Professors publish research examining student writing perceptions

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Students have always wondered: do the studies and surveys that I take in college actually account for anything? Will my opinions be considered in the thoughts and plans of higher educators? In the winter of 2013, an article containing the voices of 860 surveyed students from 13 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, PASSHE, including Clarion, was published in Journalism & Mass Communication Educator.
This article and the survey associated with it was written and organized by two of Clarion’s communication professors, Dr. Andrew Lingwall and Dr. Scott Kuehn. In the fall of 2012, Lingwall and Kuehn developed a survey measuring students’ self-perception of their writing skills. As stated above, the survey was distributed to 860 students enrolled in communication department classes at 13 PASSHE state universities.
The survey asked students to respond to analytical and perceptual items such as “at times, my writing has given me deep personal satisfaction” or “writing about myself on Facebook is good practice for developing professional media writing skills.”
Reflecting on the study Lingwall said, “We found that many millennial students engage in surface level writing with little reflection or concern about their approaches. A healthy number of students actually do, but many others don’t.”
With the survey results, the two professors developed the backbone of two informative and eye-opening articles that bring light to the standards, expectations and true perspectives that college-level students have in regards to their writing skills.
Their first publication in Journalism & Mass Communication Educator titled “Measuring Student Self-Perceptions of Writing Skills in Programs of Journalism and Mass Communication” focused on how to better their understanding of their students when it comes to media writing, and what students who are struggling really desire from their professors.
Lingwall said, “We developed a Media Writing Self-Perception Scale (MWSPS) to develop certain scores and ultimately learned that a single group of students varies vastly in their level of writing.”
He added, “There were students who would need help with grammar and punctuation, students who need more confidence in their writing ability, and then students who are passionate and confident about their work. If we divided these students into class sections, the professors would be able to focus on a specific group of student’s needs and they [the students] could get help where they need it.”
The second article that Lingwall and Kuehn wrote based upon the MWSPS scale and survey, “In Their Own Words: A Thematic Analysis Students’ Self-Perceptions of Writing Skills in Mass Communication Programs,” was submitted to the AEJMC 2014 Convention in the Public Relations Division under the Teaching Category.
In August of this year “we hope to present this paper at the AEJMC Convention to other professors. In this article, we looked at the themes in the answers that the students gave to identify what they need from their professors,” said Lingwall.
A vast majority of the students stated that they want feedback from their peers and their professors, to review the basics of grammar and punctuation.
“We also noticed,” said Lingwall, “that a lot of the students are hard on themselves or have low self-confidence in their writing abilities. They write with a make it or fail attitude, or claim to lack creativity or interest when it comes to a writing prompt. This is a problem with students across the nation. It’s present in small liberal schools, state universities, and most have the same problems. I want students who attend college [to] get out of here knowing how to write.”
If such a phenomenon is present at CU, what can students and faculty do to improve their writing skills and way of thinking about them?
“I collaborated with Dr. Kuehn because he is a passionate educator, a top statistical expert and excellent in developing study methods – we make a good team,” said Lingwall.
He concluded, “We hope to administer the MWSPS scale this fall in the MMAJ 140: Writing for Media class, recognize its findings and try to help benefit our students [from it].”
Lingwall is a professor of Public Relations and has been teaching at Clarion University since 2004. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida, Gainesville, and his doctorate from the University of Washington, Seattle.
Kuehn, who was unable to attend the interview for this story due to prior engagements, is a professor of communication and has been teaching at CU since 1987. He received his doctorate in Speech Communication from Penn State University.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_facebook type=”standard”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_tweetmeme type=”horizontal”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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