Using writing assignments to promote critical thinking, learning and professional identity: The Epidemiology Workplace Writing Repository

Using writing assignments to promote critical thinking, learning and professional identity: The... Abstract Public health writing assignments can and should be more focused on student problem solving, flexible and critical thinking, and intercultural awareness. Liberal arts college writing assignments increasingly focus on these outcomes, and public health educators can learn from their theories and practices. To construct better writing assignments, teachers of public health would benefit from knowing the types and content of writing that practicing professionals produce outside of graduate schools. We describe a resource to support writing in epidemiology courses, that can also serve as a model for other public health subdisciplines. The Epidemiology Workplace Writing Repository includes job descriptions and workplace writing examples from graduates with epidemiology degrees. The repository materials and teaching guide can support the development of formal and informal writing assignments that adapt for public health graduate schools the best writing practices recommended within liberal arts colleges and universities. epidemiology, public health In the past decade, public health education has enjoyed increasing popularity, expanding its reach into more institutions and new undergraduate programs. To prepare students to address the highly complex and persistent socially and economically driven health problems we face, public health educators need to foster excellent analytic and problem-solving skills, a flexible and creative approach to applying these skills, and communication skills effective within and outside the field and across diverse cultures and stakeholders. To achieve this, education policy makers, researchers and other stakeholders have advocated for a shift toward including a liberal arts perspective in public health education.1,2 Thoughtfully assigned writing promotes the critical thinking skills thought to be lacking in many STEM education settings.3–8 Critical thinking is conceptualized here as ‘a process of purposeful self-regulatory judgment that drives problem-solving and decision-making’.9 Critical thinking uses and builds analysis, inference and evaluation skills, along with the ability to interpret information, explain concepts and ideas and regulate one’s own learning. The behaviors associated with critical thinking skills include the tendency to seek truth, to be open-minded, inquisitive, analytical, orderly and systematic.6 These qualities are essential for successfully engaging with today’s public health issues, and the exercise of writing further develops the power of purposeful self-regulatory judgment that supports them.7,8,10,11 Public health students are also training to develop a professional identity: an understanding of disciplinary ways of thinking; how knowledge is created in the field; what disciplinary conventions shape discourse; and what values accompany all these. Carefully designed writing assignments also foster a professional identity.12 Whereas scholarship and practice efforts in the liberal arts have focused on developing effective writing assignments, very little public health attention has been given to this goal. This is especially important because MPH epidemiology graduates are employed in diverse sectors, including universities and colleges (24%), government (23%), healthcare (17%), for-profit (14%), non-profit (13%) and other (9%.13 The employment profile of MPH graduates in other public health subdisciplines is similarly diverse; and 50% of those with public health doctorates are employed in non-academic jobs.13 Broadening the scope of writing assignments is therefore increasingly important to reflect and prepare for the broadening scope of professional identities. The Epidemiology Workplace Writing Repository We present an innovative resource, The Epidemiology Workplace Writing Repository [available with instructions free at https://umich.box.com/s/i1t6sumft19gm04430our84d46mlq5wx] that can be used to support writing in epidemiology courses, along with suggested writing assignments. This repository also serves as a model that can be replicated in other public health subdisciplines. The repository includes job descriptions, employer types and workplace writing examples from University of Michigan epidemiology alumni who consented to participate. The writing examples were contributed by Michigan alumni to represent their work. Most, but not all, were authored or co-authored by the alumni, and all alumni submitted material in the public domain or had permission to share what they contributed. Alumni submitted samples that include a broad array of writing types: congressional budget requests, policy briefs, surveillance reports, annual reports, emergency response plans, social media planning documents, health advisories, health communications for clinicians, press releases, hospital safety protocols, drug package inserts, Red Cap code, scientific articles, scientific posters and syllabi along with many others. Linking best writing practices to materials in the repository The most effective components of writing assignments in any discipline can be thought of as falling into six categories (Table 1). These recommendations are from research conducted by the Consortium for the Study of Writing in College, a joint project of the Council of Writing Program Administrators and the National Survey of Student Engagement, and are consistent with other scholarly research findings and best practices.5,8,11,12,14–16 Many of these recommendations come from scholars in the liberal arts, but they are relevant to both undergraduate and graduate public health courses. Table 1 Six features of effective writing assignments assembled from multiple sources5,8,11,12,14–16 Feature Form 1 Clear explanation of expectations Clearly describing the assignment instructions and criteria for evaluation. 