Scholarly Writing Challenges: Learning to Properly Format Academic Writing

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Engaging students in the use of a required format for scholarly writing may be a challenge for online faculty.  Explain Everything, an interactive tool is one method that can capture the student’s attention to detail.  This session will provide attendees with successful strategies for student learning of proper formatting styles.


Dr. Spadaro is an Associate Professor and Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, teaching in the online Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Chatham Nursing since 2010. Her prior teaching experience was at West Virginia University and the University of Pittsburgh. She incorporates various technology tools into her online courses to engage students and enhance their learning. Several years ago she successfully completed a two year technology fellows program at the university. Scholarly interests include mindfulness and healthcare research and promoting excellence in nursing academics. She has the primary investigator using online mindfulness interventions (video, mp3) for nursing students, creating mindfulness CDs for research on lung transplant recipient caregivers, and mindfulness plus standard behavioral interventions for overweight and obese adults with peer-reviewed publications. She was the head of a task force to create an online nursing honor society that was accepted as a chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau international nursing honor society. She has also been co-presenter and author of several publications in the use of online technology strategies. Her current research is using mindful apps to address stress in new graduate nurses in their first year of practice.
Becky Borello is an Instructional Technologist and Adjunct Professor at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Becky has a background in business education, which has provided her with the perfect blend of teaching, learning and technology skills. Becky is adding an additional sentence to her bio so that she can try to have one as long as her co-presenter, Dr. Spadaro. She is a profound believer that technology can improve both teaching and learning, and is especially helpful when providing enrichment and remediation activities for students. Becky is also a proud Moodler!

Extended Abstract

The online academic environment is typically writing intensive and focused on scholarly writing abilities to convey their learning.  For college students, a specific format, such as APA, MLA or CMS, is a scholarly writing requirement.  However, depending on the student’s previous writing experience, this format may be a new or infrequently used process that they now need to apply to their current academic program in addition to learning new discipline specific content.  Faculty use grading rubrics that not only address assignment content but also scholarly writing skills in the correct format usage.  Students lose points on weekly online discussion forums and on required written assignments in their courses due to their lack of knowledge and application of the specific formatting style.  Faculty use a significant amount of time grading and providing feedback on formatting for new undergraduate and graduate students that continues throughout their progression in the academic program.  Although faculty may provide specific format style website links and require the purchase of a written manual in their courses for student learning, students still struggle and faculty remain frustrated.

Explain Everything, an educational technology tool is one method to engage student learning of a specific formatting style of writing.  Explain Everything is an interactive tool that acts like a white board and allows for video and voice recording.  The learning experience can begin in the first semester and be referred back to throughout of their online academic program.  This 30 minute educate and reflect session will equip attendees with the use of an interactive technology strategy to enhance student learning, using APA as an example of a specific formatting style.  Brief 2-3 minute videos on APA formatting and writing style through Explain Everything will be shown as well as how it can be embedded into a learning management system specific course.  Case exemplars will be shared by a faculty member at a university in Western Pennsylvania with a summary of student usage in a first semester course that includes their comments.  Attendees will explore their own experiences with reviewing the specific required formats for scholarly writing of their students, discuss challenges of grading assignments that includes both content and writing style components, discuss how the use of technology can enhance student learning of skills beyond websites and written manuals, and identify other usages for technology tools in their pedagogical approaches to teaching.  Attendees will be asked to reflect on how this technology can be used with their students and to begin to identify a plan for the use of technology to enhance student success in the application of properly formatted scholarly writing.  As a wrap-up, faculty will engage participants in an exchange of ideas during a 10-minute question and answer period by reflecting back on participant comments, encouraging questions of the process, and clarification to enhance learning and future application. 

By the end of this session attendees will be able to:

1.  Identify personal barriers encountered when grading the proper use of required formatting style in scholarly writing in the online environment.

2.  Describe how the use of technology can enhance the learning of formatting style requirements such as citations, references, and scholarly writing for online students’ success in academic writing.

3.  Develop a plan to use technology to engage online student learning of program-specific requirements in own pedagogical practices.