Having students be prepared; helping students be prepared

One of the topics of discussion in today’s Journalism Department meeting was students who don’t have adequate writing skills when we get them in our classes. We spent a little time lamenting that some of the skills we think students should know (including a stronger command of grammar) aren’t being taught in the FCAT-driven curriculum.

[The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is the mandated testing that rules elementary middle school and high school curriculum in the tested areas, including language arts. Students arrive at UF being able to write a five-paragraph essay on any topic, but some aren’t able to identify the verb in a sentence.]

Some in the department advocate an entrance test that would screen out those without adequate writing skills.

  • But would that be a grammar test or a writing sample? If we had students provide a writing sample, would we agree on which students had adequate writing ability?
  • What about students with talents in photography, online or design who might not be as strong as writers? Would we be screening them out? 
  • For those students who didn’t “pass” our test, what class would be available to help them learn those needed skills?

As we continued the conversation, we ran into even more thorny issues.

How can we cultivate students who have a passion for journalism and the desire to go beyond the minimum to produce quality work?

We didn’t resolve either — mandating grammar knowledge or mandating enthusiasm for learning. 

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