Innovative Writing in Teaching Award

Ninth Annual Innovative Writing in Teaching Award, April 8, 2014

Nomination Deadline: February 3, 2014

Nominations are being accepted for the annual Innovative Writing in Teaching faculty award. Nominations may be made by students/colleagues/self and should be submitted to the University Writing Committee Chair Deb Smith (

Nominations should include the following: 
a) Name of faculty member 
b) The course where the innovative writing in teaching is most pronounced
c) A rationale for the nomination, specifically related to writing in the course.

Nominated candidates:

  • Must be full or part-time SVSU faculty
  • Integrate writing into course instruction to enhance student learning of course content*
  • Use writing in ways consistent with the goals of the academic program and SVSU
  • Develop effective student writing processes and practices
  • Demonstrate integration of writing that is innovative and multi-faceted.

Nominees will be asked to submit further documentation, due February 28, 2014

The Innovative Writing in Teaching Award is supported by the Office of the Provost and coordinated by the University Writing Committee. The Award of $1,000 is presented annually at the Writing Awards reception in April.

* (Nominations from English 111 and 080 courses are not eligible for this award.)

Previous award winners:

2013 - Pat Cavanaugh, English
2012 - Emily Kelley, Art

2011 - Rose Lange, Nursing
2010 - Jennifer Bridges, Kinesiology
2009 - Brad Jarvis, History
2008 - Mary Graiver, Nursing
2007 - Erik Trump, Political Science
2006 - Andrew Chubb, Chemistry


2013 Innovative Writing in Teaching Award 

M. Patricia Cavanaugh
Department of English

My belief is that my students will be better teachers of writing if they understand the importance of writing. If they do not like to write, I hope to change that; if they enjoy writing, I hope to encourage that. The Multi-Genre Project in my Teaching the Art of Writing classes incorporates the entire research process, but demands astute analysis and creative design/delivery. It motivates students and inspires a special pride in the finished product.

For the project, students can select any facet of writing that can/should be taught K-12, from sentence structure to nature poetry. Students gather information on their chosen topic through research, as they would for any research project.  Once the information is gathered and categorized, students must analyze the information to determine what kind of creative approach they want to use to present it. Students have created letters, diplomas, newsletters, poems, plays, short stories, photo albums, scrapbooks, dioramas, posters, websites, games, puzzles, and menus. This takes writing a step beyond sentence and paragraph development; it infuses writing with creative presentation.

This project is multi-faceted because it covers a variety of topics, formats, and genres, from print documents to digital stories incorporating voice, animotos, wordles, and other digital formats. Publishing becomes something like a science fair, as the students bring their projects to class, make a formal presentation, and then exhibit them so that everyone can take time to talk with the author.

Students use this project to think, to explore their backgrounds, to understand themselves and their relations with others, to learn more about the aspects of writing, to research, to analyze, to synthesize, to self-evaluate, and to evaluate others with respect. I believe the writing I teach and engage in is important for their perspective as a writer - and prepares them well for their future role as a teacher.

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2012 Innovative Writing in Teaching Award

Emily Kelley
Department of Art

Writing plays a crucial role in how artists and graphic designers communicate about their work. Artists are asked to write documents called "artist statements" that should convey the ideas behind their work, their techniques, and how other artists have influenced their development. Similarly, graphic designers are asked to communicate the ideas behind their designs to potential employers and clients; their ability to do so clearly and effectively in writing is essential to securing employment.

In order to engage students in the process of applying what they have learned in ART 344 (a course covering the history of twentieth and twenty-first century art) to their own work as artists, the final assignment of the course is a three-part project that allows each student to explore a specific aspect of the course material that he or she finds most compelling. For the first part of the assignment, students are asked to create a work of art inspired by one (or more) of the artists or styles covered during the semester. The students then create two written products: a report explaining the style or artist who was influential on the work they created, and a 2-page statement explaining the significance of this artist or style in the work of art they produced.

This assignment encourages students to think and write critically about the ways in which the course material is relevant to their growth as professionals. Art students, who tend to take great care with the details of their artwork, learn to appreciate the importance of attention to detail when communicating their ideas with words.

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2011 Innovative Writing in Teaching Award

Rose M. Lange 
Department of Nursing

SVSU has shown a very long history in valuing writing.  Students need to develop effective writing skills as a matter of course during their college careers.  Over the past ten years, my thoughts on writing in my nursing courses have changed from a fairly “traditional” approach to using technology that encourages a students’ development by enhancing their editing and writing abilities. In the nursing program, collaboration is a key aspect of the program. One way in which I accomplish this goal is through the development of a wiki writing assignment.

Nursing 460 is a didactic nursing course that explores health issues as they relate to communities. Students typically write a paper exploring community health issues. As I evaluated the student outcomes of the assignment, my thoughts on writing in this course changed to foster in-depth thought and reflection on the writing topics. I decided to move to a wiki format. Each student creates weekly or biweekly writing about different aspects of the topic, and the group is charged with the task of combining and editing the writing to create the group wiki document.

The wiki format has been a great success.  This innovative technology has opened many avenues to create new perspectives on writing for the students. Students have a more positive attitude about this approach to writing - even when this process requires a larger time commitment.  This innovative assignment integrates writing that is consistent with university and department goals and enhances learning of community health nursing course content.

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2010 Innovative Writing in Teaching Award

Jennifer Bridges
Department of Kinesiology

In Kinesiology, students experience writing as a real and important aspect of learning and professional contribution.  We want our students to contribute to the culture of academic excellence and community service at SVSU.

