1000 Words Deadline 2 Days Please see the attachments for your review. I am supposed to complete a critical review of the attached article, “helping studen

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Please see the attachments for your review. I am supposed to complete a critical review of the attached article, “helping students meet the challenges of Academics”. I have also attached my first draft for corrections and a rewrite if needed. Below are some useful links from my online course. It is an academic writing Graduate level course. 
My thesis statement that I developed on my online discussion forum: 

Fernsten and Reda present a compelling argument that various classroom practices help writers improve their writing skills. Although there has not been substantial research on reflective practices improving writing skills. The authors believe that reflective practices tackle multiple literacy tasks beyond the academic curriculum. 

Lecture Useful Links:
“How to Write Critical Reviews.” The Writer’s Handbook, The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1 Mar. 2021, writing.wisc.edu/handbook/assignments/crinonfiction/.

Skene, Allyson. “Writing a Critical Review.” The Writing Centre, the University of Toronto at Scarborough, 15 Mar. 2021, www.utsc.utoronto.ca/twc/sites/utsc.utoronto.ca.twc/files/resource-files/CritReview.pdf.

“Writing a Summary, Response, or Critique.” The Writing Center, Saint Mary’s University School of Graduate & Special Programs, 2004. Internet Archive WayBackMachine, web.archive.org/web/20170713100146/http:/www2.smumn.edu/deptpages/tcwritingcenter/forms_of_writing/Sum_Resp_Crit.pdf.

“The Purdue OWL: Sample Outlines.” Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), Purdue University, 12 Mar. 2021, owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/developing_an_outline/types_of_outlines.html.

“Writing Critical Reviews: What Is a Critical Review of a Journal Article?” Introduction to Research: Humanities and Social Sciences, Queen’s University Library, 11 Mar. 2021, guides.library.queensu.ca/introduction-research/writing/critical.

Helping Students.docx

Helping Students Meet the Challenges of Academic Writing

A Critical Review


The article ‘Helping students meet the challenges of academic writing’ by Linda A. Fernsten and Mary Reda, was published in the journal, Teaching in Higher Education in 2011. The article discusses strategies for educators to help students meet the challenges of academic writing and suggests that students should be invited to examine their beliefs about writing and writer identity as these activities can be useful and help them improve their writing skills.


The article by Fernsten & Reda (2011) provides an excellent overview of composition theory and history related to basic writers and their identity. It also discusses different classroom practices that can help challenge negative writer identity. The authors believe that creating writer self-awareness among students can provide them with a greater understanding of the writing process and give them the confidence to tackle multiple literacy tasks beyond the academic curriculum.

The authors of the article address a very important issue where many students are led to believe that they are bad writers. This decreases their confidence, and they become fearful of failure in academic writing tasks. This perception also leads to resistance on the part of students who are not motivated to take on new assignments and often submit them late, undone or incomplete. In addition, many students resort to plagiarizing just so they can get a passing grade.

The article highlights how it is important for educators to help students explore their writer identities and understand the complex challenges writers face instead of making them feel like they can never be good writers. Also, students must understand that writers are not born with innate skills or talents. They need to learn how to write, and this can only be achieved if they attempt different writing tasks with a positive mindset.

Fernsten & Reda also point out that by internalizing and taking up aspects of negative instructor discourse, students often see themselves as ineffectual and inept writers. This is especially true for students from multicultural and/or socially disadvantaged backgrounds. These pedagogical practices result in students creating their own truth about their writer identities which may not be true.

A key point highlighted by the authors in this article is that writing activities used by educators should not require these students to become writing experts but allow them to become strategists who candevelop their writing skills across the curriculum. The authors also provide a historical aspect of these teaching practices. Students have been labeled as basic writers, bad writers, inept writers, since the early 1970s. In particular, those students whose language differed from that of the dominant culture have always been made to feel less intelligent. Unfortunately, this stereotype still exists and continues to sideline students who could become skillful writers if given a chance.

