Helping students write right
By Kevin Gale
Newfoundland's Memorial University is trying to make its students' pens even mightier.
A set of 21 recommendations stemming from a study of 720 students examining how they perceive their writing went before the school's Senate Tuesday, but will be tabled until April.
The undergraduate survey found only four per cent of the students questioned rated their writing as poor and a graduate survey produced similar results.
In contrast to the student survey taken about a year ago, faculty at the university felt as many as 80 per cent of students in their classes had substandard writing, said David Thompson, chair of the Senate writing committee at Memorial.
Thompson said the recommendations call for the development of writing systems across all faculties to improve the quality of undergraduate writing during a student's time at Memorial. "Nearly everyone in the world's writing can be improved," Thompson said.
Currently, every first-year student at Memorial must take a required English course which focuses mostly on literature and does not necessarily address the issue of how to construct a logical argument in an essay, Thompson said.
"Students should write non-stop. They should write within their own discipline from the beginning of the curriculum," Thompson said. He added after first year, students who choose to major outside the liberal arts field are not subjected to enough writing in their courses.
Glenn Collins, registrar at Memorial, said he was unsure how the recommendations would affect admissions policies as they have not yet been approved by Senate and the details need to be worked out.
He added the current policy focuses on a student's ability to critically examine literature and prose, but that could change if the recommendations pass.
Western's University Students' Council VP-student issues Chris Walsh said he will distribute a survey about undergraduate writing quality to faculty tomorrow, to get their opinion on the quality of writing from students at Western. "We want to put together ideas for getting great marks on papers," Walsh said.
Also included in Western's survey is a question asking professors how they teach writing, so the USC can identify the trends and determine how to improve them, Walsh said.
He added the survey was drafted in response to a March 1996 Nordex survey, which requested student opinion on issues and USC services. It showed 92 per cent of the 306 students polled ranked the issue of quality education as very important. Walsh added writing instruction is an important part of any student's education.
Walsh said he expects to have the results of the survey by mid-April.