Don’t (just) Write for your Teacher

Want students to write better? Have more clear organization and forceful arguments? Want them to proofread more carefully?

Have them write for an audience:

“When students were asked to write for a real audience in another country, their essays had better organization and content than when they were writing for their teacher. When asked to contribute to a wiki—a space that’s highly public and where the audience can respond by deleting or changing your words—college students snapped to attention, carefully checking sources and including more of them to back up their work. Brenna Clarke Gray, an instructor at Douglas College in British Columbia, had her English students create Wikipedia entries on Canadian writers, to see if it would get them to take the assignment more seriously. She was stunned at how well it worked. “Often they’re handing in these essays without any citations, but with Wikipedia they suddenly were staying up till 2 am, honing and rewriting the entries and carefully sourcing everything,” she tells me. The reason, the students explained to her, was that their audience—the Wikipedia community—was quite gimlet-eyed and critical. They were harder “graders” than Gray herself.
Interestingly, the audience effect doesn’t necessarily require a big audience. This seems particularly true online.
Many people have told me that they feel the dynamic kick in with even a tiny handful of viewers. I’d argue that the cognitive shift in going from an audience of zero (talking to yourself) to an audience of 10 (a few friends or random strangers checking out your online post) is so big that it’s actually huger than going from 10 people to a million.”

This is why my students blog.  

Read the entire article on Wired.

What are other ways we can provide students an audience and help improve their writing?
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