2 Specified purpose Clearly describing the assignment’s purpose and learning goals. 3 Allow for process Pre-writing activities like brainstorming, multiple drafts, peer or instructor feedback on drafts. 4 Posing an authentic disciplinary problem Presenting students with a problem relevant to the discipline of study, and asking students to engage in critical thinking to address that problem. 5 Specified audience Directing students to ‘write to’ the designated audience (people for whom the writing is intended, regardless of whether these individuals actually read the writing). 6 Disciplinary writing with disciplinary conventions Asking students to write in a disciplinary format instead of more generic formats. Feature Form 1 Clear explanation of expectations Clearly describing the assignment instructions and criteria for evaluation. 2 Specified purpose Clearly describing the assignment’s purpose and learning goals. 3 Allow for process Pre-writing activities like brainstorming, multiple drafts, peer or instructor feedback on drafts. 4 Posing an authentic disciplinary problem Presenting students with a problem relevant to the discipline of study, and asking students to engage in critical thinking to address that problem. 5 Specified audience Directing students to ‘write to’ the designated audience (people for whom the writing is intended, regardless of whether these individuals actually read the writing). 6 Disciplinary writing with disciplinary conventions Asking students to write in a disciplinary format instead of more generic formats. Table 1 Six features of effective writing assignments assembled from multiple sources5,8,11,12,14–16 Feature Form 1 Clear explanation of expectations Clearly describing the assignment instructions and criteria for evaluation. 2 Specified purpose Clearly describing the assignment’s purpose and learning goals. 3 Allow for process Pre-writing activities like brainstorming, multiple drafts, peer or instructor feedback on drafts. 4 Posing an authentic disciplinary problem Presenting students with a problem relevant to the discipline of study, and asking students to engage in critical thinking to address that problem. 5 Specified audience Directing students to ‘write to’ the designated audience (people for whom the writing is intended, regardless of whether these individuals actually read the writing). 6 Disciplinary writing with disciplinary conventions Asking students to write in a disciplinary format instead of more generic formats. Feature Form 1 Clear explanation of expectations Clearly describing the assignment instructions and criteria for evaluation. 2 Specified purpose Clearly describing the assignment’s purpose and learning goals. 3 Allow for process Pre-writing activities like brainstorming, multiple drafts, peer or instructor feedback on drafts. 4 Posing an authentic disciplinary problem Presenting students with a problem relevant to the discipline of study, and asking students to engage in critical thinking to address that problem. 5 Specified audience Directing students to ‘write to’ the designated audience (people for whom the writing is intended, regardless of whether these individuals actually read the writing). 6 Disciplinary writing with disciplinary conventions Asking students to write in a disciplinary format instead of more generic formats. The first three recommendations are not surprising; the first calls for a clear explanation of what the assignment involves; the second recommends specifying the assignment’s purpose and the third, some type of writing process, such as pre-writing activities (e.g. brainstorming) or allowing for multiple drafts. The fourth recommendation requests inclusion of what writing experts sometimes refer to as ‘constructed meaning’ into these assignments. Such assignments present students with a real problem rooted in the discipline of study, and ask students to engage in critical thinking to address that problem. One example from the repository asks students to prepare a press release summarizing the Department of Defense’s recent surveillance report on the increase in Chikungunya cases in the Americas. The press release should provide context for the information in the report and summarize key information in a way that would be clear and compelling to a media reporter. Asking students to write about topics specific to the discipline of public health helps them build their professional knowledge and identity.8,11,14 The fifth recommendation is to specify an ‘audience’ for writing; individuals for whom the writing is intended, regardless of whether these individuals actually read the writing. Specifying an audience obliges the student to make arguments clear, relevant and interesting to this audience; to