WPA Network for Media Action

 Newest Message Framework!

(Developed in 2011, and approved by the CWPA Executive Board)

A Note About NMA Message Frameworks

NMA message frameworks are intended as starting points for NMA members to create their own messages. These might include (but are not limited to) letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, comments for local radio or television stations, and so on. Remember: the more locally grounded your message, the more likely it is to be included in local media. Feel free to add information based on your experience, your class, and/or your writing program.

Effective Teaching Practices in General Studies Writing Classes

Working always within the context of good teaching practices generally (1), teachers of first-year college composition classes and similar general studies writing classes should seek to use the most effective teaching practices for improving student writing, according to the following key principles:

• Effective writing instruction is based on inquiry, using challenging tasks that meet student interests. Pedagogically effective student writing arises out of inquiry into questions that students can find to be compelling. (2)

• Effective writing instruction engages students in developing better individualized writing processes. Students need to learn the writing processes used by more effective writers, and they need to tailor those processes to their own needs and temperaments. (3)

• Effective instruction approaches writing as a whole and varied activity, by its nature including feedback from peers and experts, that aims to create authentically communicative results. Most isolated drills and decontextualized instruction have shown no value in improving student writing, in large part because authentic writing is always embedded in complex rhetorical situations. (4)

• Effective writing instruction helps students learn and use rhetorical concepts such as audience, purpose, context, and genre. Students should use both writing practices and analytical reading to identify and apply these concepts in a wide variety of writing situations. (5)

• Effective writing instruction begins with and builds upon the full range of textual knowledge that students bring to their educations, encouraging collaboration and technology as important tools for more effective writing and communication. Students benefit from using professional writing tools and methods in ways that connect with their own extensive experience communicating in a wide range of contexts and genres. (6)

• Effective writing instruction encourages students to reflect on their writings, using various methods such as conferences with tutors and teachers, structured review of model examples (7), portfolios (8), and students' written analyses and reflections on their own writing (9).

• Effective writing instruction uses writing as a means of exploration, critical thinking and disciplinary learning, even while helping students to understand the complicated relationship between communicative writing and writing to learn. (10)

• Effective writing instruction asks students to learn the transferrable concept of genre. Students need to practice the conventions of various genres and reflect on the conscious decisions that they are making as they use these conventions. By this means, writing instruction should help students consciously consider how they might transfer strategies across different contexts for writing, rather than simply perfect their responses within a particular and narrow setting. (11)

• Effective writing instruction trusts mainly in the proven global effect of the practices above to improve written expression. The best writing instruction approaches sentence-level concerns only through approaches with proven effectiveness, such as sentence combining, varied imitation and functional grammar, and eschews approaches that lead to less effective writing, such as direct grammar instruction. (12)

• Moreover, effective writing instruction takes place within effective programs that nurture writing ability throughout undergraduate education. Students should have upper-level writing-intensive courses in which they learn the genre expectations common to their disciplines and projected career fields. (13)

______________________________________________________________________

1. Writing teachers should ground effective teaching practices in effective general teaching and learning practices. College writing students should be offered respect, high expectations and fair assessments. Teachers should fully communicate their goals, assignments, and assessments. Learning experiences should engage all learning styles with appropriate balance. Students should be invited to attempt performances that are challenging yet feasible, guided by well-timed feedback. In all aspects of teaching, composition teachers should maintain a professional focus on student development. We have no reason to believe that the vast scholarship on teaching and learning practices generally applies differently to writing classes. Furthermore, college writing teachers should also attend to scholarship in their field. Writing teachers should connect writing with larger philosophies and theories of language, media, communication, and processes. The state of knowledge about writing instruction grows and changes rapidly, so that no teacher can responsibly avoid current scholarship.

2. Hillocks, George Jr. Research on Written Composition. Urbana: NCTE, 1986. Print.

3.National Center for Education Statistics. "Can Students Benefit from Process Writing?" NCES 96-845, NAEP-ACTS 1(3). Washington: NCES, 1996. Web. <http://nces.ed.gov/pubs96/web/96845.asp>.

4. Hillocks, Research.

5. Council of Writing Program Administrators, National Council of Teachers of English, and National Writing Project. Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing. Council of Writing Program Administrators, 2011. Web. <http://wpacouncil.org/files/framework-for-success-postsecondary-writing.....

6. Goldberg, Amie, Michael Russell, and Abigail Cook. "The Effect of Computers on Student Writing: A Meta-Analysis of Studies from 1992 to 2002." Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment 2.1 (2003): 1-51. Print.

7. Hillocks, Research.

8. Greenwald, Elissa A., Hilary R. Persky, Jay R. Campbell, and John Mazzeo. The NAEP 1998 Writing Report Card for the Nation and the States. NCES, 1999. Web. <http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/main1998/ 1999462.pdf>.

