What I Learned From My Writing Class

Last semester I taught Academic Writing to Tsinghua undergraduates (psychology majors). Two earlier posts (here and here) summarized what they learned. This post is about what I learned.

When I was an undergraduate, I hated the writing assignments I was given, most of them in English classes. I would have to become nauseous with fear before beginning them. I had nothing to say. When I became a professor and had something to say, everything changed. Writing was easy. This is why — in spite of believing the best way to learn is to do — I gave my students only one actual writing assignment: write a personal statement, which they had to do for graduate school applications. On the last day of class, I asked them: If I had assigned you to write something, what would you have written? Answers varied from diary entries to a literature review about nuclear panic. Then I asked them if they would have preferred a class like that. Half said yes, half said no. If I teach the class again, I would make it an option: do the regular homework assignments, or write and revise something you want to write.

3 Replies to “What I Learned From My Writing Class”

  1. Agree with Tony. I would be one of the first to buy. We homeschool(ed) our kids. One is now a top-level IB (International Baccalaureate) student and the younger ones are at home. The best lesson I’ve learned is teaching them, at an early age, to become self-directed.

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