consider what background the audience needs in order to understand the bigger points being made; and to reflect on each part of that writing and decide whether and how to include it. In the epidemiology writing assignment described above, relevant to the Department of Defense, students are asked to articulate concepts and information in a way that the media—and ultimately, the public—can understand. The assignment calls for clear, simple, jargon-free writing that conveys information about the most important points. The final recommendation explicitly asks that writing be assigned in a format used in the discipline of interest, clearly indicating that these formats are recommended over more generic formats (e.g. the ‘research paper’ or ‘term paper’). Disciplinary formats help students develop a deeper understanding of disciplinary activities and values, professional roles and context (e.g. awareness of the tension between different stakeholders in a given public health issue).5,11,12,16–22 Four of these six recommendations call for integrating disciplinary formats, conventions and writing types into writing assignments. According to writing scholars, these practices are not being met in the majority of assigned writing in higher education.8,23 Our pilot data on assigned writing in one public health school show that, with the exception of Health Management Policy, public health educators tend to include either a very narrow range of disciplinary formats (e.g. the scientific article, NIH-style grant application, and the scientific poster) or formats that bear no resemblance to contemporary workplace needs (e.g. a ‘10-page research paper’). Value of linking academic writing with public health context The writing done by public health professionals, specifically in the workplaces of those with an epidemiology degree, has, to our knowledge, not been described, so these formats have been possible to imagine but hard to find. The disciplinary writing requested in public health courses is, not surprisingly, in those formats most familiar to PhD-level academics—the scientific article, the grant application and the scientific poster. These are not necessarily relevant writing formats for a doctoral-level, master’s-level or even bachelor’s level graduate working in public health, whose work after graduation may take place in local and federal public health departments, foundations, hospitals, NGOs, pharmaceutical companies, health insurers and others. By limiting our pedagogical interactions with students to a narrow range of writing types, we limit our opportunities to help students learn other aspects of our discipline and thus broaden their professional interests. While the repository materials can be used as models for assigning disciplinary writing, they can also be used to structure informal reflective writing assignments. This writing can be a window into the activities, roles, values and context of a discipline, and it has been shown to enhance meta-cognition and critical thinking skills.6 One example of such an informal writing assignment would be to ask students to reflect on a particular writing example (e.g. the Department of Defense surveillance report on Chikungunya in the Americas) and then write informally about what events they imagine gave rise to this document, and what responses they imagine resulted from its circulation. In such assignments students should be asked to consider and note for later discussion what questions the writing assignment raised. Both formal and informal reflective writing have great potential for interdisciplinary engagement, because social, economic and political issues tend to arise with the deeper disciplinary thinking that these assignments demand. Asking students to write in and engage with a variety of formats provides much more than ‘practice’ for their professional lives—these activities provide an avenue to enrich learning, critical thinking skills and disciplinary understanding. They also provide students a beckoning entry point for thinking about course content and a broader appreciation for the disciplinary writing that public health practitioners engage in. Funding Funding for this project was supported by the University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. References 1 Aelion CM , Gubrium AC , Aulino F et al. . Bridging graduate education in public health and the liberal arts . Am J Public Health 2015 ; 105 : S78 – 82 . Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS PubMed 2 Morgan LM , Knight S , Gubrium AC . Culture, health, and science: a multidisciplinary liberal arts alternative to the public health major . Int Q Community Health Educ 2016 ; 36 : 141 – 6 . Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS PubMed 3 Association of American Colleges and Universities [AACU] . Association of American Colleges and Universities. Liberal Education Outcomes: A Preliminary Report on Student Achievement in College, Washington, DC; 2005 . 4 Liberal Education and America’s Promise [LEAP] . http://www.aacu.org/leap. (29 March 2017 , date last accessed). 5 Pace D . Decoding the Disciplines: Helping Students Learn Disciplinary Ways of Thinking . San Francisco : Jossey-Bass , 2004 . 6 Quitadamo IJ , Kurtz MJ . Learning to improve: using writing to increase critical thinking performance in general education biology . CBE Life Sci Educ 2007 ; 6 : 140 – 54 . Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS PubMed 7 Çavdar G , Doe S . Learning through writing: teaching critical thinking skills in writing assignments . Pol Sci Pol 2012 ; 45 : 298 – 306 . Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS 8 Anderson P , Gonyea RM , Anson CM et al. . Results from a large-scale multi-institutional study . Res Teach Engl 2015 ; 50 : 199 – 235 . 9 Facione PA . and American Philosophical Association . Critical thinking: a statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction. In: Research Findings and Recommendations . Millbrae, CA : Insight Assessment , 1990 . 10 Tsui L . Fostering critical thinking through effective pedagogy: evidence from four institutional case studies . J Higher Educ 2002 ; 73 : 740 – 63 . 11 Bean JC . Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom , 2nd edn . San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass , 2011 . 12 Adler-Kassner L (ed) . Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies . Logan : Utah State University Press , 2015 . 13 Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health . ASPPH Graduate Employment: 2014 Common Questions Pilot Project. Washington, DC; 2015 . 14 Light RJ . Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds . Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press , 2001 . 15 Wiggins G . Real-world writing: making purpose and audience matter . Engl J 2009 ; 98 : 29 – 37 . 16 Soliday M . Everyday Genres: Writing Assignments Across the Disciplines . Illinois : Southern Illinois University Press , 2011 . 17 Bawarshi A , Reiff MJ . An Introduction to Genre Studies . Indiana : Parlor Press , 2010 . 18 Bazerman C . Shaping Written Knowledge: The Genre and Activity of the Experimental Article in Science . Madison, WI : University of Wisconsin Press , 1988 . 19 Devitt AJ . Writing Genres . Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press , 2004 . 20 Devitt AJ . Genre. In: Heilker P , Vandenberg P (eds) . Keywords in Writing Studies . Logan : Utah State University Press , 2015 , pp. 82 – 7 . 21 Tardy C . Building Genre Knowledge . West Lafayette, IN : Parlor Press , 2009 . 22 Schryer CF , Spoel P . Genre theory, health-care discourse, and professional identity formation . J Bus Tech Commun 2005 ; 19 : 249 – 78 . Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS 23 Melzer D . Writing assignments across the curriculum: a national study of college writing . Coll Composit Commun 2009 ; 61 : W240 – 261 . © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Faculty of Public Health. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Public Health Oxford University Press

Using writing assignments to promote critical thinking, learning and professional identity: The Epidemiology Workplace Writing Repository

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Abstract

Abstract Public health writing assignments can and should be more focused on student problem solving, flexible and critical thinking, and intercultural awareness. Liberal arts college writing assignments increasingly focus on these outcomes, and public health educators can learn from their theories and practices. To construct better writing assignments, teachers of public health would benefit from knowing the types and content of writing that practicing professionals produce outside of graduate schools. We describe a resource to support writing in epidemiology courses, that can also serve as a model for other public health subdisciplines. The Epidemiology Workplace Writing Repository includes job descriptions and workplace writing examples from graduates with epidemiology degrees. The repository materials and teaching guide can support the development of formal and informal writing assignments that adapt for public health graduate schools the best writing practices recommended within liberal arts colleges and universities. epidemiology, public health In the past decade, public health education has enjoyed increasing popularity, expanding its reach into more institutions and new undergraduate programs. To prepare students to address the highly complex and persistent socially and economically driven health problems we face, public health educators need to foster excellent analytic and problem-solving skills, a flexible and creative approach to applying these skills, and communication skills effective within and outside the field and across diverse cultures and stakeholders. To achieve this, education policy makers, researchers and other stakeholders have advocated for a shift toward including a liberal arts perspective in public health education.1,2 Thoughtfully assigned writing promotes the critical thinking skills thought to be lacking in many STEM education settings.3–8 Critical thinking is conceptualized here as ‘a process of purposeful self-regulatory judgment that drives problem-solving and decision-making’.9 Critical thinking uses and builds analysis, inference and evaluation skills, along with the ability to interpret information, explain concepts and ideas and regulate one’s own learning. The behaviors associated with critical thinking skills include the tendency to seek truth, to be open-minded, inquisitive, analytical, orderly and systematic.6 These qualities are essential for successfully engaging with today’s public health issues, and the exercise of writing further develops the power of