The Waiting Room

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Testing Their Skills

Posted by Seeking Solace |

I found out that I will be teaching three courses for the Fall term. The first course will not be a problem. I've taught a slightly similar version before, I will need to tweak my lecture notes, activities and assessments. No big deal. The second course deals with Office Management. Once again, not too bad. Assemble the documents, don't blab client information, don't steal office or client funds, etc.

I am also teaching Legal Research and Writing. R&W is something I have wanted to teach for a long time. There is a significant amount of work that I will need to do to prepare. My biggest concern with teaching R&W is the students' writing proficiency. My experience in student writing in the past has resulted in my spending a significant amount of time working on basic writing skills. That is a polite way of saying that a significant number of past students have serious deficiencies when it comes to writing. And, my use of "deficiencies" is also a polite way of saying that many of my past students can't write. Although my students are paralegal studies majors, they should be capable to writing in a proficient and effective manner. They will be expected to write effectively when they go out into the workforce. I am not expecting them to write great prose or anything, but it would be nice to not have to re-teach something as simple as Subject, Verb, Direct Object, the difference between they're, their and there or the proper use of a comma.

I am thinking about giving a ungraded diagnostic exam which will measure basic writing skills. I know that a student has taken Composition or is taking it concurrently with my course, but I also know from experience that many students seem to slide through some writing courses without a mastery of the basics. Plus, it will give me a chance to nip some issues before they become bigger problems. I was thinking of devoting some class time to working on some grammar and effective writing techniques as a means to keep those skills fresh.

Does anyone out there have a writing diagnostic assessment that measure basic rules of grammar, mechanics and spelling? You can email me at


Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

"Meet" Julie -- she's an amazing writing instructor at BNCC... if you go over to her blog and leave a question in the comments, I suspect she'll be able to help you out... tell her I sent you :).

Just recently an English faculty member compiled a list of writing resources for BNCC students... I'd contact the chair of the department that handles comp and ask what's available. You don't have to teach writing alone if you can tell your students where to get help.