Can You Write Your Way to Better Teaching?

Written by: Maryellen Weimer, Ph.D.

Sociologist David Purcell thinks he did. He shares his method and what he learned from it in a detailed article. Purcell writes for 10 to 15 minutes after every class. If he teaches back-to-back sections, he makes comments on his lecture notes, which he uses to write fuller notes later in the day. He started doing this when he was a teaching assistant and continued it as a new faculty member. Using an autoethnographic analysis (a qualitative research approach), he bases his conclusions about the value of this systematic approach on 43,000 words’ worth of notes from 14 courses written over a four-and-a-half-year period. The individual entries themselves vary from 125 words (when things in class went well) to 400 to 500 words (when things were in need of revision).

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