Towards a Pro-active Technical Writing Curriculum


When professors approach the writing centre for help with designing or grading, they usually invite us to address the students during class time, either in a lecture, or in tutorial workshops, or both.  Fig. 1 presents the typical interactions among students, professors, and LAC staff members.

  1. Professor designs course materials.LAC staff give a lecture-workshop.

  2. Student writes assignment, hands it in.

  3. LAC evaluates assignment.
  4. Professor returns assignment to student.

Fig. 1: This typical writing assignment plan usually meets the expectations of all parties; unfortunately, our expectations may be too low.

No matter how much help and encouragement we offer, many students will attempt to churn out the required pages in a single push the night before the assignment is due.   The writing centre does offer free half-hour consultations, but only the motivated students bother to make appointments.  The workshop (step 2 above) is typically the centre’s only opportunity to teach about a particular assignment, and is therefore important to the learning process.  But experience reveals that students come to workshops without having put sufficient advance thought into their work, and instead expect to be told how to begin.  A show of hands recently revealed that no attendees at a particular workshop had bothered to read the assignment handout beforehand.  In such cases, the workshop is ineffective.

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Dennis G. Jerz