Students are often discouraged from pursuing or developing their writing skills because they are made to believe they are immature or uninitiated. They are also made to believe that they cannot write if their writing does not conform to the only way that is believed to be correct in the eyes of the academy. Many factors, including race, class, and gender, are used to marginalize certain groups of students and ignored because they are already considered to be doomed as writers because of their ethnicity, dialect, disability, or other similar variables. This demotivates students from developing their writing skills and creates conflict and tension.

Based on the arguments that the authors discuss above, they recommend ideals that can help students better understand the work of writing. These strategies are designed to improve the way students perceive their writing identity and decrease the gaps between the advantaged and disadvantaged. Educators need to move from the attitude that students need to learn how to write to an approach where they are given the freedom and the environment to explore their skills and talent and learn. The practice of reflective writing should be adopted, and students should be invited to become researchers of their own identities. This can encourage them to understand the connections between theory and practice, personalize learning and improve their understanding.


This is an excellent article that clearly highlights the weaknesses in the education system and the role educators can play in making students feel confident about their writing. The fact that the authors point out the negativity that exists in student evaluation when it comes to writing projects and taskshighlights the weaknesses in the educational system. Educators should never make students feel bad, inept or incapable of learning a skill, writing or otherwise. In addition, educators should never discriminate based onethnicity, class, race or language. The fact that these attitudes and behaviours still exist is shameful. The need to create a writing environment that facilitates learning and growth is essential for all educators to teach students more about the writing process. The negativity with which writing is taught, evaluated and judged needs to change. Nobody is born to be a great writer. Writing is a skill that one can hone with the right direction, the right tasks and the right attitude. If the educators make students think they cannot write, there is no way these students could become good writers.

The authors discuss several writing exercises and approaches that can be used in the classroom to help students improve their writing. However, it would have been useful if the authors had also discussed strategies to make the overall teaching environment more positive and help educators overcome their stereotypes about certain groups of students.


Overall, this is a very useful article for educators and highlights many important points that need to be addressed within the academic system. Educators hold a tremendous responsibility, and they should never make any student feel they are inept or bad. Promoting the perception of failure should never be the approach used in an academic setting. This is especially true in writing, as this is a skill that requires confidence, motivation and the willingness to learn.

Helping students meet the challenges of academic writing.pdf

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Teaching in Higher Education

ISSN: 1356-2517 (Print) 1470-1294 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cthe20

Helping students meet the challenges of academic

Linda A. Fernsten & Mary Reda

To cite this article: Linda A. Fernsten & Mary Reda (2011) Helping students meet the
challenges of academic writing, Teaching in Higher Education, 16:2, 171-182, DOI:

To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2010.507306

Published online: 04 Mar 2011.

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Citing articles: 7 View citing articles

Helping students meet the challenges of academic writing

Linda A. Fernsten
* and Mary Reda


Secondary Education Department, Dowling College, Education South Bldg, Idle Hour Blvd,

Oakdale, NY, USA;
Department of English, College of Staten Island, CUNY, Staten Island,


(Received 29 September 2009; final version received 5 July 2010)

This article shares strategies that educators can use to assist students in meeting
the challenges of academic writing more effectively. In order to foreground an
understanding of struggling writers, the text begins with a brief review of
composition theory and history related to basic writers and identity. It goes on to
examine classroom practices that help challenge negative writer identity,
especially in relation to formal academic discourses. The authors contend that
writer self-awareness provides students with a better understanding of the writing
process, additional tools with which to attempt writing assignments, and greater
confidence to move through the multiple literacy tasks of the academy and
beyond. By inviting students to examine their beliefs about writing and writer
identity, these activities are useful in any classroom, across disciplines, in which
high-stakes writing is used.

Keywords: identity; writing; discourse; reflective practice

An observer in one of our writing workshops might be surprised to learn that the

seemingly confident trilingual soccer player reading his paper aloud identifies as

‘writing phobic’, and the jovial sorority pledge and future accountant sharing a

humorous narrative sees herself as ‘strictly a technical writer’. In the corner of the

classroom, the thoughtful, quiet guitarist who can be coaxed into playing his own

songs confesses that he ‘can’t write’, while an effervescent older student, a prolific

blogger, and a captivating storyteller, believes herself to be ‘born without the writing


Many students struggling to become more skillful users of the discourses required

in college-level classes have become convinced that they are simply ‘bad writers’.

