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.”


  1. 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).
  2. Incorporating multimodal composition can enrich student writing experiences in WIC courses.

From Writing Center to Writing Studio: What Faculty Need to Know

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.


  1. The way we articulate our writing assignments to students impacts their ability to interpret our expectations and become successful writers in our discipline.
  2. 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.”


  1. Effective teaching requires a willingness to re-examine assumptions about how students learn and the complexities thereof.
  2. 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.


  1. Tasha Biesinger and her colleagues at Information Services stand ready to help WIC faculty make the most of their Canvas sites.
  2. Web-based writing applications can enhance high-impact practices like peer review and self reflection.

By Claire Roth, WIC GTA

We are happy to announce our Spring Lunch Series schedule for 2017. This year’s topics center around an exciting publication in Writing Across the Disciplines scholarship, and we look forward to the stimulating conversations that will occur. All lunches will be held on Fridays in Milam 215 from 12 to 1pm. As always, delicious American Dream pizza and beverages will be provided. If you have any questions regarding the lunches, please contact the WIC GTA, Claire Roth, at Please register for each lunch you plan to attend by clicking here or the link below.

The topics for this year’s series are:

April 14 – “High-Impact Writing Practices & Multimodal Learning”

The WIC Team introduces the ATD’s recent article on High-Impact Writing Practices, a central theme for this year’s lunch series, and explores hands-on multimodal learning.

April 21 – “From Writing Center to Writing Studio: What Faculty Need to Know”

Dennis Bennett, Director of the Writing Center, and associate panel discuss the major transition into the Writing Studio, the reasons behind the change, and what faculty need to know.

April 28 – “Cognition and Learning”

Kay Sagmiller, Center for Teaching and Learning Director, discusses connections between cognition and student learning.

May 5 – “Technology and Interactive Writing Processes”

Instructional Technology Specialist Tasha Biesinger and Information Services partner with the WIC Team to explain how to make the most of Canvas, Eli Review, and other writing technologies.


To register for one or more of our lunches, please click here.

By Kristina Lum, (MA 2016, SWLF) WIC GTA, and Natalie Saleh, (MA 2017, SWLF) WIC Intern

Chris Thaiss, Clark Kerr Presidential Chair and Professor in the University Writing Program at the University of California Davis, visited Oregon State on May 13, 2016 to provide a workshop for STEM faculty and spoke at the last Spring Series WIC Lunch. He shared his techniques of rhetorical approaches to STEM reading and writing at both events, and the following is a summary of some main points from a rich day of faculty development.

According to Chris Thaiss, a rhetorical approach to STEM reading and writing “relies on tradition in science communication studies of analyzing 1) the argumentative structure of scientific articles and 2) differences in scientific writing for specialist and non-specialist readers.” This approach focuses on analyses of purpose, audience, genre, style and graphics in science writing, allowing for students to better understand how certain elements of science writing communicate meaning in their field.

Thaiss explained that a rhetorically-aware teaching approach also emphasizes the connection between reading and writing. He says, “I don’t think I could teach writing in this field without teaching reading in this field.” Critical reading skills can introduce students to important rhetorical principles behind scientific writing genres. Thaiss encourages the use of critical reading heuristics to improve students critical reading skills and help them recognize how science writing differs across genres. These heuristics require students to analyze differences in science writing in six different areas: purposes, audiences, types of evidence, order of information, tone and style, and graphic elements.

When designing rhetorically-aware writing assignments, Thaiss recommends incorporating the same heuristic topics from his critical reading assignments. These heuristics help students better understand how different elements of their writing can be clearer and more effective. For instance, asking “Who are the readers?” and “How can they use the writing?” can help students address their audience rather than write to a nebulous “general public.” Thaiss also emphasized the importance of scaffolding to help guide students through their writing process.

Thaiss advocates for a continuous cycle of thoughtful assessment that includes peers and instructors. He explained that a common problem with STEM writing feedback is that it tends to focus on grammar. This problem is particularly prevalent when instructors respond to second language speakers’ writing. As a result, those students do not receive much feedback on the actual content of their writing.

One examples of Thaiss’ own rhetorically-aware assignments and documents are provided below:

Comparative Document Analysis

  • “Compare three articles (on the same specific topic of your choice). One should be from a peer-reviewed journal,  another from a popular news publication, a third from a science blog or government report”
  • “Using the heuristic, identify the purposes and audiences for each article.”
  • “How do the writers of these articles use
    •      (1) types of evidence
    •      (2) order of information
    •      (3) tone and style, and
    •      (4) graphic elements

to achieve their purposes for their target audiences?”

Heuristic for Critical Reading in Science Table








RWIC Spring LUnchBy WIC Team

We are happy to announce our Spring Lunch Series schedule. This year’s topics are lively, and we look forward to the stimulating conversations that will occur. All lunches will be held on Fridays in Milam 215 from 12 to 1pm. If you have any questions regarding the lunches, please contact the WIC GTA, Kristina Lum, at As always, delicious American Dream pizza and beverages will be provided.


The topics for this year’s series are:

April 22nd – “Can We Make WIC Students Plagiarism-Proof?”

A panel of faculty from Writing I, Writing II, and INTO discuss how students can be taught citation and use of sources.

April 29th – “Mindfulness for Distracted Writers”

Vicki Tolar Burton shares research and strategies for helping writers improve focus and reduce writing anxiety.

May 6th – “What are the Roles of Graduate Assistants in WIC Classes?”

A panel of graduate students and faculty discuss appropriate roles and training for graduate assistants involved in WIC classes.

May 13th – “Writing for Audiences in STEM and Beyond”

WIC guest speaker Chris Thaiss is the Clark Kerr Presidential Chair and Professor in the University Writing Program at the University of California, Davis. He is co-author of Engaged Writers/Dynamic Disciplines and co-editor of Writing Programs Worldwide: Profiles of Academic Writing in Many Places. He was also part of a multi-institutional NSF grant focused on writing to learn in STEM.

To RSVP to one or more of our lunches, please click here.

pic-pizzaWe at WIC are excited to announce that our Spring Lunch Series is coming up quickly. This year’s topics are lively, and we are looking forward to the conversations ahead. All lunches this year are being held on Fridays in Milam 215 from 12 to 1pm. To RSVP for one or more of the lunches, please click here. If you have any questions regarding the seminars, please contact Jacob day at As always, delicious American Dream pizza and beverages will be provided.

This year’s series includes:

April 10th–Writing with an Accent: WIC, “World Englishes” and INTO OSU
April 17th—Multi-Lingual Writers and OSU
May 1st—College Writing Profiles: Updated Uses and Needed Change
May 15th—Using Canvass in the Writing Classroom