate sections); the teacher questions the relevance of certain segments in relation to the whole; the teacher proposes relocating some ideas, he or she suggests cutting other parts that make the text weaker, and teaches the students how to use a paragraph as a unity in subject, etc.
The goal of this situation is to promote the experience of writing as rewriting, to promote the planning and reviewing of the major aspects of the text -its content and organization- several times during the process, providing a procedural model, from an external reviewer, who observes the text from the perspective of the reader, not the author's, so that the students can gradually incorporate this perspective. In fact, the teacher shares with the students his or her own experience when writing, and admits that he or she still faces difficulties that are intrinsic to all form of writing that involves rearranging what you already know in order to make it clearer, more understandable, founded, and more solid.