Teaching Resources

Browse online resources for integrating writing into courses across disciplines: assignments, rubrics, discipline-specific resources and more.

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How can I use writing in my course?

Using Writing in Your Course Context

While all instructors want students’ writing to be clear, coherent, and insightful, what counts as a feature of good writing can mean very different things depending on the discipline and course context.

Syllabus Matters

The syllabus serves as the official document for your course and must include mandatory content, specified on the University Policy Library Page. Beyond detailing the nuts and bolts of course policies and procedures, the syllabus is also an excellent place to provide students with useful information about the kinds of writing they will practice in your class, the relevance of writing to your discipline or field, and the resources available to support them.

Mid-Semester Feedback Strategies

Student feedback is routinely gathered at the end of the semester, but getting it at a semester’s midpoint is even better. When we collect students’ perspectives partway through a semester, we still have time to address their impressions and implement their recommendations. These midpoint reactions and insights can help us make some adjustments, straighten out some confusion, and improve our instruction in ways that students recognize (on end-of-semester ratings and elsewhere) as valuable to their learning (McGowan, W., & Osguthorpe, R. 2011).

How can I build effective writing assignments?

Designing Effective Writing Assignments

One of the best ways for students to determine what they know, think, and believe about a given subject is to write about it. To support students in their writing, it is important to provide them with a meaningful writing task, one that has an authentic purpose, clear guidelines, and engages students in their learning. In this section, you can read about key principles of assignment design, review examples of effective writing assignments, and use a checklist to guide your own designs.

Writing Assignment Checklist

A helpful checklist to guide you through the stages of assignment design.

Scaffolding and Sequencing Writing Assignments

Effective writing assignments, aligned with core learning goals, can help students build on their prior knowledge, apply key concepts introduced in lectures, labs, readings, and discussions, and anticipate future learning.

Informal, In-Class Writing Activities

Incorporating informal writing activities into our classes can lead to enhanced thinking and learning, improved writing, and less time spent commenting on and grading finished projects. Because few of us have class time to spare, we’ll take a look at brief activities designed to (1) help students develop and distill their writable ideas and (2) provide targeted revision practice that they can apply to their works in progress.

Teaching Writing with Quantitative Data

Providing students the opportunity to write with and about data will allow them to use their computational and analytic skills to inform and persuade. On this page, we identify strategies for helping students develop effective habits for writing with data.

How can I help students improve and revise their writing?

Commenting on Student Writing

Commenting on student writing is among the most important tasks for any instructor who uses writing. Whether the writing is short or long, formal or informal, a work-in-process or finished product, students learn both course content and writing habits through the process of revising their own writing.

Supporting Multilingual Learners

Like writers who are native to English, multilingual writers continue to develop written fluency as they move forward in their majors and chosen fields. Unlike native writers, though, some multilingual writers may retain (by habit or choice) features of their native or preferred languages in their English writing.

Teaching with Effective Models of Writing

Models of effective writing can increase students’ awareness of the ways experts and practitioners organize and present knowledge in their fields and disciplines. This page offers guidelines for selecting, annotating, and using models of writing in your class.

The Benefits of Peer Response

Peer response workshops—activities in which peers read and comment on each other's drafts or ideas—enable students to get quick, direct, and timely feedback on their works-in-progress. While feedback is beneficial to the writer, research has also shown that peer response benefits the peer reader as well; the act of carefully reading another student’s work fosters the capacity to detect, diagnose, and improve one’s own writing.

Peer Response Protocols and Procedures

Giving students protocols to follow during peer response workshop sessions can keep pairs or groups focused and on task. For workshop sessions that are intended to extend for more than a few minutes, consider providing guidelines (what to comment on) and procedures (how to do so). These protocols can be used, adapted, and combined to fit most writing contexts, whether you’re teaching a large- or small-enrollment course, and working in an onsite, online, or hybrid environment.

Using Reflective Writing to Deepen Student Learning

This resource page offers a number of suggestions for how to support students in their development as writers and thinkers through the act of reflection.

