Personal Writing in the Classroom
There are times when professors are baffled by why students write intensely personal information on a discussion board or for an assignment. While there are many reasons this may happen, here, I would like to offer up one explanation for these occurrences.
It has been my experience that students often have some personal experience they must write about before they can write their assignments. Writing is a very personal experience and many students do not have practice separating personal writing from academic writing.
For some students, sitting to write an assignment of any length is like the to-do list that keeps you up at night until you decide to get up and write it down so you can go to sleep. There are things that they must write before they can get to the their academic business.
One way to encourage students to write about these topics in appropriate places is to urge them to write in a journal, on a blog, or a class impromptu writing group. In this way, professors can inspire student writing and critical thought while explaining that the essay, assignment, or discussion board may not be the best place for personal writing. Giving students an outlet for the personal writing will help them get ready for their assignments.
Great points, Melody, concerning the intersection of personal and academic writing and the need for many writers (not just students) to “dump” or speak from a personal place. Writing from one’s own experience, I believe, is a great starting place. I wonder, too, how we can support students in conducting meaningful research after personal experiences begin to be written about and then shifted to broader, more formal audiences? Great post!