The students were supported throughout the process with preparatory seminars, videos, and written resources delivered during class time or assigned for self-directed study outside of class hours. The impact and efficacy of the project was evaluated using student feedback, both quantitative and qualitative, and an analysis of their marks. In designing this project, I sought to create conditions to enhance learning outcomes based on evidence- based and capacity-building strategies drawn from the large body of research related to teaching and learning. Therefore, in the first section of this article, I will outline the scholarship that informed the fundamental principles of this project: namely, that early intervention in first-year courses around essay writing helps students transition into university and increases chances for student success, that clear and transparent expectations significantly influence student perceptions of learning, that carefully scaffolded assignments help students develop their writing skills over time, and that increasing the frequency of writing opportunities and feedback leads to higher learning outcomes. Finally, in the third section, I will present the qualitative and quantitative results, analyze the impact of the project on student learning, and make recommendations for coursework papers how the project can be adapted to different disciplinary contexts. Section I: Links between Essay Writing and Student Learning Managing expectations Many students face tremendous challenges as they develop essay-writing competencies, especially when they encounter essays for the first time within a higher education context. In the light of these findings, it is imperative that we intervene early in the undergraduate writing process in order to support students in their earliest forays into academic essay writing. A clear, accessible, and transparent approach to essay writing in their first year, reinforced by a scaffolded program of writing development over the coursework papers course of the three to four year program, significantly increases the conditions of student success (e. Furthermore, undergraduate writing improves when instructors provide clear assessment and frequent feedback (Campbell et al. These three stages constitute a feedback loop: students can experience multiple feedback loops concurrently (in their many courses during one semester) as well as longitudinally (over the course of the term, year, and program). This pre-university program, usually 2 years in duration, is the equivalent in other Canadian provinces of Grade 12 and Grade 13, and is similar to the junior college experience in the American system where students fulfill 1-2 years in a junior college. Canadian university entrance requirements stipulate all Quebec students must successfully complete the DEC. The survey was administered on the last day of class in the fall semester, so students had at least one term of university experience. VIII overburdening instructors with unmanageable marking loads. Although the balance between feedback and marking loads is always being negotiated, the project I outline in section two attempts to increase the frequency of feedback loops while at the same time creating a manageable marking workload for the instructor. Therefore, I introduced a rigorous approach to essay writing in a first-year, introductory English literature survey course.
The class size is 65 - 75 students, and there is a mix of out-of- province students who have gone through the high school system and Quebec students who have graduated from the CEGEP system. I have taught the class 9 times in 7 years at two institutions in Quebec. Assignments Every three weeks, students completed an in-class assignment (1. Syllabus, course times, and class size for the introductory survey class remained constant across these two institutional contexts. Essays were chosen from a bank of essays submitted by students coursework papers in the course from previous years. Former students granted permission to use their essays and I erased any identifying features from the essays. I scaffolded the quality of the essays given to students: the first assignment featured an essay that had clear problems in content, structure, and form, and the quality of the essays increased in each subsequent iteration. Therefore, as students became more experienced in evaluation, the essays required more nuanced analyses. In this section, students evaluated the content of the essay, including the use of evidence, logic and argumentation, and the quality of analysis. In addition to the page of comments, students were also encouraged to engage with the essay in the margins of the paper in order to create verisimilitude with the experience of marking an essay.
In the third section (worth 15 points), students evaluated the mechanics of the essay and filled out a style checklist that identified strengths and weaknesses in punctuation, grammar, and coursework papers syntax. In the final section (worth 5 points), students were asked to assign the essay a numerical grade. The evaluation exercise was designed to draw attention to the three fundamental ways essays are assessed (structure, content, and form) and provide both qualitative and quantitative feedback (comments and a numerical grade). In an attempt to reduce the amount of cognitive dissonance students experience as they attempt to master a new concept, I tried to equip them with a number of resources to support them in their first forays into university-level writing and analysis. I used the class website (Moodle) as coursework papers a repository for multi-media resources: I created videos and posted them on YouTube, developed documents about writing essays, designed a rubric for assessing essays, and provided them with essays I assessed (with qualitative comments in the margins, summative comments at the end of the paper, and a grade).
These resources were available to the students - along with lecture notes, power point slides, essay topics, and exam rubrics - from the first day of class. Assessment After each assignment, students received feedback in many different forms. Each in-class assignment was completed by the instructor and the essay evaluation was posted on the course website immediately following each of the assignments.