Left out on writing?

An article published in the Journal on March 25 considered the status of student writing at Queen’s, as well as the impending preliminary report from the Academic Planning Task Force on April 28.

The Task Force was created to draft a long-term academic plan for the University, in part based on student feedback from Town Hall meetings.

A central concern of the planning process is the gradual slippage of written communication. Members of the task force have pointed to increasing class sizes and early graduation as factors exerting a negative influence on students’ ability to develop writing skills. Others pointed to the lack of training concerning discipline-specific modes of writing in different faculties.

Figuring out how to address a multi-faceted problem is a difficult challenge. One student interviewed in the article suggested the possibility of raising admission averages in areas that are directly related to writing ability—specifically English. Ideally, this measure would make it more likely that students entering university would possess basic writing skills. However, this would do little to help students already enrolled.

Other proposed measures—like a mandatory cross-discipline writing class—would be unproductive. Students would be unlikely to assign much value to a course that emphasized “basic” skills. Discipline-specific writing classes would be more appropriate to the needs of individual faculties—provided all the students have the foundation required.

There’s a crucial difference between basic writing skills and the ability to prepare the types of documentation required in an academic discipline or trade. Learning how to write formally is much easier when students aren’t struggling with basic skills—skills they shouldn’t be learning at the university level.

The article indicated that many students take advantage of the Queen’s Writing Centre, which provides individual consultations across disciplines. Such a service is invaluable, and provided free of charge to Queen’s students.

There are plenty of resources to help students who have difficulty with written communication—but they are all based on individual effort.Effective written communication is as important as the ability to read or do math. Regardless of speciality or career, the ultimate responsibility for addressing this sort of issue falls to the individual.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.