Showcase Interview

Mike Critchfield talks about helping his students become better writers.

Mike Critchfield

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Mike Critchfield has been teaching at UW-Stout since 2006. He teaches English Composition, Reading and Related Writing, Writing Workshop, and Business English.

Mike Critchfieldenjoys teaching Reading and Related Writing because he can discuss fictional and dramatic works with existential philosophy as an organizing principle. “Students have responded with interest to these issues that impact their daily lives,” says Mike. In Business Writing “I enjoy sharing my corporate and entrepreneurship experiences, which are unique, I believe, for an instructor of English composition.” He also prepares students for the kind of writing they will actually perform in their careers, including practical experiences such as selling products on EBay with a marketing message that follows textbook guidelines.

Critchfield helps students “get it” by encouraging them to use the variety of tools available in MS Word to help them help themselves to become better writers. “This includes one of my favorite tools for developmental and business writing classes—the Flesch-Kincaid reading measure under Options in the Spellcheck function.”

Using the Flesch-Kincaid reading measure is one of his favorite strategies. He requires all his students to use the measure for every essay they write during the semester. They use the tool to examine their weak areas (vocabulary, which is determined by the average word length; sentence length, which is detected by the average number of words in a sentence; and paragraph length, which is determined by the average number of sentences in a paragraph). “As a result,” Mike notes, “students become more mindful of some general weaknesses in their writing and strive to improve the grade-level of their writing during revision and editing work.”

In addition to the Flesch-Kincaid measure, Mike has Business Writing students use the AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) approach which has been a student favorite. The effectiveness of the approach can be seen in one particularly successful story: “One student could not sell his motorcycle locally, so he sold the bike on Ebay using the methods we discussed in class. The value of the bike was $8,995. Through careful wording of his advertisement and adjustment of the reserve price during the auction, he sold the bike for $9,295, or $300 more than its listed value. Many other students sold items for a profit as well.”