GEOG 438W
Human Dimensions of Global Warming

Writing Workshop

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Not only are we going to write a lot this semester, we're going to learn a lot about writing.  These five workshops are designed to help us achieve the overarching goal of this class:  End-of-the-semester you feels like a more confident writer and science communicator than beginning-of-the-semester you.  It's not about becoming the perfect writer, it's just about improving and recognizing that writing is inherently an iterative endeavor and there will never be a point where you feverishly type out a first draft flawlessly.  Instead, it's about finding your own strengths and weaknesses and adapting your writing and research habits to improve upon them.  Before we dig into these workshops, though, let me ask you - do you know how a Penn State course earns its W?  Let's take a look.

What does that W really mean?

The W designation doesn't just mean we're going to write a lot.  It means we're going to treat writing as a process and use it as a tool to both facilitate learning of the content *and* facilitate effective communication of that learned content. What are the requirements?

  1. Writing Assignment Design - we will use both informal, ungraded writing assignments and more formal assignments to expand your thinking about the content and develop your writing skills.
    • Write to Learn - weekly assignments; I'm not going to provide any grammatical feedback on these submissions, I'm just looking at your understanding and consideration of the content.  This gives you a bit of space to write and think freely without worrying about whether you've split infinitives or used passive voice.  
    • Learn to Write - essay exams; here's where I uncap my proverbial red pen and see how well you're able to integrate what you've learned in our Writing Workshops into your writing.  No matter your planned career path from here, effective written communication skills will serve you well, so we're going to work hard to improve them.
       
  2. Treatment of Writing as a Developmental Process - this is why I need to see your drafting of your exams.  By getting a glimpse at your writing process, I can better help you identify recurrent issues. And, by looking more critically at your own writing before submitting it, you'll begin to catch things you hadn't noticed before. This is also why we go through the self-assessment exercise with each exam.
     
  3. Written Feedback from the Instructor - It will take me a while to return your exams.  This is because I mark them up thoroughly and provide detailed feedback in both a grading rubric (you'll see before you complete each exam), and in writing.  You'll need this feedback then to complete your subsequent self-assessment activities.
     
  4. Writing-based assignments account for at least 25% of the course grade - in this course, it's a 50/50 split between writing-based assignments and other assessments.  This gives everyone an equal chance to shine, no matter your preferred learning style.  The exams (40%) and write to learn (10%) make up the writing-based assignments and the weekly content quizzes (30%), writing workshop quizzes (10%), and self-assessments (10%) constitute the non-writing assignments.

What are my goals for this W?

  • To be a better writer at the end of the semester than you were at the start.  It's really that simple!  You're only in competition with yourself.
  • To be able to self-edit all of your writing more effectively.
  • To better manage my time to create work of which I am confidently proud.

It's a lot of work, I know.

This course will be time-consuming and probably stressful at times this semester.  Hang in there, we're all in this together and you're going to do great.