Mayo's Clinics

Mar 25, 2017, 18:40

Mayo’s Clinic: Encouraging Critical Thinking with Executive Summaries and Abstracts

Asking students to prepare abstracts or executive summaries of documents they have read encourages separating an article into its relevant parts, synthesizing information from various sections, and describing it in a clear and well-organized manner.

By Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT

Last month, we discussed the value of writing annotated bibliographies as a way to encourage students to read articles—both in scholarly journals and trade publications—and other documents critically. This month, we will discuss the merits of assigning executive summaries and abstracts as ways to encourage critical thinking.

Differences between Executive Summaries and Abstracts
Although both abstracts and executive summaries provide information about the article to which they are attached, they serve very different purposes.

Mayo’s Clinic: Encouraging Critical Thinking with Annotated Bibliographies

For many students, composing a bibliography with correct citations is a difficult accomplishment, but it needn’t be thanks to the rule of three: Cite, summarize and assess.

By Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT

Last month, we discussed the value of writing white papers, a different kind of assignment. For the next few months, we will focus on critical thinking, something we all value and many of us work to incorporate in our teaching and in our assignments.

This month, we will discuss the value of assigning annotated bibliographies as a way to encourage critical reading and writing. Next month, we will explain how requiring abstracts and executive summaries can serve a similar purpose and remind students not to absorb everything they find in print as the truth.

The Structure of an Annotated Bibliography
For many students, composing a bibliography with correct citations is a difficult accomplishment. Making them write an annotated bibliography, which some of them have never seen, extends the challenge. However, it does not need to be so difficult if you remember the rule of three (or CSA); there are three parts to an annotated bibliography: the citation, the summary and the assessment—Cite, Summarize and Assess.

Mayo’s Clinic: White Papers as Writing Assignments

fredmayoAssigning students to write a white paper can help them focus on an audience, develop an appropriate voice, learn to make a solid case with evidence and conduct careful research.

By Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT

Last month, we discussed the value of old-fashioned writing assignments, such as notes, journals and reflective papers instead of blogs. This month, we will review the value of using white papers as thoughtful and effective assignments for students.

History of White Papers
White papers have historically been used for a range of purposes, most commonly to persuade decision makers to adopt a policy or consider a new program or a set of strategies. In many situations, they were background papers to provide an in-depth analysis of a situation, event or potential development so that key executives had the information to make better decisions. Sometimes, they were just background documents; often, they contained recommendations for decisions and information about implementation steps. They were typically written for a specific audience and crafted to make a persuasive case backed by strong evidence.

Mayo’s Clinic: Using Notes and Journals instead of Blogs

fredmayoJohn Dewey taught us that we do not learn from experience, but from reflectingon our experience. While recently this column has focused on the strategic uses of social media in teaching, this month it revisits the traditional tried and true.

By Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT

Over the past several months, we have been talking about social media, ways to use it in teaching, and advice for our students. This month, we will return to a focus on teaching practices and discuss ways of using notes, journals and reflective papers instead of blogs, the contemporary form of diaries and journals.

Context
For the past year or so, I have required students to participate in a blog on customer service as part of their assignments in the course, Customer Relationship Management. When I asked them recently if they thought the assignment was valuable to them and worth continuing, they indicated that other assignments were more important and useful. They also said they monitor so many professional blogs that this one does not add much to their education. They suggested having students take notes or keep a journal of incidents of customer service, instead. Therefore, I will try that assignment this spring and add the requirement to reflect on what they observed.

Mayo’s Clinic: Facebook

fredmayoLike it or not, for a growing number of our students, Facebook is the preferred means of communicating—with everyone. To help them use their Facebook sites effectively, we need to remind them of at least three important guidelines: audience, permanence and development.

By Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT

 

In December, we talked about e-mail and the e-mail pledge that represents a focus on communicating clearly and with respect using e-mail. This month, we will talk about Facebook.

Facebook as E-mail
A number of students and others use Facebook as a means of communication to others. Instead of just friending people, building a profile, posting pictures and jointly playing games and other activities, Facebook has become, for them, the preferred way of sending messages, following up on conversations and chatting. In fact, a number of my colleagues reported getting thank-you notes during this holiday season through Facebook and not via regular e-mail.