This issue of Teaching with Writing gives you a chance to meet Dr. Kate Field, one of OSU’s most experienced and thoughtful WIC instructors; to explore genres of written communication in the OSU Open Source Lab, guided by WIC intern Amanda Kelner, who works for the OSL; to review “take-aways” from the WIC spring lunch panels; and to celebrate the undergraduate recipients of the WIC Culture of Writing Awards in the disciplines. This is also a time for me to thank the hardworking faculty who have taught WIC courses this year. Read more.
For an assignment in WR420/520 Writing Across the Curriculum, OSU junior English major Aleah Hobbs interviewed Dr. Kate Field, Director of the BioResource Research program, Director of OSU’s Bioenergy Project, and professor of writing intensive courses in microbiology, about how she teaches students to write in the field of microbiology. Read more.
Oregon State is home to the nationally renowned Open Source Lab (OSL), which is grounded in open source technology and projects. We wanted to know more about how writing and documentation played out in the open source world. Our WIC intern, Amanda Kelner, who is also the staff writer and media coordinator for the OSL, sat down with Director Lance Albertson to learn more. Read more.
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. Read more.
WIC and participating units strive to foster a commitment to excellence in undergraduate student writing and recognize the value of writing across the disciplines with the annual Culture of Writing Awards. Participation in the Culture of Writing Awards has thrived since 2006 as students earn recognition and cash awards through either individual or team writing projects. This year, participation continues to be strong. WIC would like to thank all participating units for their continued desire to recognize and reward outstanding student writing. Read more.
The WIC Faculty Seminar for the 2017-2018 school year will be held in fall term. Faculty interested in participating should ask their unit heads to email a nomination to WIC director Vicki Tolar Burton at firstname.lastname@example.org. The seminar is designed for faculty teaching WIC courses and faculty using writing in non-WIC courses, as it focuses on learning best practices for teaching writing across the disciplines. Upon completing the five-session seminar, participating faculty receive a modest honorarium. Read more.
This issue of Teaching with Writing gives you a chance to meet Dr. Kate Field, one of OSU’s most experienced and thoughtful WIC instructors; to explore genres of written communication in the OSU Open Source Lab, guided by WIC intern Amanda Kelner, who works for the OSL; to review “take-aways” from the WIC spring lunch panels; and to celebrate the undergraduate recipients of the WIC Culture of Writing Awards in the disciplines.
This is also a time for me to thank the hardworking faculty who have taught WIC courses this year. You give our students the generous gift of attention to their writing and feedback on how to improve it while modeling disciplinary excellence. Special thanks to faculty and units who took the time to recognize excellence in undergraduate writing with a WIC Culture of Writing Award in their major.
I am especially grateful to the WIC GTA Claire Roth, whose writing expertise, creative ideas, and good spirit have made this year of working with faculty and reviewing courses a happy and productive experience. Thanks also to WIC interns Addison Koneval (winter term) and Amanda Kelner (winter and spring), who jumped in to learn more about writing program administration, wrote articles for the newsletter, and contributed to the daily work of WIC in important ways.
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.
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
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.
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.
Oregon State is home to an ever expanding computer science program. It is also home to a few computer science organizations that deal with projects beyond the scope of the university. One such organization is the Open Source Lab (OSL), which is grounded in open source technology and projects. Our WIC intern, Amanda Kelner, is an undergraduate studying music performance and English at OSU and is also the staff writer and media coordinator for the OSL. We wanted to know more about how writing and documentation played out in the open source world. Kelner sat down with Director Lance Albertson to learn more.
In an age of competition and ownership, the OSL and the larger open source community is working to expand a new frontier of accessibility and transparency in technology and information. The OSL is a hosting and development center for open source projects that often come from outside the lab and the university (from companies such as Facebook and IBM), as well as an experiential learning program for students in computer science. Students receive hands-on interaction with the coding and development process of real world projects. The projects the lab and other open source centers work on are exclusively focused on open source technology and software. Open source is the belief and implementation of free access to the internet and its technologies. Everything the OSL does is visible to the public in some way. Thus, user documentation is viewable by the public.
Documentation comes in many forms. While computer science does involve a great deal of code, it is just as important if not more so to document work. Documentation is an important part of the development process, both for interested parties and collaborators. Consider the function of lab reports. Lab reports detail the process with which an experiment is completed, including questions, methods, data, and interpretations. The lab report allows other scientists to review and possibly replicate the experiment. The same general principle applies to documentation in computer science. It describes anything from product function to code development to online information. The structure of this documentation varies depending on the purpose, but the goals are all the same: transparency.
