Pros(e) in action

- March 7, 2007

A bold experiment in teaching, inspired by a Monty Python sketch, will be conducted onĀ  campus on Saturday, March 10th. Write Here in Plain Sight (WHIPS) is designed to enhance student writing skills by providing them with the opportunity to observe expert behaviour in person.

Five Dalhousie academics and a columnist with the Chronicle Herald will be participating in this experiment. Four of them will bring real writing projects to a public setting and work on them while their efforts are projected on a screen behind them. They will also be encouraged to talk aloud about what they are doing. The fifth faculty member will work on a topic suggested by the audience at the beginning of the day. In this case, the students will see the research process as well.

Each writer will use the tools that they regularly apply to their work including voice recognition software, EndNote, Scholar, Google, the digital library, reference books and a pot of strong coffee. The entire event will be filmed to produce a video to be made available to students wanting to improve their academic writing skills.

A solitary pursuit

The experiment was conceived by Professor Sunny Marche who observed that, as with any other skill, one should be able to enhance their writing skills by observing expert behaviour. "Unfortunately, in the case of writing, we never actually observe the process. To the best of my knowledge and research, there are no recordings of real writing. The Monty Python sketch of the two sports commentators describing Thomas Hardy writing one of the Wessex novels is the closest I have been able to come. Writing continues to be one of the very few solitary and almost secretive human activities that is almost never accessible to those who are learning the craft." said Professor Marche.

The WHIPS experiment will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m at the Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building and the McCain Arts and Science Building. The Dalhousie academics demonstrating their writing skills are: Sunny Marche, Information Systems; Dean Irvine, English; Lyn Bennett, English; Jack Duffy, Industrial Psychology and Carolyn Watters, Computer Science. They will be joined by Gail Lethbridge, who writes the "Slacker Mom" column for the Chronicle Herald.


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