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Producing OU Students with the "Power to Communicate" - Osaka University's Unique Academic Writing Education

Students too comfortable with "true/false tests" find themselves lost on how to write academically

On students’ lack of writing skills, both associate professors agreed that “students are so used to true/false tests that when they’re given an assignment to, say, ‘write 4000 words on a topic,’ a lot of the time they’ll be at odds as to how to write. There are even students who write their essays with very little style, like a book report. As a result, there have been problems such as faculty members getting bogged down by paper corrections.”

There were 2 turning points during the search for a solution to this problem. The first of these was Assoc. Prof. Hori’s lecture at the Osaka University Library entitled “How to Write Reports.” The second was Assoc. Prof Sakajiri’s small group dialogue-style class entitled, “My First Academic Writing.” The learning environment for academic writing at Osaka University has gradually improved due not in small part to these courses.

Handing out booklets to all new students -- The booklets are also in demand students at other universities

Following this, the two professors felt that “there is a limit to the number of individuals whom we can support in courses and classes,” so they compiled the knowledge that they had gained in the previous years into a booklet entitled “Academic Writing for OU Students.” This booklet will be used as a supplementary material in most classes taken by new students from 2014.

“To make this booklet accessible for students, we wrote in an easily understood format and limited the number of main points. It’s compact and easy to use, a strength you usually don’t see in books you can find at your neighborhood bookstore. I’ve had students tell me, ‘I’ve always wanted this!’” said Assoc. Prof. Hori. The booklet is posted on the Osaka University website so that students at other universities can make use of it as well. There have been over 20,000 downloads in the past year.

Download URL
http://www.celas.osaka-u.ac.jp/education/support/academic-writing/

Supporting faculty members by providing a manual for them as well

But even through all of this, there was still a heavy burden on faculty members to teach new students. “Osaka University has neither an organization dedicated to writing education nor specially trained instructors. That’s why all faculty members who hold classes for new students need to provide the students with academic writing skills. We wanted to lighten their burden, if only a little, so we created this manual for faculty members as well.”

The two added, “We are providing a course for graduate school students who hope to become faculty members at university called ‘Effective Academic Writing and Instruction Methods’ in order to improve their teaching skills as well. It’s important to take a variety of different approaches to educate students.”

We hope students will develop their communication skills and find success in society

On the importance of academic writing: “The writing ability that students will acquire in academic writing will certainly be useful even after students enter society. So I want to properly educate students while they are still at university. I want to continue this education in the future to help students develop their communication skills.”

Interview with a student in “Effective Academic Writing and  Instruction Methods”

I want to use what I’ve learned in grading papers of undergraduate students

Megumi SHINOHARA (1st year Master’s, Graduate School of Human Sciences)

I took this course in the Future Faculty Program because I felt it was a good opportunity for graduate students who wish to become faculty members to systematically learn how to write academic reports.

As I studied, I became to focus on each word that I was writing, much different than my prior vague word choice. For example, ‘Placing this conjunction in this location is not appropriate in this context.’ I learned how to write topic sentences as well, which brings the point of emphasis to the beginning of the paragraph.

 From here, I’d like to also receive training in how to teach writing. I’m a teaching assistant and I have a lot of opportunities to correct reports of undergraduate students, so I’d like to become able to convincingly comment on why I made the changes that I did.

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