purposeful self-regulatory judgment that supports them.7,8,10,11 Public health students are also training to develop a professional identity: an understanding of disciplinary ways of thinking; how knowledge is created in the field; what disciplinary conventions shape discourse; and what values accompany all these. Carefully designed writing assignments also foster a professional identity.12 Whereas scholarship and practice efforts in the liberal arts have focused on developing effective writing assignments, very little public health attention has been given to this goal. This is especially important because MPH epidemiology graduates are employed in diverse sectors, including universities and colleges (24%), government (23%), healthcare (17%), for-profit (14%), non-profit (13%) and other (9%.13 The employment profile of MPH graduates in other public health subdisciplines is similarly diverse; and 50% of those with public health doctorates are employed in non-academic jobs.13 Broadening the scope of writing assignments is therefore increasingly important to reflect and prepare for the broadening scope of professional identities. The Epidemiology Workplace Writing Repository We present an innovative resource, The Epidemiology Workplace Writing Repository [available with instructions free at https://umich.box.com/s/i1t6sumft19gm04430our84d46mlq5wx] that can be used to support writing in epidemiology courses, along with suggested writing assignments. This repository also serves as a model that can be replicated in other public health subdisciplines. The repository includes job descriptions, employer types and workplace writing examples from University of Michigan epidemiology alumni who consented to participate. The writing examples were contributed by Michigan alumni to represent their work. Most, but not all, were authored or co-authored by the alumni, and all alumni submitted material in the public domain or had permission to share what they contributed. Alumni submitted samples that include a broad array of writing types: congressional budget requests, policy briefs, surveillance reports, annual reports, emergency response plans, social media planning documents, health advisories, health communications for clinicians, press releases, hospital safety protocols, drug package inserts, Red Cap code, scientific articles, scientific posters and syllabi along with many others. Linking best writing practices to materials in the repository The most effective components of writing assignments in any discipline can be thought of as falling into six categories (Table 1). These recommendations are from research conducted by the Consortium for the Study of Writing in College, a joint project of the Council of Writing Program Administrators and the National Survey of Student Engagement, and are consistent with other scholarly research findings and best practices.5,8,11,12,14–16 Many of these recommendations come from scholars in the liberal arts, but they are relevant to both undergraduate and graduate public health courses. Table 1 Six features of effective writing assignments assembled from multiple sources5,8,11,12,14–16 Feature Form 1 Clear explanation of expectations Clearly describing the assignment instructions and criteria for evaluation. 2 Specified purpose Clearly describing the assignment’s purpose and learning goals. 3 Allow for process Pre-writing activities like brainstorming, multiple drafts, peer or instructor feedback on drafts. 4 Posing an authentic disciplinary problem Presenting students with a problem relevant to the discipline of study, and asking students to engage in critical thinking to address that problem. 5 Specified audience Directing students to ‘write to’ the designated audience (people for whom the writing is intended, regardless of whether these individuals actually read the writing). 6 Disciplinary writing with disciplinary conventions Asking students to write in a disciplinary format instead of more generic formats. Feature Form 1 Clear explanation of expectations Clearly describing the assignment instructions and criteria for evaluation. 2 Specified purpose Clearly describing the assignment’s purpose and learning goals. 3 Allow for process Pre-writing activities like brainstorming, multiple drafts, peer or instructor feedback on drafts. 4 Posing an authentic disciplinary problem Presenting students with a problem relevant to the discipline of study, and asking students to engage in critical thinking to address that problem. 5 Specified audience Directing students to ‘write to’ the designated audience (people for whom the writing is intended, regardless of whether these individuals actually read the writing). 6 Disciplinary writing with disciplinary conventions Asking students to write in a disciplinary format instead of more generic formats. Table 1 Six features of effective writing assignments assembled from multiple sources5,8,11,12,14–16 Feature Form 1 Clear explanation of expectations Clearly describing the assignment instructions and criteria for evaluation. 2 Specified purpose Clearly describing the assignment’s purpose and learning goals. 3 Allow for process Pre-writing activities like brainstorming, multiple drafts, peer or instructor feedback on drafts. 4 Posing an authentic disciplinary problem Presenting students with a problem relevant to the discipline of study, and asking students to engage in critical thinking to address that problem. 