Essay-writing methods for students are all at sea
Staffordshire lecturer’s illustrated activity book introduces students to analyze techniques
By the time students get to university, it’s going to probably have now been a couple of years simply because they came across an activity book that is illustrated.
But Writing Essays by Pictures is not any ordinary activity book. With a theme that is nautical it casts essays as icebergs and sources as sea creatures in an innovative try to introduce first-year students towards the practice of academic research and writing.
Author Alke Grцppel-Wegener, senior lecturer in contextual studies at Staffordshire University, based the handsomely presented book on the essay-writing sessions with art and design students.
After raising nearly Ј2,000 from supporters regarding the Kickstarter crowdfunding website to fund a preliminary print run, the book was launched this week and it is hoped that wider distribution will follow.
It opens with the call for students to think about their essays as icebergs, with a focused argument “above the water” backed up by research and thinking below.
It then introduces students to reading, note-taking and critical thinking strategies, inviting them to handle practical, creative activities as you go along.
It implies that readers try drawing pictures in an attempt to demonstrate the level of engagement that texts require while they examine sources, rather than taking notes, and encourages students to walk a familiar route at a quarter of their usual speed while taking notes on what they see around them.
The book advises students to categorise sources by thinking of them as different sea creatures, and also to judge their rigour that is academic in of this depth at which they reside in the ocean.
Other suggested techniques that are learning writing poems that condense source material and creating homemade cards as reminders of texts.
Dr Grцppel-Wegener said that she had developed her utilization of analogies and activities in an effort to address, in an engaging and non-threatening way, the possible lack of confidence around academic writing that she present in first years.
“Giving students images which they might remember better, like the fish therefore the iceberg, will hopefully assist them to to keep in mind whatever they meant also to understand the explanation better,” said Dr Grцppel-Wegener, a bookmaker and printmaker by training. “I was thinking that, if it had been something students could add items to, it would not just be something which is a reference, it could be their particular plus they may wish to ensure that it stays.”
Dr Grцppel-Wegener argued that the book could prove useful across a range that is wide of.
“People who want to think visually are not merely present in arts and design,” she said. “There might be more in art and design, but I you will need to explain things for all of us and hopefully there are a lot of people who can respond to it.”
Dr Grцppel-Wegener rejected the idea that creating an action book represented “dumbing down” of academic practice, arguing in a different way”, and that better critical thinking ability would flow from stronger research skills that she was simply “framing it.
But she acknowledged that her approach will never suit every learner.
“When I am teaching, i realize that this approach does work for everybody n’t; some people don’t make use of metaphors at all,” she said. “I always use this as one option.”
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