What is exploratory sequencing?

Exploratory sequencing asks students to write in a number of different genres, or types of writing.

What do students take away?

Students learn the common genres of writing in your discipline and the conventions of those genres.  Frequently, exploratory sequencing also introduces students to common types of research in your discipline.

What types of courses does this work best for?
  • Exploratory sequencing works particularly well in social science and humanities courses that require an understanding of, and proficiency in, several different types of writing.
  • It is well-suited to courses designed to introduce students to a field or to upper-level courses that aim to allow students practice writing in several common genres.
What are some common major assignments?
  • Microthemes
  • Short, focused research papers
  • Compare/Contrast papers
  • Applications of Theory
  • Lesson Plans
  • Response Papers
  • Analyses
  • Lab Reports
  • Grant Proposals
How do assignments increase in difficulty?

There are a few ways exploratory assignments can become more complex:

  • The genres, or types of writing assignments, can become increasingly difficult.
  • Students may be asked to explore more complex topics or ideas in their writing.
  • The audience may move from more private writing (which allows for less adherence to disciplinary conventions) to more public writing.
How do I scaffold around it?
  • Exploratory sequencing naturally invites conversations about the relationships among, and the purposes of, different types of writing in your field.
  • It allows opportunities for students to do low-stakes “meta-writing” in which they consider the purpose of their writing and how it connects to larger discussions in your field.
  • The focus on genre means that modeling different types of writing can be particularly helpful.
  • Exploratory sequencing also allows a semester-long engagement of research, allowing you to model and discuss the different types of research each assignment demands.

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?
  • Exploratory sequencing allows students a chance to practice a number of different types of writing that they’ll encounter in your field. 
  • It serves as a helpful introduction to, or (in higher-level courses) further exploration of, your discipline.   
  • It can allow students to conduct research of several different types and on different topics.
What are the drawbacks?
  • Since this sequencing moves students from one assignment to the next, the purpose and significance of revision may be less immediately apparent to them than it is in some other sequences. 
  • Because practice of each genre is limited, students may not progress as far on any one assignment as they might in a different sequence.
Where can I find examples of exploratory sequencing?

Here are two examples of exploratory sequencing, drawn from one of Dr. Prater’s Education syllabi and one of Dr. Byron’s Sociology syllabi. Please note that these examples contain only the description of the major writing assignments that appear on the syllabi and are not a full account of the writing instruction that takes place in these classes.