Stuck in these negative identities and fearful of failure in academic writing tasks

(rather than seeing themselves as learners in the process of acquiring the discourses

and skills required in discipline-specific genres), students may subtly or overtly resist

writing assignments by turning them in late, leaving them undone or incomplete, or

even plagiarizing in an attempt to approximate school’s required discourses. How do

students come to understand who they are as writers? What socio-cultural factors

shape their views? How can educators help them explore their writer identities and

better understand the complex and multi-layered challenges that all writers face?

Reflective practices can be an effective tool (Brookfield 1987; Uzat 1998) for helping

*Corresponding author. Email: fernstenl@dowling.edu

Teaching in Higher Education

Vol. 16, No. 2, April 2011, 171�182

ISSN 1356-2517 print/ISSN 1470-1294 online

# 2011 Taylor & Francis

DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2010.507306


students see themselves as writers learning to negotiate the variety of literacies

required in the academy.

Writing issues persist well beyond the composition classroom and are perhaps

even more problematic in content-area classes. Writing is not the sole responsibility
of the composition department; it is critical for the educated student and citizen.

Students convinced that they are ‘bad writers’ can learn that competent writers are

not simply born with innate skills or talents. Writers attempting various discourses

and genres are learners, and, as such, they must persist in negotiating the different

writing tasks needed in the twenty-first century, both in the university and beyond.

This article briefly reviews a portion of basic writing history in order to

familiarize readers with the common positioning and labeling of struggling student

writers. By internalizing and taking up aspects of negative instructor discourses,
some students, especially those with multicultural or disadvantaged backgrounds,

may come to see themselves as ineffectual and inept writers. The first section of this

paper explores the theoretical stance that supports our practice. We go on to describe

pedagogical practices that can help students question the ‘truths’ they have accepted

about their writer identities. These reflective practices can be easily adapted to

content-area classes as a way of inviting students to counter and expand their

understanding of writing in the academy. Academic writing is a process that can

involve struggle and conflict for many, especially when genres and/or discourses are
new. The activities we propose do not require ‘writing experts’ in the classroom, and

they allow students to become strategists who can persist in the development of their

writing across the curriculum.

History of ‘basic writers’ in the USA

Since the early 1970s, researchers have been seriously examining those who many in

the composition field label ‘basic writers’ (Harris 1997). Before the 1980s, instructors
and students alike often assumed those who struggled with academic writing tasks

were somehow deficient, stunted, or underdeveloped in their growth as writers.

Underlying this assumption was the idea that such individuals must improve their

cognitive abilities or mental conceptions of writing because they had never really

gained knowledge of what one needs to learn to be a ‘good writer’. The open

admissions movement in the USA during the 1960s presented universities with a

large influx of so-called ‘basic writers’; these newcomers were often characterized as

immature or novice writers, people with grammatical difficulties who might be
disorganized, disfluent, or unable to generalize (Klinger 1977; Odell 1973). While

pioneers of the basic writing movement such as Shaughnessy (1977) began to discuss

the need for struggling students to learn the conventions and dialects of academic

writing, many assumed that those whose language differed from that of the dominant

culture were ‘less intelligent’. Even today, that pre-1980s stereotype used by some to

describe struggling writers continues.

Bartholomae’s (1986) ‘Inventing the University’ powerfully re-shaped how

composition theorists perceive basic writers. Drawing on Shaughnessy’s idea of
writers who are immature or stunted in growth, he characterized these students as

uninitiated. This new metaphor typified struggling writers as social and political

outsiders, unfamiliar with the discourses required in the academy. Bartholomae

theorized that the problem is not that they are deficient, delayed, or simply in need of

172 L.A. Fernsten and M. Reda

additional intellectual training. Rather, he argued, such writers need to assume new

value systems and cultural practices before they can take on identities that fit with

the academic discourses of the university. In his view, ‘errors’ are a logical part of the

composing process, an impediment to the ‘correct’ forms of academic discourse. This
new characterization, however, failed to problematize the unquestioned authority of

formal academic discourse as ‘the only way’ to write correctly in the academy.

