Blogs vs. Term Papers
The format — designed to force students to make a point, explain it, defend it, repeat it (whether in 20 pages or 5 paragraphs) — feels to many like an exercise in rigidity and boredom, like practicing piano scales in a minor key.
Her provocative positions have lent kindling to an intensifying debate about how exactly better to teach writing in the era that is digital.
“This mechanistic writing is a real disincentive to creative but untrained writers,” says Professor Davidson, who rails from the form inside her new book, “Now The truth is It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn.”
“As a writer, it offends me deeply.”
Professor Davidson makes heavy utilization of the blog plus the ethos it represents of public, interactive discourse. Instead of writing a quarterly term paper, students now regularly publish 500- to 1,500-word entries on an interior class blog concerning the issues and readings they’ve been studying in class, along with essays for public consumption.
She’s in good company. Across the country, blog writing is becoming a requirement that is basic anything from M.B.A. to literature courses. On its face, who could disagree because of the transformation? Have you thought to replace a staid writing exercise with a medium that provides the writer the immediacy of a gathering, a feeling of relevancy, instant feedback from classmates or readers, and a practical connection to contemporary communications? Pointedly, why punish with a paper when a blog is, relatively, fun?
The brief, sometimes personally expressive blog post fails sorely to teach key aspects of thinking and writing because, say defenders of rigorous writing. They argue that the old format was less about how precisely Sherman surely got to the sea and more about how the writer organized the points, fashioned an argument, showed grasp of substance and evidence of its origin. Its rigidity was punishment that is n’t pedagogy.
Their reductio ad absurdum: why not just bypass the blog, too, and move right on to 140 characters about Shermn’s Mrch?
“Writing term papers is a dying art, but those that do write them have a dramatic leg up in terms of critical thinking, argumentation in addition to sort of expression required not merely in college, however in the job market,” says Douglas B. Reeves, a columnist for the American School Board Journal and founder associated with Leadership and Learning Center, the school-consulting division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “It doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting blogs. But nobody would conflate interesting writing with premise, evidence, argument and conclusion.”
The National Survey of Student Engagement unearthed that in 2011, 82 percent of first-year university students and more than half of seniors weren’t asked to do a paper that is single of pages or higher, while the bulk of writing assignments were for papers of 1 to five pages.
The definition of paper happens to be falling from favor for a while. A read here report in 2002 estimated that about 80 percent of twelfth grade students are not asked to create a history term paper of more than 15 pages. William H. Fitzhugh, the research’s author and founder for the Concord Review, a journal that publishes twelfth grade students’ research papers, says that, more broadly, educators shy far from rigorous academic writing, giving students the relative ease of writing short essays. He argues that an element of the problem is that teachers are asking students to read less, which means less substance — whether historical, political or literary — to focus a phrase paper on.
He proposes what he calls the “page per year” solution: in first grade, a one-page paper using one source; by fifth grade, five pages and five sources.
The debate about academic writing has given rise to new terminology: “old literacy” refers to more conventional types of discourse and training; “new literacy” stretches from the blog and tweet to multimedia presentation with PowerPoint and audio essay.
“We’re at a crux right now of where we have to find out as teachers what part of the old literacy is worth preserving,” says Andrea A. Lunsford, a professor of English at Stanford. “We’re trying to figure out how to preserve sustained, logical, carefully articulated arguments while engaging most abundant in exciting and promising new literacies.”
Professor Lunsford has collected 16,000 writing samples from 189 Stanford students from 2001 to 2007, and it is studying how their writing abilities and passions evolved as blogs along with other multimedia tools crept in their lives and classrooms. She’s also solicited student feedback about their experiences.
Her conclusion is the fact that students feel a lot more impassioned by the new literacy. They love writing for a gathering, engaging along with it. They feel as though they do so only to produce a grade if they’re actually producing something personally rewarding and valuable, whereas when they write a term paper, they feel as.
So Professor Lunsford is playing to student passions. Her writing class for second-year students, a requirement at Stanford, used to revolve around a paper constructed within the term that is entire. Now, the students begin by writing a 15-page paper on a particular subject in the first couple of weeks. Once that’s done, they use the ideas inside it to construct blogs, Web sites, and PowerPoint and audio and presentations that are oral. The students often find their ideas much more crystallized after expressing them with new media, she says, and then, most startling, they plead to revise their essays.
“What I’m asking myself is, ‘Will we need to keep carefully the 15-page paper forever or move directly to the brand new way?’ ” she says. “Stanford’s writing program won’t be making that change straight away, since our students still appear to reap the benefits of learning how to present their research findings both in traditional print and new media.”
As Professor Lunsford illustrates, deciding to educate using either blogs or term papers is something of a opposition that is false. Teachers may use both. And blogs, a platform that seems to encourage exercises that are rambling personal expression, can be well crafted and meticulously researched. The debate is not a false one: while some educators fear that informal communication styles are increasing duress on traditional training, others find the actual paper fundamentally anachronistic at the same time.
“I happened to be basically kicked out of the writing program for convinced that was more important than writing a five-paragraph essay,” she says. “I’m not against discipline. I’m not certain that writing a essay that is five-paragraph discipline a great deal as standardization. It’s a formula, but good writing plays with formulas, and changes formulas.”
Today, she tries to keep herself grounded into the experiences of a variety of students by tutoring at a residential district college. Recently, one student she tutors was handed an assignment with prescribed sentence length and structure that is rigid. “I urged him to check out all the rules,” she says. “If he’d done it my way, I don’t know he’d have passed the class.
“The sad thing is, he’s now convinced there was brilliance within the art world, brilliance when you look at the multimedia world, brilliance within the music world and that writing is boring,” Professor Davidson says. “I hated teaching him bad writing.”
Matt Richtel, a reporter at the right times, writes often about I . t within the classroom.
a form of this article appears in print on January 22, 2012, on Page ED28 of Education Life using the headline: Term Paper Blogging. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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