5 Specified audience Directing students to ‘write to’ the designated audience (people for whom the writing is intended, regardless of whether these individuals actually read the writing). 6 Disciplinary writing with disciplinary conventions Asking students to write in a disciplinary format instead of more generic formats. Feature Form 1 Clear explanation of expectations Clearly describing the assignment instructions and criteria for evaluation. 2 Specified purpose Clearly describing the assignment’s purpose and learning goals. 3 Allow for process Pre-writing activities like brainstorming, multiple drafts, peer or instructor feedback on drafts. 4 Posing an authentic disciplinary problem Presenting students with a problem relevant to the discipline of study, and asking students to engage in critical thinking to address that problem. 5 Specified audience Directing students to ‘write to’ the designated audience (people for whom the writing is intended, regardless of whether these individuals actually read the writing). 6 Disciplinary writing with disciplinary conventions Asking students to write in a disciplinary format instead of more generic formats. The first three recommendations are not surprising; the first calls for a clear explanation of what the assignment involves; the second recommends specifying the assignment’s purpose and the third, some type of writing process, such as pre-writing activities (e.g. brainstorming) or allowing for multiple drafts. The fourth recommendation requests inclusion of what writing experts sometimes refer to as ‘constructed meaning’ into these assignments. Such assignments present students with a real problem rooted in the discipline of study, and ask students to engage in critical thinking to address that problem. One example from the repository asks students to prepare a press release summarizing the Department of Defense’s recent surveillance report on the increase in Chikungunya cases in the Americas. The press release should provide context for the information in the report and summarize key information in a way that would be clear and compelling to a media reporter. Asking students to write about topics specific to the discipline of public health helps them build their professional knowledge and identity.8,11,14 The fifth recommendation is to specify an ‘audience’ for writing; individuals for whom the writing is intended, regardless of whether these individuals actually read the writing. Specifying an audience obliges the student to make arguments clear, relevant and interesting to this audience; to consider what background the audience needs in order to understand the bigger points being made; and to reflect on each part of that writing and decide whether and how to include it. In the epidemiology writing assignment described above, relevant to the Department of Defense, students are asked to articulate concepts and information in a way that the media—and ultimately, the public—can understand. The assignment calls for clear, simple, jargon-free writing that conveys information about the most important points. The final recommendation explicitly asks that writing be assigned in a format used in the discipline of interest, clearly indicating that these formats are recommended over more generic formats (e.g. the ‘research paper’ or ‘term paper’). Disciplinary formats help students develop a deeper understanding of disciplinary activities and values, professional roles and context (e.g. awareness of the tension between different stakeholders in a given public health issue).5,11,12,16–22 Four of these six recommendations call for integrating disciplinary formats, conventions and writing types into writing assignments. According to writing scholars, these practices are not being met in the majority of assigned writing in higher education.8,23 Our pilot data on assigned writing in one public health school show that, with the exception of Health Management Policy, public health educators tend to include either a very narrow range of disciplinary formats (e.g. the scientific article, NIH-style grant application, and the scientific poster) or formats that bear no resemblance to contemporary workplace needs (e.g. a ‘10-page research paper’). Value of linking academic writing with public health context The writing done by public health professionals, specifically in the workplaces of those with an epidemiology degree, has, to our knowledge, not been described, so these formats have been possible to imagine but hard to find. The disciplinary writing requested in public health courses is, not surprisingly, in those formats most familiar to PhD-level academics—the scientific article, the grant application and the scientific poster. These are not necessarily relevant writing formats for a doctoral-level, master’s-level or even bachelor’s level graduate working in public health, whose work after graduation may take place in local and federal public health departments, foundations, hospitals, NGOs, pharmaceutical companies, health insurers and others. By limiting our pedagogical interactions with students to a narrow range of writing types, we limit our opportunities to help students learn other aspects of our discipline and thus broaden their professional interests. While the repository materials can be used as models for assigning disciplinary