Quality writing in College of Education
Communication is an integral skill that employers desire in job candidates. In recent years, Georgia Southern University has concentrated on improving the writing skills of students in order to make them more competitive both academically and professionally. In 2013, the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) was developed as a University-wide initiative to focus on the improvement of undergraduates’ effective writing skills.
QEP is a five-year plan that allows each college within the University to actively play a role in determining appropriate ways to introduce additional writing challenges and experiences in their curriculum. Progress is underway in the College of Education.
Now entering the second year of the initiative, the College’s Department of Teaching and Learning has set its sights on creating a long-term plan to focus on the writing skills of their students. Instructors Lisa Davis, Ed.S., and Heather Huling, M.Ed., explain that while the University has set a five-year plan, the Department of Teaching and Learning wants to continue improving this plan well into the future.
“Educators are tasked with teaching their students to be good writers, so educators themselves need to be good writers as well,” said Huling.
In the first year of QEP (2015-2016), the Department’s Early Childhood Education program implemented an additional writing assignment in the P-5 Curriculum course (ECED 3131). Students previously completed a three-day learning segment in which they researched a topic they would like to teach and appropriate methods to instruct their audience. Now students are asked to complete a content research paper prior to completing the three-day learning segment that requires an outline, rough draft, and final copy. The paper allows students to become well versed in the content and developmentally appropriate practices for their assigned grade level. At each stage of the scaffold paper, instructors provide detailed feedback.
“We are trying to ensure that students see the importance of the writing process,” explained Huling. “Feedback at each step of the process helps students to tell if they are on the right path and helps them to be more successful in their final draft.”
Guest speakers from the University’s Writing Center and Zach S. Henderson Library are invited to speak to classes about the services each provides for students. The College also has a Writing Fellow, Julie Odom-Dixon, who works specifically with the students in education majors. A graduate assistant for the University’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Odom-Dixon supports the students through the writing process by assisting with reflection methods and teaching students how to revise their work. She also assists with APA formatting and is familiar with the Department of Teaching and Learning’s courses and assignments.
Entering year two of QEP (2016-2017), the Early Childhood Education program will be incorporating an additional writing component to a second course—Language and Literary Studies (ECED 3262). The Middle Grades Education program has also identified their first course to be revised—Nature and Curriculum Needs of the Middle Grades Learner (MGED 3131).
Beginning in year three, the Special Education program will join the QEP initiative with its first course to consider additional writing challenges still to be determined. By the end of the University’s five-year QEP, the Early Childhood, Middle Grades, and Special Education programs will each have three courses that have incorporated additional writing assignments.
“We don’t want to make each course a ‘writing’ course,” explained Davis. “It is important that the writing assignment adds rigor to the existing curriculum for that course.”
Feedback from students after completing the new writing assignment have been positive.
“When students reflect back, they see the benefits and how this process helped to advance their writing skills and know the available resources on campus,” said Davis. “The focus on writing within their discipline helps the students to learn the language of teaching.”
The College of Education QEP Committee includes Scott Beck, Ph.D., Lisa Davis, Ed.S., Andria Disney, Ed.D., Susan Franks, Ed.D., Heather Huling, M.Ed., James Jupp, Ph.D., Judi Robbins, Ph.D., and Amanda Wall, Ph.D. The committee attends University QEP meetings and workshops and works together to discuss specific strategies for the College of Education.
For the future, the committee is considering incentives to reward COE students for their hard work and successes in writing.
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