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Workshop Teaches Students to Write Like an Educator

Although the school year just began, more than 40 students cheered each other on last month as they received certificates recognizing their hard work in the summer online workshop, Writing Like an Educator (WLE).

"This ceremony is to recognize the fine and important work you did this summer and the online community you created," said Jennifer Petrallia, assistant dean for master's studies, mentioning that she hoped to say "Hello" in the 26 different languages that the students represented.

For many international master's and doctoral students, coming to HGSE is their first experience at an American university. Several years ago, the Harvard Graduate School of Education began offering the online workshop, a collaborative venture supported by the Dean's Office, Academic Affairs, the Office of Student Affairs, Gutman Library Writing Services, and the Learning Technologies Center (LTC), to address student questions about American academic writing, and also to build a community among the incoming international students. Every year, WLE has grown in popularity, this year attracting 65 students to the workshop.

Designed primarily by Deborah Garson, head of research and instruction services at Gutman Library, and Kristin Lofblad, LTC's manager of instructional and research technology, WLE uses online learning best practices, which encourage students to work independently on online and offline writing-related activities, and to participate collaboratively in conversations about writing via online discussion boards facilitated by HGSE doctoral students. Each virtual session concludes with a self-check to assure nuanced understanding.

With the help of alum Radhika Rao, Ed.M.'05, Ed.D.'09, and doctoral students Yamila Hussein, Ed.M.'98; Karen Dunham, Ed.M.'05; and Liliana Garces, Ed.M.'06, the WLE participants explored the norms of American academic writing, typical HGSE writing assignments (i.e. literature reviews, research papers, memos), and APA style and formatting.

Garson says that the workshop made an enormous difference with international students who are "more confident" in their writing ability.

Already a month into their fall semester, many of the students who participated in the program are finding WLE helpful as they complete assignments. Says Oluwatoyin Adewumi, a master's candidate in the Technology, Innovation, and Education Program from Nigeria, "I like the fact that this [WLE] got us prepared for the types of papers we might be exposed to here."

Shan Xu, a Special Studies student from China, enjoyed the camaraderie that WLE provided. Xu liked being able to use the summer to get started with her one-year master's program. "It's already been helpful," she says, noting that comments on her early assignments had been marked "very good." "I think I was lucky to have this program."