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Abstract

To journalism employers, the ability to spell, punctuate, use correct grammar and write clearly are key attributes that are sought from journalism graduates— but not always found (Callaghan and McManus, 2009; Sheridan Burns, 2003; Ricketson, 2001). This paper describes a problem-based learning approach aimed at improving student writing in a foundation journalism unit at Edith Cowan University. Exercises and assessments were developed to increase understanding and awareness of spelling, grammar and punctuation, using a combination strategy that embedded a student learning advisor in the unit. Students participated in intensive grammar workshops before undertaking peer editing of all written assessments, as well as editing their own work. The results of the changes were initially mixed, with many students unhappy with the attention on grammar. Final unit feedback was significantly more positive, however, showing 94 per cent of students believed the intensive grammar work would be useful or very useful for their future writing, while 72 per cent believed the editing techniques shown would be useful or very useful in improving their written work. The paper outlines the steps taken in this shift in teaching, the challenges faced, including initial student reluctance to engage, and recommendations for anyone wishing to replicate the process.

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