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Posts Tagged ‘written

Like many things, written and spoken language evolves. The video below highlights a few changing standards and “standards” in written language.

Video source

The thing it hints at is context. We speak and write differently in different contexts. What some students are not taught (or not taught sufficiently) is when and how to switch.

If students are not taught to identify contexts first, they might see the different rules and standards as a burden. They might opt to use the form of language they are most comfortable with regardless of context.

Like it or not, this is a failure of teaching and learning.

I am in the middle of a particularly intensive fortnight of providing feedback on written assignments of future faculty. It does not help that this period coincides with the Lunar New Year period — a few assignments have not been submitted and I must work over the break so that the feedback is available this week.

But my gripe is not the fact that the LNY is a distraction or that others around me are celebrating while I work. I am keep getting reminded of three things that worry me about the writing ability of some learners at this level of higher education.

1. Not writing in paragraphs
I still get students who write in one big block of text.

Not only is the visual presentation uninviting to read, it indicates that the writers are not organised, take no care in writing, or have no concern for the reader.

This is my Number One worry because the course I facilitate is about learner-centred pedagogy. My constant refrain is “focus on the learner and learning, not just the teacher and teaching”. To do this, my students (future faculty) need to develop empathy for their own students.

Before they submit their assignments, I tell them to transfer this principle when they write. One piece of advice is not writing the way they speak, i.e., being concise instead of recreating verbal diarrhoea. Another is to write for the reader, i.e., realising that a reader is not in the same head space as the writer.

2. Lazy mistakes
No writing is perfect because people make mistakes. However, some mistakes can be avoided if writers proofread their work several times. If they do, they might detect basic errors like repeated words, e.g., “is is” or “to to”.

A form of laziness that results in mistakes is the refusal to learn grammar. For example, in lesson plan assignments I often come across writers who insist on using “feedbacks” as a noun instead of “feedback”.

If I offer you one or more instances of advice, both are feedback. The singular piece is feedback, the plural piece is also feedback and not feedbacks. It is like sheep: One sheep, two sheep, three sheep. No “sheeps”.

Sheep by jrigol, on Flickr
Sheep” (CC BY 2.0) by jrigol

3. Odd turns of phrases
Writers at this level often try to be high-sounding, but they come across as bad users of a thesaurus.

Some examples:



I share these examples not to make fun of my learners. I do not share their names and I blur the parts of their writing that are not relevant. I share to illustrate the problem.

The problem is also not just in their use of such odd turns of phrases; it is that their evaluators or even their supervisors turn a blind eye.

I would like to focus on the ideas presented in the assignments. To do that, those submitting assignments need to learn to chunk information logically in paragraphs, stop making lazy grammatical mistakes, and strive to write simply and directly. If they do, they communicate more clearly and then together we can focus on improving their ideas.

In the meantime, I provide mini lessons on the basics of writing by commenting in the assignments. I do this even though doing that it not officially my job. I have no problem being labelled a fussy fuddy-duddy if this means that I am a watchdog for academic quality and values.

Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) for the written assignment. These have been asked either in person or via email. If you have any more questions, please ask by clicking on the comment link.

Must the assignment be written in essay format?
Yes. You may include figures and tables (e.g. lesson plan template), but they must support the essay.

Do I have to use the scaffold in Appendix A of the instructions?
This is up to you. You may include the statements there to guide you. But note that this will not ensure that your assignment is complete.

Must I restrict myself to the examples of cyberwellness issues given in the instructions document?
No, the topics in the example might not be relevant to the content for the e-learning week in the scenario. You should select a cyberwellness topic that is relevant to the context that you define.

Why do I need to describe the context of my cyberwellness lessons?
A series of lessons can be extremely well-designed, but if the lessons do not meet the needs of the learners or complement the content, then it is not meaningful.

The context is the reason or justification for why you have selected a particular cyberwellness topic and why you have opted to teach it a particular way.

How exactly do I submit my assignment?
You will need to submit a coversheet and the assignment itself. I will collect hard copies (printouts) of the signed coversheet and soft copies (electronic versions) of the assignments. More details will be provided in class.


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