Book by Traci Gardner
Review by Cheryl Blake Price
Advising First
Florida State University

One of the most critical challenges that undergraduate advisors must face is helping students think critically about their major decisions.  The process of creating and reflecting on written work is also a process of thought; whether critical or creative, writing is a good way for students to think about and tackle problems in new ways.  Horning (1991) noted that incorporating writing assignments into the advising process can help students make difficult decisions about their college experience.  Particularly with undecided students, structured and well-planned writing assignments can help guide students through this decision process.  For advisors looking to integrate student writing into their advising practice, this manual will be a good guide for structuring and brainstorming writing activities.

This manual is intended to help composition teachers produce writing prompts that provide information and support to the student while taking into consideration student difference and creativity.  Gardner stresses that the most effective writing assignments are carefully planned and well-rounded, and she delineates what separates a good writing prompt from a bad one.  
For those who have never created a writing assignment before, Gardner also overviews important composition theory and practice; but the book is not burdened by composition jargon and is easily accessible to those outside English departments.  

The highlight of the work is the ideas Gardner provides for creating innovative and fresh, yet effective, writing assignments.  Gardner understands that student interest in the subject is an important consideration in designing assignments, and she likes to use twists on traditional writing prompts to enliven writing.  In the book she also gives many real-life examples, drawn from her own teaching experience, that highlight the features of a good writing prompt.  Gardner’s emphasis on meeting the needs of the student will inspire advisors to create their own writing activities. Her example assignments, which are creative but also foster critical thinking, also illustrate how writing prompts can be tailored to the needs of the student and the situation.
Composition is never simply about improving writing, but can be integrated into numerous uses for student exploration and discovery.  Designing Writing Assignments is an easy to understand and thorough overview of how to create effective and appealing prompts. Advisors interested in incorporating writing into the advising process will find this book a useful guide to this process.

Horning, A. S. (1991, February). Advising undecided students through research writing. College Composition and Communication, 42, 80–84.

Designing Writing Assignments, (2008), Book by Traci Gardner. Review by Cheryl Blake Price. Urbana IL: NCTE, 109pp. $31.95. ISBN: 978-0-8141-1085-0
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