Teaching Critical Writing

Learning and Teaching Forum Lunchtime Workshop Programme – Workshop 13, 3 June 2021

James Lamont, Module Leader, Academic Support for Education, IPC.
David Anderson, Tutor – Language and Study Skills, IPC.

Report from workshop chair, Glenn Hurst, Department of Chemistry

Link to Session Recording (UoY log-in required)

On 3rd June 2021, James Lamont and David Anderson from the International Pathway College delivered a session on teaching critical writing as part of the Learning and Teaching Forum series of workshops throughout the academic year.

This highly interactive and participative session began by what criticality is and associated approaches to exercising criticality in the context of writing, an important higher order skill that we expect upper division undergraduate and postgraduate students to engage with. James and David illustrated the important role and prevalence of criticality in exemplar postgraduate marking criteria (which through constructive alignment, linked to associated session/module/programme-level learning outcomes).

Criticality was presented as a cyclical, four-stage process of critical thinking (analysing and evaluating an issue in order to make a judgement), critical reading (questioning texts through analysis and evaluation to form a judgement on their merits), critical note-taking (noting key themes, concepts and evidence, and examining the implications of a text and drawing conclusions), and critical writing (interpreting evidence and source material to demonstrate understanding and develop a stance on a topic).

Emphasis was specifically placed on critical reading and writing with a useful ‘synthesis matrix’ tool, encouraging readers to think about themes and the connections between sources, acting as an effective bridge between these two components of criticality (McCombes, 2020). Regarding critical thinking, the TED model was presented to integrate critical thinking into writing according to Topic, Evidence and Discussion (Hemsworth, 2019). Users are encouraged to clearly introduce the Topic of a paragraph, provide Evidence from prior critical reading of sources that support the argument and to Discuss the significance of the evidence and how it links to the essay topic. These ideas were related to Bloom’s taxonomy, identifying critical writing as examples of analysis, evaluation and creation (Anderson & Kraftwohl, 2001).Session participants took time to discuss criticality, identifying how to encourage students to engage with critical writing in the context of the courses that they teach, highlighting problems and potential example activities to try. Thanks to James and David for leading such an interactive and informative session with clearly transferrable strategies for integrating criticality into session delivery and assessment.

References:

  • Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Addison Wesley Longman.
  • Hemsworth, K. (2019). LibGuides: Critical Writing: Online study guide. Retrieved 4 March 2021 from https://libguides.shu.ac.uk/criticalwriting
  • McCombes, S. (2020, March 28). How to synthesize written information from multiple sources. Simply Psychology. Retrieved 10 May 2021 from https://www.simplypsychology.org/synthesising.html

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