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Write it Right: developing academic writing within the discipline of computing using feedforward fee


WriteNow Project. Purpose of this project was to: Improve students' confidence in their ability to write in an academic manner ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Write it Right: developing academic writing within the discipline of computing using feedforward fee

Write it Right developing academic writing
within the discipline of computing using
feedforward feedback
Project funded by Write Now to develop writing
skills in Level C Computing students.
  • Alma Whitfield School of Computing
  • Michelle ODoherty Lecturer and Writing

WriteNow Project
  • Purpose of this project was to
  • Improve students confidence in their ability to
    write in an academic manner
  • Develop skills students would retain throughout
    their study and career, and would apply to other
    modules and pathways
  • To develop a method of teaching writing skills to
    students which would be transferable to other
    modules and pathways.
  • Students should see relevance of academic writing
    to their study and future career.

  • To address the universal issue that computing
    students lack good writing skills.
  • Students achieve poor marks because they do not
    understand how to write in an academic manner.
  • Employers seek good transferable skills from
    graduates evaluative and analytical as well as

Reasons for lack of skills
  • Computer Science students consider practical
    skills to be more important than writing skills.
  • Importance of critical writing skills for
    Computer Science students is often overlooked.

(Review of Hetherington et al 2007)
  • Delivery of materials was in small, patchwork
    sessions, addressing specific criteria
  • Information was gathered by way of
  • questionnaires,
  • journals
  • Forums held to ascertain views of students on
  • Academic writing,
  • Effectiveness of delivery of materials,
  • Progress made as a result of intervention.
  • Moodle was a resource for lecture materials,
    journals and discussion.

2007/8 Cohort (Intervention Group)
  • Students had specific workshop sessions of 20-30
    mins in seminar over 8 weeks.
  • Materials delivered in small chunks - patchwork
  • Workshops engaged students in pre-submission
    activities mapped to the principles of good
    feedback practice.
  • For example, students were introduced to core
    criteria for essay writing.
  • Feedback informed future teaching, which
    continued into semester two.
  • Principles of Good Feedback Practice, Nicol
    Macfarlane-Dick (2006)

Academic ExpectationsCracking the Assignment
  • Develops an argument
  • Uses evidence
  • Critical evaluation
  • Address the question
  • Structuring
  • Use of language
  • Knowledge and Understanding

The 7 criteria addressed 1 each week
Assessment Plus (2004) What are assessment
criteria? Available at http//www.assessmentplus
Core Criteria
  • Research has shown that the majority of
    assignments require students to meet the 7 core
  • However, students do not always understand the
  • First criteria addressed was the one all students
    think they know
  • Answer the Question
  • Problem it is not always easy for students to
    know what the question is they have to work
    this out.

Assessment Criteria
  • Assessment criteria was examined in the seminar
  • Exemplars used to help develop understanding of
    critical evaluation and argument.
  • Opportunity to discuss their assignment in draft
    before submission.
  • Self marked their own assignment according to the
  • They felt uncomfortable about peer marking.
  • Compared and discussed their mark with actual
    mark achieved.

Students estimate of own skills
Final Evaluation no-one Very Confident, but
no-one Extremely Unconfident either.
  • Students evaluated their writing skills at
    baseline and at final evaluation.
  • Initial Self Score showed 20 to be very
  • 80 were either unsure or not confident that they
    could write in an academic manner.

Change of confidence levels
After start of intervention the confidence level
appeared to drop. Reason could be students were
then aware of just what was required of them.
Final evaluation, after workshops, showed
confidence had risen again.
Evidence of Improved marks Social Issues
Assignments 2006/7 and 2007/8
  • Significant improvement between the 2006/7 and
    2007/8 cohorts,
  • 27 increase in students achieving a grade above
    C (or equivalent) in first written assignment

Confidence in Academic Writing
  • A key strategy to increase students confidence
    was to develop an awareness and understanding of
    expected standards.
  • Following workshops on core criteria, 61 of
    students agreed/strongly agreed that they
    understood these.
  • The results of two questionnaires show that this
    confidence was sustained (n14-20).

Confidence in writing assignment
  • It is significant that after the workshops in
    semester one only 21 students felt confident to
    actually write an academic essay a result
    similar to students initial self-score.
  • Analysis of focus group transcripts suggests that
    the on-going process of guidance
  • practice, discussion, use of exemplars and self
  • helped to double students confident/very
    confident self-score by completion of the first
    written assignment.

Importance of core criteria
At final evaluation the students acknowledged the
level of importance of the core criteria, in
understanding their assignment requirements.
Student Comments Final Focus Group
  • I hated it and I didnt want to do anything, but
    now its changed because of what theyve said in
    the sessions,
  • Its like breaking it down..
  • I didnt like writing essays, I used to end up
    leaving them to the last minute, I really like
    doing them now..

Student Comments Final Focus Group
  • ..at first I didnt think there was a point to
    it, I thought it was another useless thing, and I
    thought what is the point of this, its not going
    to help me later on in life
  • but weve talked about it a bit in class, and
    how in this industry you might have to write
    reports and bits of stuff and it does actually
    make sense now, Im all for it.

Conclusion Interim Findings
  • Students and tutors agree feedforward activities
    enhance the student learning experience
  • significantly improving academic writing,
    confidence and motivation.
  • Feedforward as a single intervention appears
    insufficient to embed such improvement
  • this needs to be scaffolded through an on-going
    process of guidance.
  • Student feedforward can usefully inform teaching,
    for example, prior experience audit.

Attitude to Academic Writing
  • Students baseline opinion
  • Only 7 thought academic writing was important to
  • Final evaluation
  • 80 rated it important/very important to their
  • 60 understood relevance to employment
  • Transferable skills
  • At the end of the taught sessions, 95 believed
    their writing skills to be transferable across

  • Higgins, R Hartley, P Skelton, A. Getting the
    message across the problem of communicating
  • assessment feedback, Teaching in Higher
    Education, 6(2) pp. 269-274, 2001.
  • Hattie, J.A. Identifying the salient facts of a
    model of student learning a synthesis of
  • International Journal of Educational Research,
    11 (2) pp. 187-212, 1987.
  • Ramsden, P. Learning to Teach in Higher
    Education (2nd revised ed) London Routlege,
  • National Student Survey, Teaching Quality
    Information Data, 2007. Available at
  • http//www.hefce.ac.uk/learning/nss/data/2007
    last accessed 22 October 2007
  • National Student Survey, 2006.
  • Available at http//www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/rdrep
    orts/2006/rd14 07/rd14 07sum.doc last accessed
    22 October 2007
  • National Student Survey ,2005. Available at
  • http//www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/rdreports/2006/rd22
    06.doc last accesed 22 October 2007
  • Gibbs, G Simpson, C. Conditions under which
    assessment supports students learning Learning
  • and Teaching in Higher Education, 1(1), pp.
    3-31, 2004-5.
  • Nicol, D.J. Macfarlane-Dick, D. Rethinking
    formative assessment in HE a theoretical model
  • seven principles of good feedback practice,
    Studies in Higher Education, 31(2) pp. 199-218,
  • Boud, D Falchikov, N. Developing assessment
    for informing judgement, in D. Boud N.
  • Rethinking Assessment in Higher Education
    learning in the longer term, 2007
  • Boud, D. Reframing assessment as if learning
    were important, in D. Boud N. Falchikov,
  • Rethinking Assessment in Higher Education
    learning in the longer term, 2007
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