Enhancement of Student Learning through Newsletter Assignments and Peer Review

in HortScience

A 200-level course at Iowa State Univ., Principles of Horticulture, has included a communication across the curriculum assignment for the past seven semesters involving ≈425 students. Each undergraduate student develops and writes an individual student newsletter on topics and for an audience of the student's choice. The semester-long project motivates students to practice a professional communication task, and teaches technical horticultural material and writing skills. The newsletters contain at least two separate articles for an intended audience, providing the students with an opportunity to learn technical information in subjects in which they are intensely interested, but may not be taught in a principles course. Drafts of the articles and newsletter project are peer-reviewed by the students to model the professional review process, provoke critical thinking, and provide students with more feedback than they would otherwise receive from the instructor alone. Additionally, peer-review facilitates writing intensive courses for the instructor who wishes to focus course activities on writing, but has limited time or resources for reviewing writing assignments. Student newsletter articles are selected to be included in quarterly department and extension newsletters, providing students with a real-world use of a communication across the curriculum assignment.

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