Improving Writing Across the Curriculum: Lessons from OWLs Tan Bee Hoon Professor Dr. Richard P. Corballis School of English & Media Studies Massey University (Turitea)
Overview 1. OWL: An Introduction 2. Theoretical Background 3. OWLs and Writing Improvement 4. An Exemplary OWL(Virtual Tour) 5. Conclusion
OWL: An Introduction • Online Writing Lab • An extension of the walk-in writing lab into the cyber space • Philosophy: “Give a person a fish, and he will have fish for a day; show him how to fish, and he will have fish for the rest of his lifetime.”
OWL: Objectives • To provide consultation or tutoring service to help students in the writing process. The aim is to improve the writer, not the writing. • To provide various tools and resources for writing students and practitioners.
Theoretical Background • The product approach to writing: - Focus is on the final product - Grammatical accuracy and precise rhetorical organisation are emphasized - The writer must not get help with his writing to avoid plagiarism.
The process approach to writing: - Cognitive learning theory: meaningful learning is reflective and constructive - Collaborative learning theory: better writing is achieved through collaboration - Errors are de-emphasized - Writing is a process comprising various stages
OWL Background • Writing as a process promptedthe establishment of writing centres in the USA in the 80s • Aim: to provide one-to-one consultation to help students in the various stages of their writing • Other facilities: word processing and references • Writing across the curriculum /disciplines
Early 90s, writing centres go online • Online services: - A gopher or website that promotes a physical writing centre. - Access to electronic handouts, guidebooks, or other reference materials. - Links to electronic texts from global websites
- Access to Internet or other network search. - Links to homepages of the local or global writing community. - Publishing environment for student writers. - Connection to forums or listservs on writing.
- Links to MOOs for writers. - One-to-one tutorials via private chat rooms or form-based e-mail submission
OWLs and Writing Improvement • OWLs use the same medium as that used by students in writing • The online medium forces students to rely solely on their writing to make their meaning clear, as students are deprived of non-verbal cues • OWLs are good starting places to acclimate students to the Internet • OWLs offer new ways for conducting research
Dakota State University OWL - 1995 survey: 90% of student users rated the OWL help as ‘good’ or very ‘good’ • Writing Professor: Students who worked with the OWL improved at a measurably rate than students who did not
An Exemplary OWL • The Purdue University OWL http://owl.english.purdue.edu/ • Established in 1994 under the directorship of Muriel Harris • Oldest and the most reputable • Comprehensive services and resources • Millions of virtual clients over 100 countries
Awards: • Learning in Motion Top Ten Selection • Awesome Library’s Star Rating • EX Connect Best of the Web • NetGuide‘s Best of the Web • Internet Public Library’s Resource of the week • Starting Point has ranked it 10th in Webcrawler’s Top 100 most popular sites on the web.