Debby Ellis Writing Center

Planning Writing In Your Course

Iterative Sequencing

What is iterative sequencing?

Iterative sequencing asks students to continue practicing one type, or genre, of writing to address several different topics over the course of a semester.

What do students take away?

Students learn to master writing in one particular genre.

What types of courses does this work best for?

  • Iterative sequencing works particularly well in lower-level courses where students do not produce a final paper.   
  • It is well-suited to disciplines in which there is little writing or there is one common genre of writing that can be difficult to master and which students need time to practice.   
  • It may also be combined with another type of sequencing – for example, you may want to use iterative sequencing to up the stakes on reading responses over the course of a semester even as students work on a larger writing project.

What are some common major assignments?

  • lab reports
  • reading responses
  • creative writing

How do assignments increase in difficulty?

Assignments within iterative sequencing become more difficult in two ways:

  • Students can write about increasingly difficult topics. (For example, students writing reading responses may be asked to respond to more and more complex texts.)
  • The criteria for the assignment may become more refined over the course of the semester.  (For example, students writing lab reports may be asked to produce increasingly professional discussion sections and literature reviews as the semester progresses.)

How do I scaffold around it?

  • Iterative sequencing provides a great opportunity to teach your students about the conventions and purposes of disciplinary writing in your field.  
  • It also works particularly well for facilitating revision – students can analyze mistakes from one assignment, revise it, and apply those lessons to their next writing task.
  • You might break the assignment down into sections or demonstrable skills and focus on a different section or skill for each assignment.  For reading responses, for example, one week you might focus on incorporating quotations and the next week on transitions.

For ideas on low-stakes writing activities you can use to scaffold around your major writing assignments, please see our page Teaching Writing in Your Classroom.

What are the benefits?

  • Iterative sequencing offers an opportunity to work closely with students on one type of writing.
  • It allows for a focus on revision that can be particularly helpful to students.

What are the drawbacks?

  • If students are already adept at writing in the genre you’ve chosen, it can be difficult to increase complexity.
  • It doesn’t allow sustained exploration of one topic or idea over the course of the semester.

Where can I find an example of iterative sequencing?

Here is an example of iterative sequencing, drawn from one of Dr. Mariotti’s Political Science syllabi. Please note that this example contains only the description of the major writing assignments that appears on Dr. Mariotti’s syllabus and is not a full account of the writing instruction that takes place in the class.

 

Next: Exploratory Sequencing