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Does Academic Writing Actually Improve Student's Writing Skills

by Maurine Atieno (Kenia), the third winner at the Sixth NinjaEssays Writing Contest

Academic writing is something that most students fear, given its challenging nature. And indeed, it does require a lot of effort and time. Doing research for days, gathering your sources, making sure that you have all the data you need, and then writing your paper or essay. On top that, there are requirements when it comes to form and tone for every task, which creates additional work for students. Despite its complexity, academic writing does have a positive effect on students' writing skills, but there are certain conditions that need to be met first, so that they can fully benefit from it.

First of all, we have to understand that not all students are not extremely talented when it comes to writing, just like most students are not good at math. Just like introducing more math classes would not improve students' math performance, their academic writing ability wouldn't improve either. More does not always mean more, and in this case, it doesn't mean less either. It's more a question of when and how then how much, and doing all the necessary changes and preparation before we can introduce them to academic writing.

Putting a greater emphasis on writing right from the start might be the answer. With the way things are now, students are not required to write that much, and by the time they reach higher education, they won't be prepared for academic writing assignments that are waiting for them around the corner. As a consequence, they will grow to dislike it, or downright hate it, and it will influence their academic performance and their GPA in a negative manner. In order to avoid that from happening, we must gradually introduce them to more complex forms of writing, and that includes academic writing as well.

What is the solution then? It might be in the shape of more writing classes, which would allow students to hone their writing and analytical skills, so that they are ready for academic writing assignments once they finally come across them. More writing classes means student will be able to familiarize themselves with all the ins and outs of writing gradually and systematically, which would allow them to develop and unlock their writing potential in a relatively natural way. But, simply introducing more writing classes would require them to put in even more work at school and outside of it, and seeing as they are already overwhelmed, the entire school system needs to be modified.

This is an issue that needs to be handled by education experts. They need to change to existing model used by most academic institutions, and make it more flexible, so that students are able to develop their talents and skills in a stimulating and encouraging environment. They need to start viewing schools as place that will help them out and teach them, instead of an institution that is just there to give them grades.

Having a flexible system is important, because not all students need exceptional academic writing skills. For instance, those which are studying to become engineers should not be burdened with writing essays, just like those studying literature should not be burdened with solving complex math problems. They should be able to focus on areas where their talents and skills lie, so that they can realize them fully.

So, as we can see, academic writing can improve students' writing skills, but only if the system is designed to support such an effort. Simply forcing academic writing onto them is not a good solution, and the model we are currently using is not efficient enough. It is turning students away, instead of encouraging them and getting them interested in academic writing. Just like students gradually learn to dislike math, taught by poor experiences, they will learn to dislike academic writing in pretty much the same way, and we need to stop that from happening.

In an ideal situation, academic writing will improve their writing skills, and it will do so brilliantly. They will learn how to use different voices, different styles, and learn how to apply them appropriately. But, the situation is far from ideal at this moment, and lots of things need to change before academic writing can become a tool that will enable students to become better writers. They need to work harder, yes, but so do the officials and experts. They need to provide the best environment in which their students' writing skills can develop and thrive. In the end, it is a joint effort. It is up to all of us.

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