WAC Assignment Highlight

Professor: Jonas Reitz

Course: MAT 1275

Assignment: Advice for the future

Students were asked to imagine that they were speaking on the first day of MAT 1275, and to give advice to the incoming students based on one of three questions.

The assignment was posted as a blog post, and students were asked to respond in the comments section of the post. For example, one student responded:

“First I’ll address number 3: I would say that a prior knowledge (ability) to have is PATIENCE and willingness to learn something that isnt particularly easy like trig. Math isnt for everyone, not all of us are going to grasp it the first or second time around; however, if you have patience you will gradually begin to understand at least some of the material…”

For extra credit, students had the option of  responding to someone else’s comment, indicating whether they agreed or disagreed, and if they had anything to add. Many students took this option, generating a nice discussion.

What WAC principle(s) does this assignment exemplify?

This is a terrific example of using an unconventional audience, in this case other students just entering the course, to encourage students to use their own voice.

Students are often accustomed to the professor being their sole audience, which sometimes hinders them from fully explaining or elaborating on course material. They may also feel stifled by academic jargon, and use overly formal language, that does not allow them to get comfortable with the material in a way required to explain it to others, or to better understand it themselves in more everyday terms.

It is also a great example of asking students to use exploratory and personal writing, reflecting on their experiences and feelings about the course. This, again, encourages students to use their own voice, and allows them to get more comfortable with their learning environment.

How might this type of assignment be used in other courses across the curriculum?

This type of informal writing exercise could be used in any type of course.  There will always be advice that students will have to give to other students about the course they  just took, no matter the discipline.

The exercise could be especially useful in disciplines where writing has not traditionally played a big role, and in more advanced, i.e., upper level courses, where incoming students would particularly benefit from more guidance on how to meet the challenges involved in mastering the material.