New book offers instructive analysis of PSE writing assignments

August 22, 2014

For a new book, California State University at Sacramento’s Reading and Writing Coordinator Dan Melzer evaluated more than 2,100 writing assignments from 100 US PSE institutions. Melzer’s analysis suggests that writing assignments tend to be limited in purpose, with two-thirds asking about details from a lecture or reading. 13% of assignments in his sample asked for exploratory writing, but poetic or expressive writing assignments were “almost nonexistent” across institution types and course levels. Melzer also says that grammatical correctness often takes precedence over critical thinking. The study further points to the influence of the Internet on classroom writing: a significant number of exploratory assignments were to be posted on online discussion boards or shared via email. Melzer also found that a growing number of professors are experimenting with non-traditional forms of research, which he attributes to the growth of “writing across the curriculum” programs. Inside Higher Ed