Blogs vs. Term Papers
The format — designed to force students in order to make a point, explain it, defend it, repeat it (whether in 20 pages or 5 paragraphs) — feels to numerous like a workout in rigidity and boredom, like practicing piano scales in a minor key.
Her provocative positions have lent kindling to an intensifying debate regarding how best to teach writing in the era that is digital.
“This mechanistic writing is a real disincentive to creative but untrained writers,” says Professor Davidson, who rails contrary to the form in her own new book, “Now The truth is It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn.”
“As a writer, it offends me deeply.”
Professor Davidson makes heavy utilization of the blog therefore the ethos it represents of public, interactive discourse. Instead of writing a quarterly term paper, students now regularly publish 500- to 1,500-word entries on an internal class blog about the issues and readings these are typically studying in class, along with essays for public consumption.
She’s in good company. Around the world, blog writing happens to be a requirement that is basic sets from M.B.A. to literature courses. On its face, who could disagree because of the transformation? Why don’t you replace a writing that is staid with a medium that provides the writer the immediacy of a gathering, a feeling of relevancy, instant feedback from classmates or readers, and a practical link with contemporary communications? Pointedly, why punish with a paper when a blog is, relatively, fun?
Because, say defenders of rigorous writing, the brief, essay writing sometimes personally expressive blog post fails sorely to show key areas of thinking and writing. They argue that the old format was less about how Sherman got to the sea and more about how exactly the writer organized the points, fashioned an argument, showed grasp of substance and proof of its origin. Its rigidity was punishment that is n’t pedagogy.
Their reductio ad absurdum: why not just bypass the blog, too, and move directly on to 140 characters about Shermn’s Mrch?
“Writing term papers is a art that is dying but those who do write them have a dramatic leg up in terms of critical thinking, argumentation plus the kind of expression required not only in college, however in the work market,” says Douglas B. Reeves, a columnist for the American School Board Journal and founder associated with the Leadership and Learning Center, the school-consulting division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “It does not mean there blogs that are aren’t interesting. But nobody would conflate interesting writing with premise, evidence, argument and conclusion.”
The National Survey of Student Engagement unearthed that last year, 82 percent of first-year university students and more than 1 / 2 of seniors weren’t asked to complete a paper that is single of pages or higher, as the majority of writing assignments were for papers of one to five pages.
The term paper has been falling from favor for a while. A research in 2002 estimated that about 80 percent of twelfth grade students were not asked to publish a history term paper in excess of 15 pages. William H. Fitzhugh, the study’s author and founder of The Concord Review, a journal that publishes school that is high’ research papers, says that, more broadly, educators shy away from rigorous academic writing, giving students the relative ease of writing short essays. He argues that part of the problem is that teachers are asking students to read less, which means less substance — whether historical, political or that is literary focus a phrase paper on.
He proposes what he calls the “page per year” solution: in first grade, a one-page paper using one source; by fifth grade, five pages and five sources.
The debate about academic writing has given rise to new terminology: “old literacy” refers to more conventional kinds of discourse and training; “new literacy” stretches from the blog and tweet to multimedia presentation with PowerPoint and audio essay.
“We’re at a crux right now of where we have to figure out as teachers what the main old literacy is worth preserving,” says Andrea A. Lunsford, a professor of English at Stanford. “We’re racking your brains on how exactly to preserve sustained, logical, carefully articulated arguments while engaging with the most exciting and promising new literacies.”
Professor Lunsford has collected 16,000 writing samples from 189 Stanford students from 2001 to 2007, and is studying how their writing abilities and passions evolved as blogs and other multimedia tools crept within their lives and classrooms. She’s also solicited student feedback about their experiences.
Her conclusion is the fact that students feel a great deal more impassioned by the literacy that is new. They love writing for an audience, engaging along with it. They feel as if they do so only to produce a grade if they’re actually producing something personally rewarding and valuable, whereas when they write a term paper, they feel as.
So Professor Lunsford is playing to student passions. Her writing class for second-year students, a necessity at Stanford, used to revolve around a paper constructed over the term that is entire. Now, the students start with writing a paper that is 15-page a particular subject in the 1st few weeks. Once that’s done, they normally use the ideas in it to build blogs, Web sites, and PowerPoint and audio and presentations that are oral. The students often find their ideas a whole lot more crystallized after expressing these with new media, she says, and then, most startling, they plead to revise their essays.
“What I’m asking myself is, ‘Will we have to maintain the 15-page paper forever or move right to this new way?’ ” she says. “Stanford’s writing program won’t be making that change straight away, since our students still appear to reap the benefits of learning simple tips to present their research findings both in traditional print and new media.”
As Professor Lunsford illustrates, choosing to educate using either blogs or term papers is one thing of a false opposition. Teachers may use both. And blogs, a platform that appears to encourage exercises that are rambling personal expression, can certainly be well crafted and meticulously researched. The debate is not a false one: while some educators fear that informal communication styles are increasing duress on traditional training, others find the actual paper fundamentally anachronistic at the same time.
“I became basically kicked out of the program that is writing thinking that was more important than writing a five-paragraph essay,” she says. “I’m not against discipline. I’m not certain that writing a essay that is five-paragraph discipline a great deal as standardization. It’s a formula, but writing that is good with formulas, and changes formulas.”
Today, she tries to keep herself grounded within the experiences of a variety of students by tutoring at a residential district college. Recently, one student she tutors was handed an assignment with prescribed sentence length and rigid structure. “I urged him to follow all the rules,” she says. “If he’d done it my way, I don’t know he’d have passed the class.
“The sad thing is, he’s now convinced there is brilliance into the art world, brilliance in the multimedia world, brilliance within the music world and that writing is boring,” Professor Davidson says. “I hated teaching him bad writing.”
Matt Richtel, a reporter at the occasions, writes often about I . t within the classroom.
a form of this short article appears in print on January 22, 2012, on Page ED28 of Education Life with the headline: Term Paper Blogging. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
We’re enthusiastic about your feedback on this page. Inform us what you think.