9. Yancey, Kathleen Blake. Reflection in the Writing Classroom. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1998. Print.

10. Langer, Judith A., and Arthur N. Appleby. How Writing Shapes Thinking: A Study of Teaching and Learning. Urbana: NCTE, 1987. Print.

11. Devitt, Amy. Writing Genres. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2004. Print.

12. Weaver, Constance. Teaching Grammar in Context. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1996. Print. See also, Hillocks, Research.

13. National Research Council. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington: National Academy Press, 2000. Print.

 

 

Tired of headlines such as these?

Universities' Dirty Secret: Post-Secondary Institutions Dumbing Down First-Year Courses Times Colonist (Victoria, B.C.)

New SAT Question: Can Johnny Write? Hartford Courant (Hartford, CT)

Copy & Paste; Internet Makes Plagiarism Easier The Ledger (Lakeland, FL)

 

Join the WPA Network for Media Action and work to change them!

Discussions like the ones that start with these headlines take place every day in the form of news stories, editorials, features, and letters to the editor. Whether they're framed as success stories with a small focus--a great class, a successful project--or more problematic stories with a bigger focus – plagiarism, perceived problems with writing in school or the workplace – these discussions often happen without the voices of literacy educators like WPA members.

The WPA-NMA provides tips on how to begin entering the conversation about them on your campus and/or in your community.

Subscribe to the NMA Listserv

 

Through the WPA-NMA, you can:

 

Participate in the National Conversation on Writing (NCoW)

 Learn more about WPA-NMA's initiative, The National Conversation on Writing (NCoW).
The National Conversation on Writing is an effort to gather person-by-person accounts of peoples' everyday experiences with writing.
Follow the link above to:

  • Learn how you can contribute
  • See videos, including "Who is a Writer?: What Writers Tell Us" (with interviews by WPAs, writing instructors, and students around the country)
  • Listen to audio recordings
  • Read transcriptions
  • See what's going on elsewhere

 New NCoW site:  http://teach4learning.org/ncow.org/site/index.htm

 


 

Respond to or initiate stories about writers and writing using NMA issue frameworks

NMA issue frameworks contain position statements developed by experts and approved by the WPA Executive Board, links to additional resources, and tips on framing your message for media audiences. With them you can:

  • Write a letter, op-ed column or feature story responding to a hot issue
     
  • Develop stories to attract interest in a (different) way of framing writers and writing

 

 

 

Current NMA Campaigns and Message Frameworks

 

Plagiarism
Plagiarism can be avoided when classes are well planned, students are engaged in assignments, and instructors provide frequent feedback on student work. Check out the Plagiarism resources page to learn more.

SAT/ACT Writing Exams
Successful writing requires drafting, revising, and editing. The new writing component of the SAT/ACT exams do not allow for these activities. Instead, students are expected to respond to a question in 25 or 30 minutes and one, handwritten, draft. While we applaud inclusion of writing in the exams, students will not use the approach to writing that is the hallmark of success for these tests.

Because the exams include a one-draft sample, written quickly, it also is inappropriate to use these samples for placement in college writing courses. They do not reflect the process used in real writing situations of drafting, revising, and editing and do not reflect the test taker’s ability to produce writing under real-world circumstances. Check out the SAT/ACT resources page to learn more.

 

Machine Scoring
Computers cannot evaluate writing. They cannot be programmed to evaluate the ideas in a piece of writing; they cannot understand the tone, style, or context for a piece of writing. Machine-scored writing supports an emphasis within writing on how effectively a piece of writing mimics a template, rather than on the effectiveness of conscious choices made by a real writer to represent her or his ideas about an issue. Check out the Machine Scoring resources page to learn more.

Grammar and Mechanics
Effective writing is free of surface errors. Typically, people use the term “grammar” to refer to these errors, but it is more precise to refer to the different kinds of errors that frequently appear in writing such as errors of punctuation, sentence construction, or usage.

Direct work on these important aspects of writing is most successfully done at the end of a writing process that involves invention, drafting, revision, and editing. However, writers develop skills to address them through the process of writing and reading that ask them to acquire fluency so that it becomes a habit of mind, not just knowledge of rules.

Studies of writing conclude that there is no evidence that the constant and comprehensive study of traditional grammar rules helps improve student writing. Understanding the rules of a language by studying it in context – that is, within a body of writing – can help all writers make conscious and critical choices, especially during the editing stage. Check out the Grammar and Mechanics resources page to learn more.

Citizenship and Writing Courses
The language abilities taught in college composition courses are essential for active citizenship. Careful reading and research helps students to stay informed. Critical thinking skills help students to better understand what is at issue in civic debates. The Citizenship and Writing Courses page has additional language and information.

 

Want to Become Part of the NMA?