writing, they can also be used to structure informal reflective writing assignments. This writing can be a window into the activities, roles, values and context of a discipline, and it has been shown to enhance meta-cognition and critical thinking skills.6 One example of such an informal writing assignment would be to ask students to reflect on a particular writing example (e.g. the Department of Defense surveillance report on Chikungunya in the Americas) and then write informally about what events they imagine gave rise to this document, and what responses they imagine resulted from its circulation. In such assignments students should be asked to consider and note for later discussion what questions the writing assignment raised. Both formal and informal reflective writing have great potential for interdisciplinary engagement, because social, economic and political issues tend to arise with the deeper disciplinary thinking that these assignments demand. Asking students to write in and engage with a variety of formats provides much more than ‘practice’ for their professional lives—these activities provide an avenue to enrich learning, critical thinking skills and disciplinary understanding. They also provide students a beckoning entry point for thinking about course content and a broader appreciation for the disciplinary writing that public health practitioners engage in. Funding Funding for this project was supported by the University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. References 1 Aelion CM , Gubrium AC , Aulino F et al. . Bridging graduate education in public health and the liberal arts . Am J Public Health 2015 ; 105 : S78 – 82 . Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS PubMed 2 Morgan LM , Knight S , Gubrium AC . Culture, health, and science: a multidisciplinary liberal arts alternative to the public health major . Int Q Community Health Educ 2016 ; 36 : 141 – 6 . Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS PubMed 3 Association of American Colleges and Universities [AACU] . Association of American Colleges and Universities. Liberal Education Outcomes: A Preliminary Report on Student Achievement in College, Washington, DC; 2005 . 4 Liberal Education and America’s Promise [LEAP] . http://www.aacu.org/leap. (29 March 2017 , date last accessed). 5 Pace D . Decoding the Disciplines: Helping Students Learn Disciplinary Ways of Thinking . San Francisco : Jossey-Bass , 2004 . 6 Quitadamo IJ , Kurtz MJ . Learning to improve: using writing to increase critical thinking performance in general education biology . CBE Life Sci Educ 2007 ; 6 : 140 – 54 . Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS PubMed 7 Çavdar G , Doe S . Learning through writing: teaching critical thinking skills in writing assignments . Pol Sci Pol 2012 ; 45 : 298 – 306 . Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS 8 Anderson P , Gonyea RM , Anson CM et al. . Results from a large-scale multi-institutional study . Res Teach Engl 2015 ; 50 : 199 – 235 . 9 Facione PA . and American Philosophical Association . Critical thinking: a statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction. In: Research Findings and Recommendations . Millbrae, CA : Insight Assessment , 1990 . 10 Tsui L . Fostering critical thinking through effective pedagogy: evidence from four institutional case studies . J Higher Educ 2002 ; 73 : 740 – 63 . 11 Bean JC . Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom , 2nd edn . San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass , 2011 . 12 Adler-Kassner L (ed) . Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies . Logan : Utah State University Press , 2015 . 13 Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health . ASPPH Graduate Employment: 2014 Common Questions Pilot Project. Washington, DC; 2015 . 14 Light RJ . Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds . Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press , 2001 . 15 Wiggins G . Real-world writing: making purpose and audience matter . Engl J 2009 ; 98 : 29 – 37 . 16 Soliday M . Everyday Genres: Writing Assignments Across the Disciplines . Illinois : Southern Illinois University Press , 2011 . 17 Bawarshi A , Reiff MJ . An Introduction to Genre Studies . Indiana : Parlor Press , 2010 . 18 Bazerman C . Shaping Written Knowledge: The Genre and Activity of the Experimental Article in Science . Madison, WI : University of Wisconsin Press , 1988 . 19 Devitt AJ . Writing Genres . Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press , 2004 . 20 Devitt AJ . Genre. In: Heilker P , Vandenberg P (eds) . Keywords in Writing Studies . Logan : Utah State University Press , 2015 , pp. 82 – 7 . 21 Tardy C . Building Genre Knowledge . West Lafayette, IN : Parlor Press , 2009 . 22 Schryer CF , Spoel P . Genre theory, health-care discourse, and professional identity formation . J Bus Tech Commun 2005 ; 19 : 249 – 78 . Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS 23 Melzer D . Writing assignments across the curriculum: a national study of college writing . Coll Composit Commun 2009 ; 61 : W240 – 261 . © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Faculty of Public Health. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)

Journal

Journal of Public HealthOxford University Press

Published: Sep 1, 2018

References

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