Friday, November 14, 2014

Laura Lanwermeyer, Assistant Director of the Teaching and Learning Center, on writing to communicate effectively with a range of readers

Laura Lanwermeyer is the friendly face of

What writing project(s) are you working on right now?
Like many writing projects, those in my job involve clearly communicating a purpose and a rationale to a specific audience and require a lot of reflection. For instance, at Susquehanna University, I teach an education course for science majors who are planning to become certified teachers that they take before student teaching. For that class, I write curricula that need to function as a model for how I want my students to learn to write curricula. How can I clearly communicate to my students exactly what I expect? Can I anticipate problems and revise my materials to prevent them? How can I teach my students to do that in their own writing of assignments, labs, tests, etc.? One way is by showing them drafts of my course materials, and discussing and evaluating the changes that I’ve made over time. I also ask them to reflect with me after each assignment, “how could that have been written better to make it clearer to you what you needed to accomplish to be successful?” This interaction leads naturally to a workshop-type environment with their own work as well, where we read and write to clarify our purpose to our audiences, whether it’s a principal or a middle school science student.

I also run the Student Learning Support programs at Bucknell. In that role, my writing projects are focused around communicating with professors, my student staff, and the students who participate in my programs. Balancing a welcoming tone with serious content can be a challenge.

What do you love about it?
I love that while my materials probably won’t ever become “perfect,” they almost always get better as I continue to reflect and work on them.

What kind of feedback on your writing do you find most helpful?
I really appreciate both emotional and technical feedback on my writing. If I’ve made a grammatical or spelling error, I definitely want to know! But more useful in some ways, and harder to gauge, is the emotional impact. Was information presented in a clear and relevant way to increase interest? Were connections or themes, as well as details or examples, both obvious and significant?  Was the assignment’s purpose and structure clear enough to make you feel empowered to do what was asked of you? Was it encouraging and helpful? Did it make you want to continue working and/or communicating? Those are some of my most important goals.

What would you like students to know about you as a writer?
When I worked as a full time teacher, I considered myself only a writer of curricula, not a “real” writer. But in my job now, I sometimes write 10+ document pages of email content every day to students, staff, faculty, and administrators. I want that writing to be useful, clear, and positive. Everybody writes, and so everybody is a writer. It doesn’t have to be something destined for publication to be important, and it is all worthy of continued reflection. 

 For more information about Laura and the Teaching and Learning Center, see