The NMA needs you! If you want to change the discussion, or if you're already changing it through your work, please let others know. Join the NMA Listserv

If you have questions about the WPA-NMA, contact the NMA coordinator.

Roles in the Network for Media Action

The NMA consists of members who volunteer in a few roles. An hour a month or an hour a week, we need you! To volunteer for any of the roles below, contact the role coordinator, who will be in touch with you soon.

Monitors
Media monitors survey local newspapers, radio, television, and magazines for stories related to students and writing and reading instruction at the college level. When monitors identify relevant stories, they post information about the stories to the Media Update Forum, where responders can locate it and act.

Responders
Responders monitor the Media Update section of the NMA and write letters to the editor, opinion-editorial (op-ed) pieces, or position statements about the issues posted there. Ideally, responders are located in the same communities as the monitors, so that responses are always locally based.

Editorial Board Campaigners
Editorial boards are responsible for writing the editorials that appear in newspapers every day. The subjects of these editorials are often suggested and/or shaped by experts (like NMA members) who meet with the boards and outline the relevance and immediacy of various issues. Editorial board campaigners would lobby for meetings with the boards of their local newspapers on literacy-related issues.

Archivists
Archivists monitor discussions about college-level writing, reading, and/or students on professional listservs like WPA-L, Rhet-L, and CBW-L. They then compile subject indexes on these discussions which then become a resource for responders.

Professional Resource Compilers
Professional resource compilers gather and post professional, scholarly resources on NMA focus issues to present concise, clearly articulated positions and valid, credible academic research on hot topics that often need quick data (like class sizes, the use of ACT/SAT writing exam scores for placement, machine scoring, and others). The forum, Professional Resources on NMA Focus Issues, serves this purpose.

Writing Tips - News Releases, Op-Eds, Letters, and More

Some Tips for Taking Action

  • Act on issues, not problems.

    As academics, we're trained to think about the "big picture"--to analyze at high levels of abstraction and make broad connections. But it's hard to take action on "big issues."

    Instead, think smaller. Cut issues from problems. An issue is something manageable, a smaller piece of a bigger problem, that you can address through one action or a series of actions.

    Misguided perceptions of writers and writing is a problem.

    Unfair placement tests is an issue.

    Problematic assumptions about students' abilities is a problem.

    Curriculum in a basic writing courses is an issue.


    Plagiarism policy is an issue.

    Imposition of curriculum is an issue.

    Assessment methods is an issue.

    Issues are things you can develop immediate strategies to affect.

  • Change, don't negate, the frame...
    or Affirm and turn.


    Frames are conceptual schema through which people make sense of what they see. Narratives are formed through frames, and things that are outside of the frame seem outlandish, unrealistic, or impossible.

    To change the conversation about writing and writers, we need to change the frame. Linguist George Lakoff reminds us: if you only negate a frame -- that is, you say, "X is not the case!" you reinforce the frame of "X" because you are not putting another, more valid, frame in X's place.

    For example:

    The charge: "Students plagiarize all the time, and the internet only makes it easier for them to do it."

    Reinforcing the frame: "Some students may plagiarize, but . . .
    "Students don't actually plagiarize . . .

    Changing the frame: "It's true that students have access to more information and can access that information more quickly than ever before [affirm]. That's why, in our writing classes, we . . . [turn].


    Affirm and turn.

  • Take advantage of terrific available resources


  • The SPIN project has terrific tutorials on
    developing relationships with reporters and writing news releases. Their piece American Opportunity: A Communications Toolkit has great tips on writing letters to the editor and op-ed pieces.

    FAIR's Media Activist Kit has information on everything from detecting bias to writing op-ed pieces and letters to the editor.

    Petition Online is an easy way to create on-line petitions.

    NMA Campaign Issue: SAT/ACT Writing Exam

    A Note About NMA Message Frameworks
    NMA message frameworks are intended as starting points for NMA members to create their own messages. These might include (but are not limited to) letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, comments for local radio or television stations, and so on. Remember: the more locally grounded your message, the more likely it is to be included in local media. Feel free to add information based on your experience, your class, and/or your writing program.

    NMA Message Framework - Structure and Approach to the SAT/ACT Writing Exam

    We applaud the inclusion of writing in the revised SAT and ACT exams. However, the structure of the current exam emphasizes superficial fluency at the expense of thoughtfulness and depth that is important for success in college and beyond.

    Successful writing requires drafting, revising, and editing. The new writing component of the SAT/ACT exams do not allow for these activities. Instead, the exam consists of a writing section where students are expected to respond to a question in 25 or 30 minutes and one, handwritten, draft. (Both exams also include a multiple-choice section focusing on conventions of punctuation and mechanics.) Students will not use strategies that are essential for successful writing for either section of these tests.

