Designing writing and skills into the first year curriculum

The School of History has long recognised the need to support its beginning students' transition into university level thinking and writing in the discipline and Thinking Writing has been involved in several of its evolving initiatives. What began as a series of workshops led by PhD students in the first six weeks of Semester 1 developed into the more formal, compulsory (but still only 6 weeks long) 'Making History' course.   Designed by Thomas Dixon, the course had introductory lectures from key academics and weekly seminars also led by academics from the School. It contained many engaging exercises - and won a Draper's prize for Developments in Teaching and Learning. However there was still concern in the School - and amongst the students - that the course was not credit-bearing, was relatively thin on disciplinary content and was therefore not fully integrated with the core business of studying in the discipline (a persistent problem with 'skills' courses). More recently the School has developed a full credit-bearing module - 'History in Practice' - as part of its first year curriculum. Read the rationale for History in Practice.

Inspired by the Writing Retreat approach the module contains a writing workshop to set students up for writing an essay over the vacation. 

Working with the writing tutor

Like the School of English and Drama and the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film,  History designates one of its academic staff as 'Writing Tutor', giving the responsibility for developing and coordinating a range of activities in this area - and creating a clear point of contact for Thinking Writing and other learning development providers in the College. For example, workshops on essay writing modelled by Stacie Withers, Learning Development Advisor, are now run by the School and regularly attract groups of 15-25 students. In addition, Writing Retreats for final year undergraduates working on their dissertations are now an established collaboration between Learning Development and the School. Jo Cohen is the main History Writing tutor, but in the first half of 2013, whilst she is on sabbatical, Ian Stewart is taking up the reins. 

Putting together a research-based learning module 

Dan Todman's third year (level 6) module 'Exhibiting the First World War' was developed as part of Thinking Writing's Research-based Learning and Writing project. It involves students in original archival research leading via an 'inheritance mechanism' to eventual publication. 

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