Writing to Learn in Economics
Helping students write in economics can be challenging but at the same time rewarding. This is a task that we can't leave simply to the English teachers. Of course the biggest objection that many professors have who do not have the luxury of teaching assistants is the sheer volume of work that is involved in grading written assignments. Allow me to share with you a method that I have been using for the past three semesters that has met with great success. First I will make an admission. I am using Economics by Greg Mankiw and have my students purchase the bundle package that comes with Aplia and Write Experience. The latter is an artificial intelligence software designed to improve student writing skills by evaluating student-written assignments based upon voice, style, format, content and originality. I use it more as a tool than as a final arbiter of the assigned grade. I break up the writing process into three parts. First I ask my student to write a rough draft then clean up their work and send it to one of our online tutors with the college. Students then receive written feedback with their copy marked up electronically by the tutor. I then ask students to share with me a copy of the tutor's comments and then direct them to make changes based on the feedback. After the revisions, the students then make their first submission to Write Experience. The software then provides the student with a holistic score and a score broken down by the following areas: focus and meaning, content and development, organization, language use and style and mechanics and conventions. Students then make another revision based on the Write Experience feedback and then make their second submission. After the second submission I use a free video capturing software known as Jing whereby I take a screen capture of their essay and then mark it up with an electronic pen while providing a voice-over commentary. I then send the video link to my students so they can make their final revision. While I do meet with some push back from students that there are too many steps most students are grateful that they have more than one opportunity to revise their work. They also leave the course with a greater sense of confidence in their ability to write.