    The structure of these exams also does not reflect qualities that lead students to become successful writers. Good writers are flexible. They understand that definitions of "good writing," from content to style to tone to use of punctuation, depend on the context and audience for the writing. They know how to assess the expectations of different audiences, make conscious decisions about how best to meet those expectations, and draw on a range of writing strategies with which to do so.

    Rather than helping students develop the ability to analyze expectations of a variety of audiences, develop flexible writing strategies from which to draw to meet those expectations, and make conscious decisions about which strategies to employ, these exams require students to produce a particular kind of writing under highly controlled circumstances. They are to write about specific questions in specific ways, even on specific paper provided to them in the exam. Their performance in these highly controlled circumstances does not reflect the work done by real writers, who must make decisions about their ideas and presentation on a regular basis.

    Resources for Learning More about the Limits of the ACT/SAT Writing Exams

    Tips for Attracting Attention of Local Media

    • See below

    NMA Message Framework - Use of the SAT/ACT Writing Exams for Placement in First-Year Writing Courses

    The SAT and ACT exams ask students to produce a “first draft” piece of writing in response to a specific prompt in 25 or 30 minutes. Even though the test firms do not propose using this test for placement into college courses, it is likely that many institutions will be tempted to use it for that purpose. Yet, the current design and execution of these exams makes them invalid and unreliable measures of students' writing abilities.

    Because the exams include a one-draft sample, written quickly, and a multiple-choice grammar test, it is inappropriate to use these samples for placement in college writing courses. They do not reflect the process used in real writing situations of drafting, revising, and editing and do not reflect the test taker's real writing abilities.

    Research, including research done by the College Board itself, has long shown that a single piece of writing is not a reliable indicator of a writer's real abilities. The first such study, in 1953, showed that 58% of Michigan State University students significantly changed their score on writing a second essay one day after the first. A fifth of the lowest quartile rose from the bottom with their second essay, and about half of the highest quartile fell from the top. Other studies have reinforced the unreliable nature of "one-shot" and multiple-choice. The testing firms seek to enhance the reliability of the writing test by combining the impromptu essay score with a score derived from various multiple-choice items, which have long been shown to have strong correlations with parent incoming and student social class and ethnic status. This combination of an unreliable essay score with an invalid multiple-choice score cannot produce meaningful results.

    Although the intention of these tests is to emphasize the importance of writing, the reverse has happened: the intention has been undercut by the inadequacies of the tests' present design. It is thus inappropriate to use them for any measure of a students' writing ability, whether before college or once enrolled.

    Resources for Learning More about the Use of SAT/ACT Writing Exams for Placement

    • "Taking Issue" - essays for and against the SAT by college and testing professionals (from NPR.org)

    Tips for Attracting Attention of Local Media

    • Act locally
    You are more likely to receive a hearing if the target for your media action is local -- campus and/or local newspapers, local public radio stations, even local television network. Local media are interested in local stories.

    Write what's most likely to get you heard, at least initially. In newspapers, letters to the editor and/or opinion-editorial (op-ed) pieces are most likely to be published. Issues like those in the NMA frameworks are current and timely.

    Take advantage of existing stories. It's often easier to advance a position with it's put in the context of something already determined to be newsworthy.

    Choose a local story to tell. Media outlets like details -- about programs, students, and/or classes. Choose a story in which to ground your message and make it lively.

    • Be concise and don't overcomplicate
    Writing and reading practices are complicated. When communicating with audiences outside of academe, make your case in the most clear and straightforward way possible. Avoid jargon and use clear, simple language. The NMA message frameworks are intended to help.

    Use the five Ws for your information (who, what, when, where, and why)

    Be honest and accurate. Understate your case. It is better to set reasonable expectations and then exceed them to promise more than you can deliver.

    If you are targeting radio and/or television reporters (or outlets), practice your responses before your interview. Choose key points to make, but be spontaneous in your discussions. Make sure you don't sound rehearsed.

    • Know your target

    Read newspapers, watch the television programs and listen to the radio programs you are interested in having cover issues or events that you are working on. You need to be familiar with their approach(es). You also need to use the conventions that they use for your responses.

    Understand the news planning process Find out deadlines and decision makers at news media organizations. Who assigns stories? What factors impact what gets covered? When are deadlines?

    Evaluate advertising. What audience is the publication or program trying to reach? Pitch stories that target a similar audience.

    • Become a resource

    Develop relationships with reports who cover your issue(s). What are they interested in? What do they want to write about?

    Be reliable. If reporters call you, return their calls as soon as possible.

    Don't overreach. If you don't know the answer to a question, say "I don't know" rather than coming up with something you aren't sure about.

    Know your opposition. Be ready and able to help reporters with alternative perspectives or stories that may not involve you or your organization so that they'll return to you as a regular source.



