Saturday, November 15, 2014

Improve Student Writing with Teaching and Testing

Dr McComas Taylor, is reported to have said that some international students were "functionally illiterate" ("Higher education caught between integrity and fees", Amy

In my paper "A Green Computing Professional Education Course Online" for the 7th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (2012), I noted written reports can be difficult for students, particularly those with English as a second language. One option I considered was increasing the English Language Competency score required for enrolling students. But this would then deny students the opportunity to improve their English while undertaking a course. Instead one approach I use in teaching "ICT Sustainability" (ANU COMP7310) is to give the students small writing tasks each week. This builds their confidence. Also it allows me to build a picture of the student's writing style and makes it harder for them to have someone else write an assignment for them undetected.

In the first two weeks of the course I have the students have use formal referencing, so I can identify those who need help with this. Some students, even graduate students, don't know how to cite sources and so are at risk of being accused of plagiarism. When faced with having to write, some students withdraw from the course (without penalty), but after some extra tuition most can meet the required standard.

One useful initiative is that students of the ANU Master of Computing now have to undertake two courses in professional communications (COMP8701 & COMP8705). Rather than just have subject matter tutors in each course dealing with writing problems, it makes sense to have specialist educators teaching communication.


Worthington, T. (2012, July). A Green computing professional education course online: Designing and delivering a course in ICT sustainability using Internet and eBooks. In Computer Science & Education (ICCSE), 2012 7th International Conference on (pp. 263-266). IEEE. DOI 10.1109/ICCSE.2012.6295070

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