If you are teaching a class and you would like to introduce your students to the Writing Centre, you can include the following note in your syllabus and/or on Brightspace. You can make any changes necessary so that the message reflects your course(s) and the value of the Writing Centre.
Learning to write well contributes to the quality of critical thought, good marks, completion of degrees and, later, success in the workplace. Now is the time to improve your writing skills. You can visit the Writing Centre for assistance with your assignments. Staff and tutors help you to understand writing expectations and disciplinary conventions. The service is available six days a week. (See the Writing Centre website for hours of operation at the various Writing Centre sites.)
To book an appointment call 494-1963; email email@example.com; visit the website for online booking at dal.ca/writingcentre; or drop in to the Killam’s main floor Learning Commons (G40). (Tutors, also, work in other locations such as on the Sexton Campus, the Wallace McCain Learning Commons, Black Student Advising Centre, and the Indigenous Student Centre.)
In addition, the Centre offers monthly seminars. This year the seminars focus on understanding academic integrity and learning to integrate source material into your writing assignments. See our website for dates and location.
The Writing Centre, also, provides a comprehensive online learning tool called the Academic Integrity Module (AIM). Self-register at https://www.dal.ca/campus_life/academic-support/writing-and-study-skills/academic-integrity-module.html. New this year: after you have completed the AIM, arrange a follow-up session to discuss the scenarios more fully. Write to Janice Eddington (Janice.firstname.lastname@example.org) to arrange the session.
Good luck with all your work this year!
If you would like a staff member of the Writing Centre to visit your class and give an introduction to our services, please contact Dr. Margie Bohan at email@example.com. Most visits take only 5-10 minutes, and we believe that is time well spent (Students are able to put a face to the service.) When booking a quick class visit remember to provide your name, course name, a preferred time, and the class location.
The Writing Centre also provides in-class or out-of-class workshops These workshops are tailored to the specific classes and last for 30-60 minutes. A new approach is a 2-3 session connection with classes: one introductory discussion about writing in the discipline with a staff member of the Writing Centre and you (the instructor), followed by either one or two structured, student peer review sessions just before submission of a paper or project. The discussion allows students to ask questions about writing in the class; in the peer review sessions, students learn by helping other students identify disciplinary conventions.
Explaining to students why and how they need to improve their writing can be difficult. These documents will help you support students in their efforts to revise their own writing.
Think about ways you can improve the writing requirements in your course, for your benefit and that of your students! One helpful resource is John Bean’s Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom, 2nd edition (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011). For a precis of the text, see Roger Graves' "Five strategies to improve writing in your courses," in University Affairs (15 Jan 2014). Graves gives a brief outline of these strategies:
1. Identify the genre of the assignment
2. Let students know how you’ll evaluate it
3. Structure in opportunities for revision
4. Assign low-stakes writing
5. Contact the writing centre!
Many international students arrive at Dalhousie having studied English intensively to pass the exams that are required by the university to show English proficiency. Many other students whose first language is not English have finished high school in Canada, but are still clearly not native speakers. Achieving a high enough grade for admission to Dalhousie means that these students have acquired advanced skills and have at least enough English to function in daily life in Canada in all four major skills—reading, writing, listening and speaking. But it does not mean they are comfortable with the challenges that they will face here at the university, such as listening to live lectures where the instructor is moving rapidly through complex material and perhaps with an accent or speaking style that is unfamiliar; dealing with reading highly academic texts in quantities that are a challenge to English native speakers; speaking out in class, especially for students from cultures that discourage students’ participation; and finally the biggest challenge for most is learning to write academic texts in English.
As anyone who has learned a foreign language knows, learning a second or third language is slow and hard. It often involves a major shift of culture as well as of language. It takes time to learn the necessary vocabulary, such as the difference between to ‘get up’, to ‘get up to’; to ‘get to’, to ‘get in’, or to ‘get by’, and time to master some of the irrational rules of English grammar and academic usage, such as the difference between ‘to have experience’ and ‘to have an experience’ or between the uses of ‘in the experiment we are studying’, ‘in the experiment we study’, ‘in the experiment we have studied’, ‘in the experiment we studied’, and ‘in the experiment we will study’. Students from China will typically have difficulty with articles and singular/plural shifts largely because neither of these exists in Chinese. Arabic speaking students will often have difficulty with spelling, largely because in Arabic there is no need to learn spelling—when you hear a word in Arabic you know how it is spelled.
Perhaps, for those of us who take speaking and writing in English for granted, the easiest way to put ourselves in the shoes of an English-as-a-Second-Language student is to imagine ourselves, after studying the Chinese language for a few years, going to do a degree at a university in China and being expected to listen, speak, read and write academic texts in good Mandarin Chinese. Most of us would struggle and would need significant help. The Writing Centre is committed to helping ESL students to continue with their learning of English beyond the levels they arrive with and to helping them to achieve the levels of facility in English that we would expect from a student graduating from this university.
Consider this when providing feedback to your students:
Often ESL students have learned English from printed text; cursive writing therefore looks like an entirely new language to them.
Reducing the Rate of Plagiarism
Linda Macdonald, PhD
"Plagiarism" is derived from the the Latin word "to kidnap." Students do not enter university with the intention of committing the crime of "kidnapping" the ideas of others. Reported rates of plagiarism are, however, increasing. The document linked below offers a variety of techniques to reduce the rate of plagiarism.
Collaborative writing can mean different things to different people. It can mean writing reports in groups that meet face-to-face or blog writing on the web with multiple reviewers. Some disciplines such as business and engineering use collaboration in assignments and projects much of the time, while other disciplines such as history or biology use the methodology less often.
The following links will give an initial look at collaborative writing. Handled well, it can strengthen student writing, time management skills and interpersonal working relationships.