    *This position framework was developed in consultation with Ed White. Media tips are based on and include material from Stone's Throw Strategic Communication, Manhattan Beach, CA
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    NMA Campaign Issue: Plagiarism

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    A Note About NMA Message Frameworks
    NMA message frameworks are intended as starting points for NMA members to create their own messages. These might include (but are not limited to) letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, comments for local radio or television stations, and so on. Remember: the more locally grounded your message, the more likely it is to be included in local media. Feel free to add information based on your experience, your class, and/or your writing program.

    NMA Message Framework - Plagiarism

    Note: This framework is based on (and uses material from) the WPA statement on plagiarism, Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices. Media messages based on this framework should acknowledge the WPA statement as their source.

    In an instructional setting, plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else"s language, ideas, or other original (not common knowledge) material without acknowledging its source.

    Most current definitions of plagiarism fail to distinguish between plagiarism and misuse of sources. Plagiarism consists of submitting someone else"s text as one"s own or attempting to blur the line between one"s own ideas or words and borrowing them from another source. Misuse of sources consists of carelessly or inadequately citing ideas and words borrowed from another source.

    Intentional plagiarism is dishonest and unethical; it is wrong. Students who are aware that their actions constitute plagiarism -- for example, copying published information into a paper without attributing that source for the purpose of claiming that information as their own, or turning in material written by someone else -- are guilty of academic misconduct.

    Plagiarism can be deterred or avoided through attention to students and writing throughout a class. When assignments are generic and not classroom-specific, when there is no instruction on plagiarism and appropriate source attribution, and when students do not work through a process of writing and revising that is guided by feedback from instructors and classmates, teachers often find themselves in the adversarial role of "plagiarism police" instead of a coaching role as educators. Just as students must live up to their responsibility to behave ethically and honestly as learners, teachers must recognize that they can most effectively encourage and discourage plagiarism by structuring assignments and processes that help students define and gain interest in topics developed for papers and projects.

    Resources for More Learning about the Perceived Threat of Plagiarism

    Tips for Attracting Attention of Local Media

    • Template Statement on Plagiarism (for adapting to local contexts) in Word or PDF format.
    • Sample of how the template statement was adapted for use at Eastern Michigan University (PDF format; see below also.)
      • Act locally

      You are more likely to receive a hearing if the target for your media action is local -- campus and/or local newspapers, local public radio stations, even local television network. Local media are interested in local stories.

      Write what"s most likely to get you heard, at least initially. In newspapers, letters to the editor and/or opinion-editorial (op-ed) pieces are most likely to be published. Issues like those in the NMA frameworks are current and timely.

      Take advantage of existing stories. It"s often easier to advance a position with it"s put in the context of something already determined to be newsworthy.

      Choose a local story to tell. Media outlets like details -- about programs, students, and/or classes. Choose a story in which to ground your message and make it lively.

      • Be concise and don"t overcomplicate

      Writing and reading practices are complicated. When communicating with audiences outside of academe, make your case in the most clear and straightforward way possible. Avoid jargon and use clear, simple language. The NMA message frameworks are intended to help.

      Use the five Ws for your information (who, what, when, where, and why)

      Be honest and accurate. Understate your case. It is better to set reasonable expectations and then exceed them to promise more than you can deliver.

      If you are targeting radio and/or television reporters (or outlets), practice your responses before your interview. Choose key points to make, but be spontaneous in your discussions. Make sure you don"t sound rehearsed.

      • Know your target

      Read newspapers, watch the television programs and listen to the radio programs you are interested in having cover issues or events that you are working on. You need to be familiar with their approach(es). You also need to use the conventions that they use for your responses.

      Understand the news planning process Find out deadlines and decision makers at news media organizations. Who assigns stories? What factors impact what gets covered? When are deadlines?

      Evaluate advertising. What audience is the publication or program trying to reach? Pitch stories that target a similar audience.

      • Become a resource

      Develop relationships with reports who cover your issue(s). What are they interested in? What do they want to write about?

      Be reliable. If reporters call you, return their calls as soon as possible.

      Don"t overreach. If you don"t know the answer to a question, say "I don"t know" rather than coming up with something you aren"t sure about.

      Know your opposition. Be ready and able to help reporters with alternative perspectives or stories that may not involve you or your organization so that they"ll return to you as a regular source.

      Media tips are based on and include material from Stone's Throw Strategic Communication, Manhattan Beach, CA

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    NMA Campaign Issue: Machine Scoring of Writing

    A Note About NMA Message Frameworks
    NMA message frameworks are intended as starting points for NMA members to create their own messages. These might include (but are not limited to) letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, comments for local radio or television stations, and so on. Remember: the more locally grounded your message, the more likely it is to be included in local media. Feel free to add information based on your experience, your class, and/or your writing program.

