Writing For Design

Teaching students how to write for lay audiences.

Information

Role

  • Teaching Assistant
  • Simon Fraser University
  • Jan – Aug 2015

Tasks

  • Grading and evaluation
  • Peer-reviewing work
  • Providing feedback

Course Topics

  • Critical thinking
  • Research skills
  • Rhetorical strategies

Recognizing my interest in writing, my professor (Chantal Gibson) offered me the opportunity to TA the course for two semesters.

Since I had experienced the course as a student, I was aware which areas of the course were challenging. My goal as a TA was to be a knowledgable guide for students and help them make the conceptual leap from understanding writing as content, to understanding it as an experience.

The purpose of this course is to teach students that writing is a design process. I encouraged students to think of writing like user experience: to be clear by addressing the purpose, to be helpful by anticipating the reader’s knowledge gaps or concerns, and to be kind by using language that was inclusive. Key course outcomes were demonstrating critical thinking, developing research skills, and learning rhetorical strategies for lay audiences.

My responsibilities included reading and reviewing several short and long-format assignments, and providing students with actionable recommendations on tone, language, and structure. I met with the course professor each week to discuss the students’ overall progress, which I would then present to students during class. I also met with students on a weekly basis during my office hours to collectively look over work and create action plans.

Takeaway

As the TA, the most rewarding part of my job was in writing feedback in the margins of my students’ papers. I found the best way to provide feedback was to promote understanding of other points of view, and encourage students to be more critical of their bias in order to address areas of reader resistance.

Under Chantal Gibson’s mentorship, I learned that the process of marking is much more than checking off a rubric. Reading and reviewing work is where I learned how to be a good teacher. It is easy to write meaningless comments in the margins if you don't read between the lines of a student’s work. By deciphering their thought process, I was able to bring attention to blindspots, acknowledge where progress was made, and congratulate students on stellar compositional moments such as a great lead, a bit of colourful description—any moment that boosted my experience as a reader.

View Course Outline

IAT309w Course Outline

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