Kinesiology 464 is an avenue for students to do this.  As professionals, many of our students will need to give educational poster presentations at health or wellness fairs, so the course poster project prepares them for this, allowing them to take ownership of their learning in a way that is different from the other types of writing they do.  Students also write case studies, showing in writing how they applied written criteria (e.g, standards from the American College of Sports Medicine) to decision-making.  These writing tasks mimic what we hope our students will be able to do when counseling a client.  Our students also give presentations at scientific meetings and often go on to graduate school, so we prepare them for the kind of technical writing they will encounter.

The students are in a continuous process of writing or revising their writing in the poster and the case study during the entire semester.  They are engaged in the clinical exercise prescription content in both projects throughout the entire semester as well.  This approach incorporates technical writing so meaningfully into the exercise science major that I don't think students have yet figured out that they are learning so much about writing!

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2009 Innovative Writing in Teaching Award

Brad Jarvis
Department of History

Having learned that many students arrive in survey classes possessing underdeveloped writing abilities, I stress the importance 
of their learning skills in critical analysis and writing.  This emphasis on argumentation undoubtedly stems from my own experiences as a first generation college student.

I had a very rude awakening when I realized that my high school education had not prepared me adequately for the rigors of academic discourse at the collegiate level.  I was good at memorizing information for exams, and I could "copy" material from sources into a report, but I did not know how to analyze documents and construct coherent arguments.  As a result, my first semester in college was a stressful one, and my grades initially suffered.  But learning how to research, find evidence, and support an argument paid big dividends for me later in college and when I continued into graduate school.

These skills are transferable to all sorts of majors and careers, so I emphasize them in all of my classes.  Paper assignments are designed to prompt students to think about how what they are reading can be used to answer specific questions.  I have built paper revision into all of my courses, and each semester I meet with many students in order to work on paper revisions.  I am heartened when I see students develop these essential skills.

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2008 Innovative Writing in Teaching Award

Mary Graiver
Department of Nursing

I believe that writing is essential for communication and critical thinking. My assignment in Nursing 360 supports the vision, mission and goals of the university, college, and my department. SVSU at the university level believes that our institution fosters an environment of inquiry and openness and a respect for diversity.

Furthermore, it strives to serve as an intellectual resource. To accomplish these endeavors, students need to engage in experiences that open their minds to the world around them. Unless these thoughts are captured in writing, the value of the intellectual pursuit is minimal.

The Department of Nursing believes that communication and critical thinking are the base concepts within our undergraduate curriculum in Nursing. Furthermore, we believe that the discipline of Nursing is both an academic and practice discipline. With critical thinking and communication as pivotal concepts in our organizing framework, writing becomes essential. For the students in the deprtment and specifically my course, this writing involves proper use of the nursing literature, a coherent flow of ideas, correct documentation of ideas, as well as correct grammar and spelling.

The Nursing 360 paper provides the opportunity for the students to explore concepts/theories and research essential for their knowledge base in Nursing. It allows each student the opportunity to contibute to nursing as he or she shares ideas with peers. Above all, it enables them to understand that the indivuals they care for do not have a disease but live with an illness.

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2007 Innovative Writing in Teaching Award

Erik Trump
Department of Political Science

I believe that my responsibility is not just to assign written work but also to teach students how to write effectively. I have developed a system of assignments that both requires students to engage with the course content and gives them directed practice in writing.

I try to support students' development of effective writing skills. Specifically, I do three things. First, I offer general guidelines about effective thesis statements, organization strategies, and so forth. Second, I provide examples (drawn from students' homework) of "promising" first draft materials; I then revise and annotate that material to demonstrate how one can use the writing process to deepen and extend one's thinking. Finally, I create a model paragraph "template" that we use for in-class writing exercises and/or as a prompt for discussion.

This collection of assignments modifies the typical "draft and revise" model by having students practice the final assignment several times with different topics each time. I have them write about each ideology that we study. These short assignments require the students to take information from lecture and the textbook and apply that information to an ideological argument.

Each week students complete one of these short assignments, and we then use their responses as the basis for class discussion. The short writing assignments thus ensure that students stay focused on the course goals, reading (for example) Robert Bork with an eye to identifying his ideology rather than to simply find reasons to disagree with his argument. In the final assignment, students take one of the shorter responses and expand it. This exercise gives them practice in deepening and extending their critical.

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2006 Innovative Writing in Teaching Award

Andrew M. Chubb
Department of Chemistry

Effective communication is a vital component of any discipline. This certainly is no less true in the sciences, where it is crucial for precise documentation and accurate transmission of data. However, the incorporation of writing exercises in science classes, which have a strong quantitative foundation, often can be a difficult task. To address this need and to enhance the students’ understanding of key concepts, I have changed to the structure of the Organic Laboratory courses to include a more formal writing component.

The traditional focus on purely quantitative results no longer is used to measure the quality of work and depth of understanding. Instead, the emphasis now is on the students’ own interpretation of both the data they collect and the experimental results they obtain. Formal typewritten lab reports, similar to those that might be required in post-graduate settings, provide a framework for the students to summarize and analyze their data and to provide an explanation for the results, whether or not the experiment was a numerical success. I am proud of how well the students in general have responded to these changes, which, in most cases, represent a complete shift from the way they have become accustomed to thinking and writing. I look forward to the continued success of these SVSU students as they pursue their careers in the sciences.

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