Teaching Development Grants
Completed TDG Projects

Language Issues

Enhancing Critical Thinking and Communication Skills


Writing drafts and making good use of feedback in revision are important in academic life and beyond. This TDG project explored how to get undergraduates to do so in the Psychology major. In a cluster of required courses, we asked students to write drafts and gave them feedback on both the mechanics and content of their drafts. In general, the students benefited from these learning opportunities and support. Experience sharing in our department has led more colleagues to require drafts and offer feedback to students on the drafts. This has also been adapted in a writing seminar for our first-year postgraduate students.

Project Objectives
To create new courses or revamp existing courses in Psychology to:

  1. Enhance student’s communication skills in English;
  2. Enhance their critical thinking.

Principal Investigator

Professor T.K.F. Au, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social SciencesContact

Project level

Faculty-level project

Project Completion

March 2010


The project has used a cluster of advanced lab courses to pilot English-in-the-Major* courses in Psychology.  Teachers of 4 advanced lab courses worked together to create/revamp their courses to include the following features:

  • one or more substantial writing assignments (e.g. individual research proposal with a pilot study, individual report of group projects);
  • at least one draft and a final version are required; students will receive written and face-to-face feedback on the content and the writing of their draft(s) for revision; and
  • oral presentations given by students.

The quality of the students’ written work improved from their first draft to their final submission.  In one of the courses, students were graded on not only the final submission, but also on improvement of their writing and their responsiveness to the writing fellow’s and the tutor’s feedback on their drafts (on writing and content, respectively).  The improvement scores and responsiveness scores suggested that students benefited from this exercise.  We also collected portfolios of students’ drafts and final submissions for documentation. 

[* now titled as English in the Discipline courses]