     

    NMA Message Framework - Machine Scoring

    Computers cannot evaluate writing in the same way or as well as humans can. Computers score writing based on algorithms. These algorithms are of two basic types: 1) formulas that evaluate grammar and style like a typical word processor checks grammar and style, and 2) sets of word-matching and spatial relationship formulas. Current software cannot understand the contextualized meaning of a piece of writing. Machine-scoring emphasizes how effectively a piece of writing corresponds to a template; it does not allow us to judge how an effective writer composes his or her ideas about a topic for a real audience.

    Computers make it easier for students to research, compose, and communicate with others. Software that connects student writers to one another and encourages multimodal (multimedia) composing activities is valuable for these purposes.

    However, some testing and software companies are attempting to use computers for other purposes that will not help students develop as writers. These companies claim that they have developed software to make the teaching of writing easier by helping teachers find and correct errors in student writing. These programs are little more than grammar and style checkers that are part of almost every word processing program. A few of these companies claim that their scoring machines can understand the meaning of student writing.

    Unfortunately, these programs can only understand a limited kind of "meaning" in brief responses (of between 350-500 words) about very specific questions with pre-determined answers. They cannot evaluate the kind of analytic, exploratory writing associated with higher order, critical thinking skills that are required for success in school and beyond. Additionally, these programs are not yet able to understand the style, tone, or context for a piece of writing; and they do not help writers develop their analyses of audiences or make conscious decisions about their writing. These are limited tools, not complete answers to the difficulties of developing effective composing skills.

    Effective writers analyze the audience for a written text and the purpose(s) for composing it, synthesize initial ideas on the topic and those garnered from research, and organize intentions and content in a meaningful way. Student writers learn the complexities of writing through a social process of receiving feedback from their teacher, their peers, and other communities of learners.

    Effective writers also understand that they must make conscious decisions about the form, style, and content of their writing for different audiences. Machines do not yet come close to recognizing how these sophisticated decisions are made and thus cannot effectively assess or rate most writing. Machine scoring software can only understand one audience: a generic 'grader' encoded into the software. When writing to this generic 'grader,' writers do not need to consider the complexities of communicating to different audiences for differing purposes.

    The value of computer technologies for developing student writers is their potential as media through which students communicate. When students are communicating multiple complex ideas by composing with computers, they may benefit from using software as a tool to help with revision and editing. However, the use of software as a tool during revision and editing, does not mean that software can replace a human reader. When software is seen both as a medium to communicate among students and teachers and as a tool to help with revision and editing, it strengthens writing instruction. When software is treated as the only, or most important, reader of student writing, it degrades the importance of effective communication skills.

    Writing is about conveying ideas, not filling in a template.

    Resources for Learning About Machine Scoring

     

     

     

    Tips for Attracting Attention of Local Media

    • In development

     

    This position statement developed by Patricia Ericsson and Carl Whithaus

    Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

    NMA Campaign Issue: Grammar and Mechanics

    A Note About NMA Message Frameworks

    NMA message frameworks are intended as starting points for NMA members to create their own messages. These might include (but are not limited to) letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, comments for local radio or television stations, and so on. Remember: the more locally grounded your message, the more likely it is to be included in local media. Feel free to add information based on your experience, your class, and/or your writing program.


    NMA Message Framework - Grammar and Mechanics

    Effective writing is free of surface errors. Typically, people use the term "grammar" to refer to these errors.

    What is "grammar"? For language professionals like writing teachers and linguists, "grammar" refers to the structure of a language; all languages have grammars. Sometimes, grammar, usage, and mechanics are conflated, but they are not the same thing. For this reason, it is more precise to refer to the different kinds of errors that frequently appear in writing. For example, writers make:

    • Errors of punctuation (such as run-on sentences--also sometimes called comma splices); these are errors of mechanics.
    • Errors in constructing sentences (such as using inappropriate syntax); these are errors of grammar.
    • Errors of usage (such as use of inappropriate words).

    Work on these important aspects of writing is most successfully tackled at the end of a writing process that involves invention, drafting, revising, and editing. However, writers are developing the skills to address these problems throughout their entire writing processes.

    To help students successfully recognize and correct surface errors, five elements need to be present.

      1. Students must learn what is appropriate for different kinds of writing. Some sentences-- like run-on or incomplete sentences-- would be seen as errors in a formal essay or business letter, but might not be in a piece of fiction. Students need to learn that many rules depend on the kind writing they are working on.

      2. Students must work on grammar and usage issues in the context of their own writing, not worksheets or drilling exercises.

      3. Students need to know how to identify and solve particular usage problems they have.

      4. Students need time to work on error correction (that is, time for revision and editing).

      5. Most importantly, students need the motivation to spend the time. When students write about things they care about for readers who are eager to read what they have written, motivation comes easily.

