In The Six Academic Writing Assignments, author Jim Burke aims to help better understand that nature of the academic writing assignments we give our students through the examination of these six different types of assignments we already give in one form or another, and to discuss how we might improve upon what we already do by thinking of them through the principles of design thinking, which are generally broken up into the following stages:
Empathize Work to fully understand the experience of the user for whom you are designing. Do this through observation, interaction, and immersing yourself in their experience.
Define Process and synthesize the findings from you empathy work in order to form a user point of view that you will address with your design.
Ideate Explore a wide variety of possible solutions through generating a large quantity of diverse possible solutions, allowing you to step beyond the obvious and explore a range of ideas.
Prototype Transform you ideas into a physical form so that you can experience and interact with them and, in the process, learn and develop more empathy.
Test Try out high-resolution products and use observations and feedback to refine prototypes, learn more about the user, and refine your original point of view.
In recent years, the "users" (the students) for whom we design writing assignments have grown more complex and confusing to us in ways we struggle to understand but need to consider if we—and, more importantly, they—are to be successful. If we focus only on the writing skills we want them to learn through our assignments, ignoring the multiple literacies—academic, cultural, social, and emotional—we have little hope of assigning work that will have the power to teach and transform students as writers—and people.
Jim Burke is the author of numerous bestselling Heinemann titles, including the English Teacher’s Companion, Fourth Edition and What’s the Big Idea? The question he’s always tried to answer is “How can we teach our students better?” He seeks these answers daily through his work in his own classroom at Burlingame High School in California where he still teaches after twenty years. Facing the same constraints and challenges as every other teacher, Jim shares his creative solutions in bestselling professional titles with Heinemann such as Reading Reminders and Writing Reminders as well as through Heinemann Professional Development Services. As part of his commitment to helping teachers and learning how to use the latest technologies, he founded the English Companion Ning, described by Education Week as “the world’s largest English department” and winner of several Edublog Awards for Best Social Network for Education. In addition to the EC Ning, Jim offers a steady stream of recommended resources through his website (www.englishcompanion.com) and Twitter (@englishcomp) where he is ranked in the top 100 educators to follow at the top within the online English teacher community.