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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Embrace your writing classes

Taking advantage of small class sizes helps develop your writing skills 

 

By CLAIRE SCHAD — cfschad@ucdavis.edu

 

When I transferred to UC Davis last fall and realized I would need an additional writing class to fulfill my university writing requirement, I was not exactly thrilled. I had already taken two writing courses before transferring but, even with that experience, the prospect of another upper-division writing course was stressful.

After taking fall quarter to get acclimated, I decided I might as well get the upper division writing course out of the way, and I made my way to Schedule Builder. To my surprise, there were so many different courses available to meet the requirements. From “Business Writing and Advanced Composition” to “Writing for Law and Fine Arts,” the options were much more extensive than I had anticipated.

After working to find a course that both sounded interesting and fit into my schedule, I decided on “Writing in the Professions: Social Justice.”

When winter quarter came around, I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at the first class and found only 24 peers. This was by far the smallest course I had taken at UC Davis, and it was a welcome change from 100+ person lectures. Additionally, I was pleased to find out that my professor had opted for contract grading, meaning that we were guaranteed a certain grade as long as we submitted all of the work.

As the quarter progressed, I found the small class size made it much easier to build relationships with my professor and fellow classmates. I also found myself becoming more comfortable and engaged with my writing since I wasn’t always worried about the grade I would receive.

Another great aspect of upper-division writing courses is the amount of feedback that you receive both from your professor and your peers. For each major assignment, I completed multiple drafts, and each of them received extensive outside feedback. And it wasn’t just surface-level feedback consisting of comments like “good job” or literally just “?” (which I have indeed received), but rather well-thought-out and targeted feedback that helped me improve my writing.

To my surprise, the upper-division writing course that I was previously dreading quickly became my favorite class, and I felt like I was actually becoming a better writer.

Too often it feels like the courses we take are engaging and interesting for only the 10 weeks we are enrolled in them and don’t lead to lasting benefits to our education. Afterward, there’s often a disconnect between the material we worked hard to learn and what we learn later on. Whether it was a specific GE requirement I took just because it sounded interesting or an upper-division major class that was overly specific, I often find myself not using most of the material I learned after the quarter ends.

Writing is different. We use the skills gained from writing classes every day. Whether it’s writing an email or working on an essay for another class, I can feel myself applying the skills that I learned in my upper-division writing classes.

Transparently, after I took my first upper-division writing class, I liked it so much that I promptly added a minor in professional writing, and I have since taken additional courses. While you may be thinking I’m just someone who really enjoys writing (which is true), I too had my doubts about the upper-division writing courses, so I encourage you to approach them with an open mind.

No matter what you are majoring in, your career will require writing in some form, so try to pick a writing class that sounds interesting, and welcome the change in style and pace from your other courses. Whether you build a meaningful relationship with the professor, develop your personal writing style or just get a little more practice, writing courses are sure to offer you many opportunities to improve. After all, it is a graduation requirement, so you might as well embrace it.

 

Written by: Claire Schad — cfschad@ucdavis.edu 

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.

 

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