By Claire Roth, WIC GTA
The WIC Team is happy to report on the success of our WIC Spring Lunch Series 2017. Over the course of four weeks, the presentations and conversations facilitated in Milam 215 served as both proof and enrichment of the writing culture across Oregon State campus. Attendees included everyone from tenured faculty to graduate teaching assistants. The varied spectrum of experience led to rich discussions on writing pedagogies. Each lunch provoked new thoughts on how best to approach the complicated task of teaching our students to write in the disciplines.
High-Impact Writing Practices & Multimodal Learning
On April 14th, WIC Director Vicki Tolar Burton introduced the article titled “How To Create High-Impact Writing Assignments That Enhance Learning and Development and Reinvigorate WAC/WIC Programs: What Almost 72,000 Undergraduates Taught Us” by Paul Anderson, Chris M. Anson, Robert M. Gonyea, and Charles Paine (2016). Tolar Burton chose the article from the academic journal Across the Disciplines as the central theme for this year’s lunch series. Her presentation included information on Oregon State’s participation in the NSSE, or National Survey of Student Engagement, and the significance of the data collected on student writing. The lunch attendees discussed the article’s suggested constructs for effective writing practices. Then WIC GTA Claire Roth provided a brief overview of multimodal composition in writing intensive courses. We invited faculty to use various craft materials in a hands-on exercise in multimodality. Some took notes in crayon on colored construction paper; others created collages from magazine images. Lunch participants commented afterwards that it was “helpful to be reminded about best practices for writing assignments, and (as always) to share/hear from other faculty about related instructional successes and challenges.”
- The three constructs for effective writing practices are
- interactive writing processes (discussing ideas with mentors/peers, giving/receiving feedback, visiting writing/tutoring centers),
- meaning making writing tasks (summary, analysis, description, argument, field-specific genres/styles/formats),
- clear writing assignments (describe instructor expectations, explain assignment goals/objectives, explain criteria for evaluation).
- Incorporating multimodal composition can enrich student writing experiences in WIC courses.
A panel of representatives from the new Writing Studio joined us on April 21st to introduce faculty to the changes made during the shift from Writing Center to Writing Studio. The panel included Writing Center Director Dennis Bennett, Undergraduate Writing Studio Coordinator Michelle Marie, Graduate Writing Center Coordinator Chris Nelson, and Studio Consultants Madison Dempsey, Amritha Jayasamkar, and Tessa Barone. While answering questions from lunch participants, Director Bennett and Dr. Marie described some of the struggles students face while trying to write in the studio. Each student who works in the studio is asked to articulate their understanding of the assignment they wish to complete. Much of the confusion students confess is related to the language used in assignment prompts, such as “academic writing” or “scholarly writing.” The panel recommended examining assignment prompts for terms never defined in class. They also suggested erring on the side of concrete description whenever possible and providing detailed outcomes for each assignment. For more information on the shift from Writing Center to Writing Studio, check out the interview with Director Dennis Bennett published in our Winter 2017 newsletter.
- The way we articulate our writing assignments to students impacts their ability to interpret our expectations and become successful writers in our discipline.
- The Writing Studio no longer uses physical paper for evidence of attendance, but sends an email to students instead which can be forwarded to teachers as proof of the appointment.
Cognition and Learning
Dr. Kay Sagmiller, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, presented on April 28th about the connections between cognition theory and pedagogical strategies. She led an activity and discussion about assumptions we often make in regard to student learning. Many participants were surprised to learn from Dr. Sagmiller that some of their assumptions about cognition and learning were incorrect. She reminded us that our own success in the education system might inhibit our ability to understand all the struggles our students face. One participant commented on how Dr. Sagmiller’s presentation “made me feel more empathetic about what it is like to be a student in my class.” Other attendees expressed a desire to “think about support structures” in their classrooms as well as the “effect of my comments on students,” all for the sake of constructing “levels of safety and security needed for successful learning.”
- Effective teaching requires a willingness to re-examine assumptions about how students learn and the complexities thereof.
- Teachers have the power to construct a classroom environment where instructional strategies achieve a positive impact on student learning.
Technology and Interactive Writing Processes
On May 5th, Instructional Technology Specialist Tasha Biesinger presented on Canvas resources for writing intensive courses. She explained how to construct rubrics, build effective comment banks, and assign peer review within OSU’s Canvas site. Lunch participants asked questions and learned important details about how they could better align their assessment strategies with high-impact writing practices. WIC GTA Claire Roth then presented on web-based writing programs EliReview and Google Draftback. EliReview is a web app designed by the rhetoric and writing departments at Michigan State University specifically for peer review. Students submit their writing and complete detailed review forms for their colleagues’ work. Students can also rate the helpfulness of comments they receive, adding a seldom utilized level of review for writers still learning how to give good feedback. Google Draftback is a Chrome browser extension that records writing as it happens in a Google Doc, then provides authors with a video of their own writing. The potential uses for this application rest primarily in student reflections on their writing process, since many writers cannot identify unproductive writing habits until they watch it happen for themselves. Lunch participants left excited to experiment with rubrics in Canvas and peer review technologies in general.
- Tasha Biesinger and her colleagues at Information Services stand ready to help WIC faculty make the most of their Canvas sites.
- Web-based writing applications can enhance high-impact practices like peer review and self reflection.