In the discourse of basic writing studies, Bartholomae’s vision of the ‘uninitiated’

is re-imagined through the concept of conflict. Lu’s (1992) ‘Conflict and Struggle:

The Enemies or Preconditions of Basic Writing?’ recognized issues, such as race,

class, and gender as part of the social and political considerations of language and as

marginalizing factors for many basic writers. In the classroom, the effects of social

class, access to education, home experiences, and differences from the dominant
culture of school (including ethnicity, dis/ability, dialect, or other variables) are often

visibly important factors. Lu contended that the way students’ own discourses are

received in the academy can create struggle, tension, and conflict when they try to

conform to the institutional requirements of writing. Lu’s conception of struggle

allows educators and students to embrace conflict and uncertainty and to recognize

academic writing as privileged in a specific historical and social context.

The reflective writing exercises for the classroom that we suggest can make these

ideas explicit, helping students better understand the work of writing as they struggle
to become more effective writers, negotiating multiple literacies. The National

Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), in its 2008 writing policy brief, notes that

writing remains a powerful gatekeeper in schools and calls for various approaches to

the teaching of writing in order to decrease the significant gaps that exist between the

advantaged and the disadvantaged. Critical reflection is one innovative approach in

achieving this goal.

Such an approach in the classroom is not a rejection of standard language

practices. Teaching form, structure, and disciplinary writing conventions certainly
aid students’ written communication. However, a hyper-focus on the correction of

surface errors is counterproductive to effective pedagogical writing practice, both in

composition classes and in content-area courses. Too many instructors dismiss the

political concept of ‘conflict’ and argue ‘these students just need to learn how to

write’. Privilege is not a subject that finds a wide or comfortable audience in many

schools. Dominant culture exerts a powerful hegemonic influence and, under the

guise of ‘common sense’, can silence many voices and work to keep oppressive

situations invisible (Fernsten 2005).
We have found that students who utilize the reflective exercises described below

are better able to challenge negative identity constructions. By systematically

exploring writer identity issues in a series of assignments, our students demonstrate

a clearer understanding of the sophisticated and multi-layered challenges writers face

in an academic environment. Focusing on ‘conflict’ provides these struggling

students with a new way to access the academy while allowing them to re-shape

their negative writer identities.

Classroom activities

NCTE (2008) calls for instructional writing practices that are holistic, authentic, and

varied, recognizing that twenty-first century literacies will require people to think

Teaching in Higher Education 173

critically about new writing tasks. NCTE also contends that writers must be able to

modify and monitor their own writing processes. The following classroom activities

work toward those goals.

The ‘Seeing Yourself as a Writer’ project that follows begins with a low-stakes,

generative assignment. This exercise, easily modified for a variety of ages and skill

levels, asks students to consider their experiences and influences as writers, their

typical writing practices, and their views of writing (see Figure 1 for sample

Make a list of specific moments in your writing history. What is the first time you
remember writing or composing? Then make a list of those events that seem particularly
interesting or memorable to you. What happened? What were your thoughts, feelings,
and ideas at these times? Why might these events be important in your development as a
Successes and not-successes
When was writing particularly successful or exciting for you? Has writing seemed
difficult or unpleasant for you? What made it so? What particular pieces of writing are
you most proud of? Least proud of? Why?
Who or what has affected the way you write? What you write?
Who has had the most positive effect on your writing? The most negative?
What kinds of writing have you done, at home, at work, and at school?
What have people said about your writing?
What kinds of reading did you do when you were younger?
What types of things do you like to read now? (Specific titles or categories like ‘sci-fi’
are fine.) Why?
In the world, what kinds of things do you hear about writing? What messages are
associated with writing?