Conferencing with Student Writers

This page offers suggestions for why instructors might consider using conferencing in their classes along with practical strategies for integrating conferencing into assignments and course designs.

How can I use writing to promote equity, access, and belonging in my courses?

Designing Inclusive Writing Assignments

When polled about what makes a writing assignment meaningful, students appreciate the opportunity to immerse themselves in activities to which they feel a personal connection and that seem to have a practical connection to their future selves. With this in mind, instructors benefit from considering the diverse identities of students in the classroom as they relate to the purposes of their writing tasks and the audiences to whom they will communicate. Making thoughtful choices about language use can help establish your class as one where all students can learn and succeed.

While there are many valuable sources for advice on equitable teaching practices, this page focuses on writing activities as meaningful sites for learning and assessment.

Addressing a Range of Writing Abilities in Your Courses

Students come to the University of Minnesota with many differences in personal and educational experience and with differences in educational goals, attitudes, and expectations. After they arrive, students will take courses at different times in their careers or in different orders depending on availability, experience, and context. Courses at all levels may include students from within a major and outside it, from their first year to fifth, and from highly motivated to nervous or resistant. Designing writing activities that can prove effective across these variations can be challenging for instructors, both to limit the frustration of activities that are challenging and to address those students who are ready for more complex tasks.

How can I grade writing with fairness and efficiency?

Effective Grading Strategies

Instructors can combine a number of strategies to overcome challenges and create systems for grading that can be efficient, fair, and beneficial for student learning.

Designing and Using Rubrics

An overview of grading rubric types and guidelines for their development and use.

Running a Grade-Norming Session

Grade norming can help ensure fairness and consistency in evaluating student work across multiple sections and with multiple instructors.

Working with Teaching Assistants

In classes with large enrollments and multiple sections, faculty members will often coordinate the work of teaching assistants as co-instructors; as lab, discussion, or recitation section leaders; or as reader/graders. Each of these roles requires careful coordination between teaching staff on expectations for writing and strategies for writing instruction.

Managing the Paper Load

For faculty members and teaching assistants, dealing with a seemingly endless volume of student work is one the most challenging facets of teaching with writing. Careful planning can allow you to both maximize your time and provide useful feedback.

Writing with Sources

Undergraduate students face a challenging terrain when writing with sources. Finding, evaluating, organizing, synthesizing, and documenting sources are complex, interconnected activities central to academic writing.

Preventing Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a challenging topic in the context of writing instruction. Academic integrity is a cornerstone of higher education, and violations of academic integrity policies are considered severe breaches of community standards.

Grammar Matters

Colleagues from across academic disciplines ask about strategies they can use to address problems related to grammar, usage, style, and mechanics in student writing. On this page, we begin by considering pragmatic goals before listing strategies that allow instructors from across the curriculum to address sentence-level issues within diverse course and disciplinary contexts.

What should I do about ChatGPT?

What is ChatGPT and how does it work?

ChatGPT has captured much media attention for its ability to produce text in response to various writing prompts. Its simple and friendly interface and speed in returning responses have led to concerns over the future of students’ writing skills and instruction with writing. 

Incorporating ChatGPT Use in Courses

AI text generators like ChatGPT are still in their early days. Still, large technology companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are already using large language models to design new writing platforms and writing technologies. In most cases, human users will use AI to augment their writing processes rather than as a replacement for human writers. The challenge for users will be to make decisions about what AI can do effectively (summary and general description) and what may still depend on human agents (attribution, evaluation, and judgment).

Strategies for Restricting the Use of ChatGPT

One of the immediate concerns that emerged with ChatGPT and other Large Language Models relates to consequences for students who are assigned writing tasks. Whether writing is used to assist thinking and learning, to measure student understanding, or to reflect on student learning, AI-generated text can perform reasonably well on some writing tasks assigned to university students. Colleagues at the University of Minnesota Law School demonstrated that ChatGPT-generated responses to exam questions would meet minimum standards for student performance. Although generative AI technologies are rapidly integrating with popular writing platforms (including Google and Microsoft), instructors may wish to exclude their use for submitting academic work in their courses.