Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Students and faculty gathered in the Schuer room last night to discuss writing assignments in an event sponsored by the WA program. This third annual student-faculty dialogue, centered on questions such as “What strategies can help students and professors avoid miscommunication?” and “What do the terms ‘analyze’, ‘engage with the text’, and ‘explain’ mean?”
Participants talked over a meal of Indian with tables of students and two faculty members each. Discussion topics included how professors should reduce ambiguity when assigning a writing prompt and how students should navigate the boundless research on broad topics.
“What was really helpful was when my professor in Poli Sci last semester gave names of different authors we should look into on a certain topic,” said Elizabeth Hipple ’10, who is currently a WA.
Another discussion topic was how to facilitate communication between students and professors about written assignments.
“I think talking to a professor about a paper is really helpful, especially when it’s required,” said Yuan Liu ’09.
Some professors feel that the structure of a paper has changed over the years, with differences in emphasis and writing style between professors and students.
“You [students] were all taught to write differently than I was taught to write: though I did write with a thesis, it seems that for you guys there’s more of a focus on the thesis,” said Professor Magenheim of the Economics department.
Another issue that arose was the type of audience that should be the focus of students’ papers.. Dean Garikai Campbell said, “How do you write when you know that you truly have an audience of one: your professor?”
At the end of the dialogue, students and faculty pooled the ideas and questions from their separate group discussions.
“We talked about feedback, and what’s the best kind of feedback. When the professor is very engaged with the paper, that’s really, really useful,” said Diego Garcia-Montufar ’09.