Seeing yourself writing
Imagine your ideal writing space – the place you would write the most productively, the
most beautifully, with the greatest ease. What does that space look like, feel like, sound
like? What do you look like? What are you wearing? What is the expression on your
face? What are you doing?
Now think about a typical writing situation for you and ask yourself those same
questions. What are the differences? What might be the effect of these differences?

Truths and lies
Write three or four truths about yourself as a writer.
Write three or four lies about yourself as a writer.
Similes (Complete the comparisons and explain why you make these connections.)
Writing is like… because…
Looking at a blank sheet of paper is like… because…
Coming up with ideas for writing is like… because…
Finishing a piece of writing is like… because…
Showing your writing to someone else is like… because…
Re-reading something you wrote is like… because…
In other words…
Quote something you have heard or read about writing (from a friend, a movie, a bumper
sticker, etc.) Comment on/question/respond to the quote in some way.
What else should I know about you as a student or as a writer?

Memories and history

Figure 1. Seeing yourself as a writer.

174 L.A. Fernsten and M. Reda

questions). It is crucial that this reflection be written so that students articulate and

examine what has, for so many, been left unspoken, but remains powerful, in their

histories as writers. Further, students may return to this project throughout the

semester to consider how their identities as writers have altered, particularly in light

of subsequent reflective practices. The assignment might also be adapted to ask

students to consider their perceptions of a particular discipline and the specific

writing in that field. For example, students might be asked to consider what a

biologist ‘does’, how writing is part of that disciplinary work, and their perceptions

of the requirements for writing in a specific field. Such adaptations will allow, for

example, students and teachers to discuss the particular constraints of discipline-

specific writing and the issues which might enable or prevent student success, for

example, in writing a lab report for a biology class. This allows both teachers and

students to articulate the kinds of thinking that particular fields of study, and their

associated writing tasks, demand. Further, this may evoke a discussion about the

ways that writing in a specific field can be used as a means of ‘thinking through’ a

question or problem, before formal writing is required.

This informal piece can be difficult for some students, particularly if their writing

history includes only high-stakes writing done for the purposes of demonstrating

knowledge to a teacher, writing for a grade. This assignment may offer a new kind of

task, in encouraging students to see writing as a way of thinking.
Students then work in small groups sharing their responses to the assignment, by

reading their drafts aloud or explaining their responses and insights to their partners.

In doing so, students see that writing can be a means of real communication in the

classroom, not just a testing mechanism to demonstrate knowledge or failure. These

small groups also provides practice in sharing writing with others and having one’s

words taken seriously, as all students are asked to present themselves as writers

thinking through issues, an identity that might be quite new for some students.

In these groups, students identify the similarities and differences in their accounts

and theorize about why these exist. Here, we highlight the typical responses that

emerge in writing groups:

� I did this wrong. Even with encouragement to write informally, students

typically perceive there to be implicit conventions they did not understand;

their past experiences as writers have taught them to mistrust their instincts,
even their ability to interpret directions.

� We hate to write. This is self-explanatory, particularly since so many students

reflect on a daunting range of negative experiences.

� I’m not writer but I compose . . . (poems, journals, song lyrics, fan-fiction, etc.).
While many write for a variety of purposes and in many forms outside of

school, they don’t see this as ‘real’ writing to be valued in the academy.

� They hate my writing. Students recall negative comments with far greater ease

and frequency than any positive feedback. In fact, the majority of students say
they cannot recall receiving encouragement about their writing.

� Writing is for grades. The experience of writing in school is virtually always

connected to high-stakes testing situations, with little opportunity for student

choice. Few can recall writing assignments that focused on the construction of

knowledge; rather they see writing as the performance of knowledge.

Teaching in Higher Education 175

Students then collaboratively produce a list of questions that emerged during this

exercise. Some of these are questions directed to the teacher (about course

requirements, etc.), but many are genuine questions to their peers that provoke a

spirited engaged conversation with the entire class. Here is a list generated by one class:

What does it mean to be a writer? How would you describe a ‘writer’?
What motivates peop

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