    Writing instructors reinforce correctness and appropriateness in almost all aspects of the writing classroom: frequent reading and writing activities, attentive listening and participation in class discussions, paper revision, and editing. In addition, typical activities in writing classes include analysis of the form of a piece of writing and choices made by writers (including their own). When students participate in the activities of writing classes, they are working both consciously and unconsciously on acquiring fluency in writing so that it becomes part of a habit of mind, not just a knowledge of rules.

    Studies of writing conclude that there is no evidence that the constant and comprehensive study of traditional grammar rules helps improve student writing. In fact, some studies indicate that a heavy emphasis on mechanics and usage (including marking every error by a teacher) results in a decline in overall quality. Students for whom English is not their home language, for example, are frequently asked to engage in grammar and mechanics exercises. However, real fluency comes when they use the language in reading, writing and conversational activities with others. Understanding the rules of a language by studying it in context-- that is, within a body of writing-- can help all writers make conscious and critical choices, especially during the editing stage. Ironically, the more fluent a writer is, the more valuable it is to learn grammatical rules. In other words, instruction that makes specific reference to rules is most useful to the best writers.

    When students do make errors of grammar, including punctuation and usage, these often come from lack of experience with particular kinds of writing with which students may be unfamiliar. At other times, novice writers may be unable to make proper distinctions between their spoken language and the writing that is appropriate in school and the workplace.

    In any writing situation, writers have to juggle a variety of considerations at once. These include analyzing the expectations of their audience(s); organizing and developing appropriate ideas; marshalling evidence for their claims; incorporating their ideas into the ideas of others coherently and consistently; and using syntax and punctuation that is appropriate for the writing situation. For expert writers, some of these activities are automatic (usage and style conventions, for example), reducing the complexity and difficulty of the juggling act. It is natural, then, that as the writing task becomes more difficult, novice writers may make more errors in areas that are not yet automatic (in grammar and style).

    Resources for More Learning about Grammar and Mechanics

  • Tips for Attracting Attention of Local Media

    • Act locally

    You are more likely to receive a hearing if the target for your media action is local-- campus and/or local newspapers, local public radio stations, even local television network. Local media are interested in local stories.

    Write what's most likely to get you heard, at least initially. In newspapers, letters to the editor and/or opinion-editorial (op-ed) pieces are most likely to be published. Issues like those in the NMA frameworks are current and timely.

    Take advantage of existing stories. It's often easier to advance a position with it's put in the context of something already determined to be newsworthy.

    Choose a local story to tell. Media outlets like details-- about programs, students, and/or classes. Choose a story in which to ground your message and make it lively.

    • Be concise and don't overcomplicate

    Writing and reading practices are complicated. When communicating with audiences outside of academe, make your case in the most clear and straightforward way possible. Avoid jargon and use clear, simple language. The NMA message frameworks are intended to help.

    Use the five Ws for your information (who, what, when, where, and why)

    Be honest and accurate. Understate your case. It is better to set reasonable expectations and then exceed them to promise more than you can deliver.

    If you are targeting radio and/or television reporters (or outlets), practice your responses before your interview. Choose key points to make, but be spontaneous in your discussions. Make sure you don't sound rehearsed.

    • Know your target

    Read newspapers, watch the television programs and listen to the radio programs you are interested in having cover issues or events that you are working on. You need to be familiar with their approach(es). You also need to use the conventions that they use for your responses.

    Understand the news planning process
    Find out deadlines and decision makers at news media organizations. Who assigns stories? What factors impact what gets covered? When are deadlines?

    Evaluate advertising. What audience is the publication or program trying to reach? Pitch stories that target a similar audience.

    • Become a resource

    Develop relationships with reports who cover your issue(s). What are they interested in? What do they want to write about?

    Be reliable. If reporters call you, return their calls as soon as possible.

    Don't overreach. If you don't know the answer to a question, say "I don't know" rather than coming up with something you aren't sure about.

    Know your opposition. Be ready and able to help reporters with alternative perspectives or stories that may not involve you or your organization so that they'll return to you as a regular source.

    This framework was developed by Darsie Bowden. Media tips are based on and include material from Stone's Throw Strategic Communication, Manhattan Beach, CA

    Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

    NMA Campaign Issue: Citizenship and Writing Courses

    NMA message frameworks are intended as starting points for NMA members to create their own messages. These might include (but are not limited to) letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, comments for local radio or television stations, and so on. Remember: the more locally grounded your message, the more likely it is to be included in local media. Feel free to add information based on your experience, your class, and/or your writing program.

    NMA Message Framework: Citizenship and Writing Courses

    The language abilities taught in college composition courses are essential for active citizenship. Careful reading and research helps students to stay informed. Critical thinking skills help students to better understand what is at issue in civic debates. Moreover, learning how to compose effective arguments gives students the ability--and confidence--to enter into those debates with writing of their own.

