In the ProfHacker stream of the Chronicle, was an article on why the instructions: “Your paper must be double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman, with one-inch margins” does our students a disservice.
It goes back to the tension between teaching content and teaching communications. Where do they overlap, and how much responsibility do you take to teach your students verbal, visual and written communications skills.
The article ends with a suggested paragraph that outlines expectations (teaching students that even creativity has it’s objectives), and I’ve got a couple of other. Why not have students format a formal term paper using the guidelines from a disciplinary journal? Format reflective pieces as a personal letter, and then short, narrative assignments as newspaper articles? Reminding students that different formatting shifts the message of the writing, and we (hopefully) create more thoughtful, autonomous writers.