First, we ask students to explain what they know about cancer
and cancer treatment to a friend or relative based on information
learned from assigned articles, textbook readings, recitation section,
and lecture notes. Second, students consider their personal connections and reactions regarding cancer and cancer treatment. Third,
they identify tensions or dilemmas and how they might resolve
them. Importantly, rather than assigning full essays, we use graphic
organizers (e.g., from the Microsoft Word SmartArt version 15.15
library; Figure 2). Students’ comments indicate that they enjoy
selecting and using these graphic tools.
We integrate three types of evaluation into our WTL assignments:
peer evaluation, self-evaluation, and instructor evaluation.
Peer evaluation. Peers review the evidence that students iden-
tify before they construct a persuasive WTC essay describing the
cancer treatment that they would recommend their loved one con-
sider. Students give feedback on two other students’ submissions
and receive feedback from another two students indicating
strengths and suggestions for improvement in responding to the
prompts. We stress that students should not provide mechanical
or grammatical feedback and should instead provide substantive
feedback to peers. We explain that substantive feedback includes
suggestions or comments about how aligned their peers’ writing
was to the writing prompts. We also remind students to reference
examples in the writing, if possible, to help the writer. We also
remind students to be polite and professional in their comments.
At both institutions, students have acted respectfully toward their
At the smaller university, we generate peer evaluation groups during laboratory sections. Because students at the larger university are
not all concurrently enrolled in a laboratory class, instead of using
class time for this activity we use an online instructional platform
(Writing Studio or Canvas) to randomly generate peer evaluation
groups. Our graduate teaching assistant reminds some students to
complete their peer evaluations in the online platform. The in-class,
synchronous peer evaluation process does not present this issue. On
the other hand, the comments students provide synchronously (in
class) tend to be shorter and less detailed than the online peer evaluation comments.
Self-evaluation. In the fifth week, after receiving feedback from
peer evaluation, students construct their persuasive essays (one to
Figure 2. “Collection of Thoughts” using graphic organizers, free writes, and table/matrix.