Essay-writing tips for students are all at sea
Staffordshire lecturer’s illustrated activity book introduces students to research techniques
Because of the time students arrive at university, it will probably have already been a couple of years simply because they came across an illustrated activity book.
But Writing Essays by Pictures is not any activity book that is ordinary. With a nautical theme, it casts essays as icebergs and sources as sea creatures in a forward thinking 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 her essay-writing sessions with art and design students.
The book was launched this week and it is hoped that wider distribution will follow after raising nearly Ј2,000 from supporters on the Kickstarter crowdfunding website to fund an initial print run.
It opens aided by the call for view students to think about their essays as icebergs, with a focused argument “above the water” backed up by thinking and research below.
It then introduces students to reading, note-taking and critical thinking strategies, inviting them to undertake practical, creative activities along the way.
It suggests that readers try drawing pictures as they examine sources, in place of taking notes, and encourages students to walk a familiar route at a quarter of these usual speed while taking notes about what they see around them, in an attempt to demonstrate the amount of engagement that texts require.
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 associated with the depth of which they reside in the ocean.
Other suggested techniques that are learning writing poems that condense source material and creating greeting cards as reminders of texts.
Dr Grцppel-Wegener said that she found in first years that she had developed her use of analogies and activities as a way to address, in an engaging and non-threatening way, the lack of confidence around academic writing.
“Giving students images them to remember what they meant and to understand the explanation better,” said Dr Grцppel-Wegener, a bookmaker and printmaker by training that they might remember better, like the fish and the iceberg, will hopefully help. “I thought that, if it had been something students could add items to, it can not only be a thing that is a reference, it might be their own and so they would like to ensure that is stays.”
Dr Grцppel-Wegener argued that the book could prove useful across a range that is wide of.
“People who prefer to think visually are not only found in arts and design,” she said. “There might be more in art and design, but I make an effort to explain things for everybody and hopefully there are a great number of those who can react to it.”
Dr Grцppel-Wegener rejected the theory that creating a task 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 would not suit every learner.
“once I am teaching, i realize that this approach does work for everybody n’t; some individuals don’t make use of metaphors at all,” she said. “I always utilize this as one option.”
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