    Helping students to be more capable citizens is among the most important reasons for teaching writing. This is especially important now, as America's youth are becoming increasingly detached from politics and government. Among 15-25 year olds,

    • Only 46% say they can make a difference in solving community problems (and 52% think that they can make little or no difference).
    • 71% believe candidates would rather talk to older, wealthier people rather than to them.

    These attitudes are troubling because a healthy democracy requires an ongoing conversation among all its citizens; when such a large number of our youth feel disconnected from that conversation, something is clearly wrong.

    Writing programs can help alleviate this problem. Many college composition programs, as well as a much of the research done by composition experts, treat writing as an essential element of good citizenship. Learning to express effectively one's views in writing is crucial to being an engaged citizen--that is, one ready and willing to enter into civic conversations.

    Further, the content of many writing courses helps to create more informed citizens. A survey of writing textbooks and curricula reveals that much of the reading and the writing done in composition courses focuses upon current civic issues, ethical uses of language, and problem-solving techniques. However, whatever the content, learning to read carefully and critically always helps students to become more aware citizens, while the writing they do in response helps them to form positions that are well-reasoned, considerate of other citizens' views, and written in well-crafted prose.
    Simply stated, good writing skills are good citizenship skills.

    Statistics from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

    Resources for Learning More about Citizenship and Writing Courses

  • Coming soon
  • Tips for Attracting Attention of Local Media

    • Act locally

    You are more likely to receive a hearing if the target for your media action is local -- campus and/or local newspapers, local public radio stations, even local television network. Local media are interested in local stories.

    Write what's most likely to get you heard, at least initially. In newspapers, letters to the editor and/or opinion-editorial (op-ed) pieces are most likely to be published. Issues like those in the NMA frameworks are current and timely.

    Take advantage of existing stories. It's often easier to advance a position with it's put in the context of something already determined to be newsworthy.

    Choose a local story to tell. Media outlets like details -- about programs, students, and/or classes. Choose a story in which to ground your message and make it lively.

    • Be concise and don't overcomplicate

    Writing and reading practices are complicated. When communicating with audiences outside of academe, make your case in the most clear and straightforward way possible. Avoid jargon and use clear, simple language. The NMA message frameworks are intended to help.

    Use the five Ws for your information (who, what, when, where, and why)

    Be honest and accurate. Understate your case. It is better to set reasonable expectations and then exceed them to promise more than you can deliver.

    If you are targeting radio and/or television reporters (or outlets), practice your responses before your interview. Choose key points to make, but be spontaneous in your discussions. Make sure you don't sound rehearsed.

    • Know your target

    Read newspapers, watch the television programs and listen to the radio programs you are interested in having cover issues or events that you are working on. You need to be familiar with their approach(es). You also need to use the conventions that they use for your responses.

    Understand the news planning process
    Find out deadlines and decision makers at news media organizations. Who assigns stories? What factors impact what gets covered? When are deadlines?

    Evaluate advertising. What audience is the publication or program trying to reach? Pitch stories that target a similar audience.

    • Become a resource

    Develop relationships with reports who cover your issue(s). What are they interested in? What do they want to write about?

    Be reliable. If reporters call you, return their calls as soon as possible.

    Don't overreach. If you don't know the answer to a question, say "I don't know" rather than coming up with something you aren't sure about.

    Know your opposition. Be ready and able to help reporters with alternative perspectives or stories that may not involve you or your organization so that they'll return to you as a regular source.



    *This position framework was developed by Dominic Delli Carpini. Media tips are based on and include material from Stone's Throw Strategic Communication, Manhattan Beach, CA
    Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

    General Tips and Strategies

    The Network for Media Action site includes tips and strategies for publicizing, promoting, and assessing content that serves the interests of writing program administrators.

    Public Service Announcements: Literacy and Writing

    PSA on LiteracyWith the media resources that some universities have, and taking advantage of some of the expertise that WPAs, instructors, and especially students have, public service announcements (PSAs) can be both creative outlets (and nice talking points) AND relatively cheap to make. Since many of the major television networks (and some cable networks) have obligations to air a certain number of them per year, PSAs have a market, and hence, the potential to reach a broad audience. Further, making use of multimedia or film media can increase the power of the message we have to convey, giving us a nice opportunity to be pro-active rather than reactive (though reaction works well, too!).

    These PSAs were produced by Darsie Bowden and Pete Vandenberg of DePaul University and are offered here as example PSAs, for airing or emulating. If you want to create PSAs and and share them here, please contact the NMA Coordinator or Shirley Rose (WPA President)

    You'll need the RealPlayer and a broadband connection to watch these PSAs:

    Literacy: http://smedia.depaul.edu/pvandenb/train1.rm

    View the Writing PSA

    Writing: http://smedia.depaul.edu/pvandenb/water1.rm