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The Meaningful Writing Project: Learning, Teaching and Writing in Higher Education

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In the face of the continuing discourse of crisis in US education, The Meaningful Writing Project offers readers an affirming story of writing in higher education that shares students’ experiences in their own voices. In presenting the results of a three-year study consisting of surveys and interviews of university seniors and their faculty across three diverse institution In the face of the continuing discourse of crisis in US education, The Meaningful Writing Project offers readers an affirming story of writing in higher education that shares students’ experiences in their own voices. In presenting the results of a three-year study consisting of surveys and interviews of university seniors and their faculty across three diverse institutions, authors Michele Eodice, Anne Ellen Geller, and Neal Lerner consider students’ perceptions of their meaningful writing experiences, the qualities of those experiences, and instructors’ perspectives on assignment design and delivery. This study confirms that meaningful assignments offer students opportunities to engage with instructors, peers, and texts and are relevant to past experiences and passions as well as to future aspirations and identities. Meaningful writing occurs across majors, in both required and elective courses, and beyond students’ years at college. Additionally, the study makes clear that faculty across the curriculum devote significant care and attention to creating writing assignments that support student learning, as they understand writing performance to be a developmental process connected to overall cognitive and social development, student engagement with learning, and success in a wide variety of disciplines and professions. The Meaningful Writing Project provides writing center directors, WPAs, other composition scholars, and all faculty interested in teaching and learning with writing an unprecedented look into the writing projects students find meaningful.


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In the face of the continuing discourse of crisis in US education, The Meaningful Writing Project offers readers an affirming story of writing in higher education that shares students’ experiences in their own voices. In presenting the results of a three-year study consisting of surveys and interviews of university seniors and their faculty across three diverse institution In the face of the continuing discourse of crisis in US education, The Meaningful Writing Project offers readers an affirming story of writing in higher education that shares students’ experiences in their own voices. In presenting the results of a three-year study consisting of surveys and interviews of university seniors and their faculty across three diverse institutions, authors Michele Eodice, Anne Ellen Geller, and Neal Lerner consider students’ perceptions of their meaningful writing experiences, the qualities of those experiences, and instructors’ perspectives on assignment design and delivery. This study confirms that meaningful assignments offer students opportunities to engage with instructors, peers, and texts and are relevant to past experiences and passions as well as to future aspirations and identities. Meaningful writing occurs across majors, in both required and elective courses, and beyond students’ years at college. Additionally, the study makes clear that faculty across the curriculum devote significant care and attention to creating writing assignments that support student learning, as they understand writing performance to be a developmental process connected to overall cognitive and social development, student engagement with learning, and success in a wide variety of disciplines and professions. The Meaningful Writing Project provides writing center directors, WPAs, other composition scholars, and all faculty interested in teaching and learning with writing an unprecedented look into the writing projects students find meaningful.

51 review for The Meaningful Writing Project: Learning, Teaching and Writing in Higher Education

