Reading & Writing Across Curriculum

John C. Bean and Engaging Ideas

Bean's book Engaging Ideas is an excellent resource for both teaching writing and integrating more writing into one's classroom. He discusses both pedagogical and practical ways of teaching writing, so we highly recommend you buy it. It contains information on "Understanding Connections Between Thinking and Writing", "Designing Problem-Based Assignments", "Coaching Students as Learners, Thinkers, and Writers", and "Reading, Commenting On, and Grading Student Writing."

Engaging Ideas

Excerpts from Engaging Ideas:

Book's Premise: "My (Bean) purpose is to create a pragmatic nuts-and-bolts guide that will help teachers from any discipline design interest-provoking writing and critical thinking activities and incorporate them smoothly into their disciplinary courses. The goal of these activities is to transform students from passive to active learners, deepening their understanding of subject matter while helping then learn the thinking processes of the discipline: how members of the discipline ask questions, conduct inquiries, gather and analyze data, and make arguments" (xi).


Intended audience: "Engaging Ideas is intended for busy college professors from any academic discipline. Many readers may already emphasize writing, critical thinking, and active learning in their classrooms and hope to find in this book ways to fine-tune their work such as additional approaches or strategies, more effective or efficient methods for coaching students as writers and thinkers, or tips on managing the paper load. Other readers may be attracted to the ideas in this book yet held back by nagging doubts or fears that they may be buried in paper grading, that the use of writing assignments does not fit their disciplines, or that they will have to reduce their coverage of content. This book tries to allay these fears and help all faculty find an approach to integrating into their courses writing and critical thinking activities that help each student meet course goals while fitting their own teaching philosophies and individual personalities" (xiii).


Link Between Writing and Critical Thinking: "Although this book examines a wide range of strategies for promoting critical thinking in the classroom, it assumes that the most intensive and demanding tool for eliciting sustained critical thought is a well-designed writing assignment on a subject matter problem. The underlying premise is that writing is closely linked with thinking and that in presenting students with significant problems to write about—and in creating an environment that demands their best writing—we can promote their general cognitive and intellectual growth. When we make students struggle with writing, we are making them struggle with thought itself. Emphasizing writing and critical thinking, therefore, generally increases the academic rigor of the course. Often the struggle of writing, linked as it is to the struggle of thinking and to the growth of a person's intellectual powers, awakens students to the real nature of learning" (xiii).

Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.

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Meghan Swanson
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Page last modified: April 25, 2017