  1. 5 out of 5

    Colin Cox

    The Meaningful Writing Project is a compact and thoughtful exploration of college-level writing assignments and the potency of meaningfulness as a guiding principle. This is not, however, to suggest that The Meaningful Writing Project is a collection of serviceable assignment prompts. Instead, it is about "how much more students can gain when we frame the writing activities we want them to do as expansively inviting. We (faculty, tutors, and mentors) have likely been underestimating our potentia The Meaningful Writing Project is a compact and thoughtful exploration of college-level writing assignments and the potency of meaningfulness as a guiding principle. This is not, however, to suggest that The Meaningful Writing Project is a collection of serviceable assignment prompts. Instead, it is about "how much more students can gain when we frame the writing activities we want them to do as expansively inviting. We (faculty, tutors, and mentors) have likely been underestimating our potential influence on student agency, engagement, and learning for transfer" (135). Many college-level instructors (myself included) care if our students care, especially about writing assignments. We want those assignments to be more than routine activities completed for the sole purpose of receiving a grade. According to Eodice, Geller, and Lerner, this level of engagement is possible if we remember that we "may assign that same project every semester, but to the student it is a one-time experience, and it could, with...intentionality built in, become their most meaningful writing project" (135). Another critical component of The Meaningful Writing Project is its reconfiguring of engagement as a social process instead of an exclusively individual process. Eodice, Geller, and Lerner argue, "Viewing engagement as an individual's 'sense of investment and involvement in learning'...neglects the social role of engagement or the instances in which engagement is a social process" (58). Collaborative learning certainly isn't new; peer-review workshops are a staple of many courses with a writing component. The point Eodice, Geller, and Lerner make is more complex though. By embracing engagement as a social process, students see the writing process as not the exclusive property and purview of an individual but of a collective as well. Therefore, students possess a clearer understanding of their agency as it relates to larger, ecological influences such as peers, family, and community. Eodice, Geller, and Lerner argue that "Students' engagement with instructors, peer[s], materials, and processes is intertwined with their development of agency and control of their learning" (80). Furthermore, this perception of engagement helped many students understand how "learning might transfer onto new contexts, which we saw repeatedly as students described an engagement with their future...selves" (80). For Eodice, Geller, and Lerner, student agency is the goal, but their point emphasizes how "agency now included both the personal and social" (132). On the whole, I like this book. Attempting to communicate the relevancy of your work while teaching in the Humanities is a tough sell, now more than ever (or so it seems). By talking about and building assignments at the intersection between grades and meaningful student engagement, the purpose of the Humanities essay becomes clearer.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Part of the genius of this project was its methodological orientation--instead of going on about writing projects that teachers think are neato, why not actually ask the students what projects they found meaningful? That's just what the authors did, across varying institutions and disciplines. They found that there were meaningful projects in big classes and small, required courses and capstones and in no courses at all. What mostly unites them, though, are these projects' focus on the past (stu Part of the genius of this project was its methodological orientation--instead of going on about writing projects that teachers think are neato, why not actually ask the students what projects they found meaningful? That's just what the authors did, across varying institutions and disciplines. They found that there were meaningful projects in big classes and small, required courses and capstones and in no courses at all. What mostly unites them, though, are these projects' focus on the past (students' personal connection and previous experience) and the future (application to the students' sense of their future selves). Student choice means a lot--encouraging students to delve into personal interest and to feel "invited and encouraged" (133). The meaningful projects were "holistic--not merely about content or genre or process but also about mind and body, heart and head--and to act as a kind of mirror in which students see their pasts and futures, enabling them to map those on to their writing projects to make meaning" (107). The only thing keeping this from a 5-star-er is that it was definitely written by committee, so it's not the breezy read you'd think with so many student narratives. But on the plus side, there is literally a chapter of infographics.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    A fascinating cross-institutional study that examined what students view as "meaningful" writing projects and why. I appreciated the large-scale survey and the follow-up interviews the authors conducted. And I was particularly intrigued to see how instructor responses about why their assignments were meaningful weren't always correlated with the reasons that students pointed to them as meaningful. Something those of us who create writing assignments might keep in mind. A fascinating cross-institutional study that examined what students view as "meaningful" writing projects and why. I appreciated the large-scale survey and the follow-up interviews the authors conducted. And I was particularly intrigued to see how instructor responses about why their assignments were meaningful weren't always correlated with the reasons that students pointed to them as meaningful. Something those of us who create writing assignments might keep in mind.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Curt Bobbitt

    The list of references has many valuable studies about student engagement with writing. The definition of "transfer" expands the value of the authors' conclusions about ways to use students' knowledge, skill, and experience they bring INTO composition, adding to a more conventional definition of how long skills learned in a writing assignment or class last. The list of references has many valuable studies about student engagement with writing. The definition of "transfer" expands the value of the authors' conclusions about ways to use students' knowledge, skill, and experience they bring INTO composition, adding to a more conventional definition of how long skills learned in a writing assignment or class last.

  5. 4 out of 5

    James Lang

    Very thought-provoking book which helped change the way I think about writing assignments for my students. Folks outside of composition studies might find it dense at times, but the core ideas are important enough to make it worth the effort.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sasha Gollish

    As an educator my goal is to do better. I read this book with hopes for suggestions on how to make writing in engineering more meaningful. Success. This quick read offers tips to help students find agency, engagement and transfer.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Massey

    An excellent research project on how to make writing assignments more meaningful across many different curriculums. This is the basis of how we're constructing our Learning Communities in our department as we work with other departments on campus to expand our writing instruction. An excellent research project on how to make writing assignments more meaningful across many different curriculums. This is the basis of how we're constructing our Learning Communities in our department as we work with other departments on campus to expand our writing instruction.

  8. 5 out of 5

    CATHERINE

  9. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

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    Pau

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    Scott J. Wilson

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    Emily

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    Ruth Book

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    Chris Parsons

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    Hazel

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    Kenny Smith

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    Catherine Siemann

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    King Karlié

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    Johnna Sturgeon

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    Christina

  51. 5 out of 5

    Molly

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