In a recent convention known as PyCon, open source documentation was broken down into four genres: tutorials, how-to guides, discussions, and references. Each serves a different function depending on what the documenter is trying to accomplish. Tutorials are learning-oriented, how-tos are problem-oriented, discussions are understanding-oriented, and references are information-oriented. Albertson states all of these documentation styles are important to circulate information. “You use different types of documentation for different things. If you’re a developer looking up quick information, you would use some sort of reference manual, but if you want to see how a project was developed, you might look to the discussions the developers carried out online to figure out how they came to write a specific line of code.”
Git is one example of a program that not only facilities documentation, but stores this documentation and other data. Git is a decentralized version control system, which means it hosts and stores metadata, or data that informs or describes other data. Many programmers use Git during all phases of their development process and other Git users can view what they do. It is free to the public and a major documentation platform for open source users, which has been in operation for nearly a decade and is still used prevalently, even in a world of fast changing technology.
Programs like Git also keep track of who does what to any given project. Because open source means open access, this also allows for other developers to work on a project licensed by someone else. Every developer has their own account, so when they make changes to the code, Git, and programs like it, keep track of this. “All the history of who owns what is in the sourcecode,” Albertson says.
According to Albertson, this is an ideal situation. Often, documentation lags behind the real work. As projects progress, some developers may not put as much time in documentation as they do in the actual coding. To combat this, Albertson says, “At the lab, we try to have fresh eyes review our documentation. They tell us when something doesn’t make sense, or when it’s not working, and we work together to update and fix it.” This form of peer review is an important part of the development process at the lab. Not only documentation, but code is also reviewed by both students and full-time professionals.
The OSL works hard to continuously encourage and facilitate documentation among its workers. Like students in the capstone for WIC students in computer science, OSL students must relate to basic rhetoric, such as audience, genre, and language. The goals are all the same: transparency. As the open source community urges the next generation towards the next frontier of open access, the information and documentation must reflect the diligence and transparency of the ideology. Only then will the open source initiative and the OSL create a sustainable foundation.
Earlier this year, students in WR420/520 Writing Across the Curriculum were asked to interview a professor in a discipline that interests them, asking how that professor teaches their majors to write. Students were also asked to make connections to course readings as they arose naturally. Aleah Hobbs is a third year undergraduate at Oregon State University. As an English major and a writing minor, she writes quite a bit, but this is her first published work. Aleah’s initial interest upon arriving at OSU was in microbiology and, though she decided on a different degree path, that interest led her to seek out an interview with Dr. Kate Field, Director of the BioResource Research program, Director of OSU’s Bioenergy Project, and professor of writing intensive courses in microbiology.
-Vicki Tolar Burton, WIC Director
Writing in a Microbiology Classroom: An Interview with Dr. Kate Field
By Aleah Hobbs
In high school, many students were taught how to write a standard, five-paragraph, argumentative essay. This opens a few doors for students in college, and gives them a general understanding of how to present their ideas and defend them with outside sources and evidence. They further develop writing skills in Writing I and II courses. However, those majoring in mathematics, sciences, and many other disciplines, must learn additional methods of writing to effectively communicate in their discipline, new methods they may not learn until their upper-division courses. Educators like Dr. Kate Field, Department of Microbiology, have devised engaging assignments to teach students the material of a course, as well as the conventions of writing in their discipline.
For Dr. Field, the types of writing necessary for her own work are primarily published research to communicate findings to the public and grant proposals to receive funding for projects. These genres are generally not covered formally in introductory writing courses, but to ensure majors learn these skills, Dr. Field has woven them into her writing intensive course through various writing assignments. One way writing is used in her course MB 385 Emerging Infectious Diseases is through a scientific press release assignment in which students are asked to read papers from the 1800s, figure out what scientific breakthroughs are discussed in the paper, and then individually write a modern press release as if these breakthroughs had been made recently at OSU. This gives the students practice in communicating scientific discovery with the public, while also teaching them some history of microbiology. From that point, Dr. Field has each student choose an infectious disease that the rest of their assignments will be focused on. With this disease, the students are asked to write a case report like those used by medical professionals. The students get to make up their case with an imaginary patient but are required to use evidence to support the claims made in their report. This forces students to research their disease and gives them the opportunity to “write like doctors, which is fun for them because they all imagine themselves as doctors,” according to Dr. Field.
Another way that Dr. Field offers students practice in writing for their discipline is through a mini grant-proposal assignment based on the infectious disease they chose. They are asked to identify a problem involving their disease, come up with an approach to solve that problem, then write their grant proposal to get funding for the approach they’ve identified. In doing so, students have the chance to propose their own ideas for research and experimentation, which is the kind of creativity they’ll need as scientists, and it gives students real practice using the writing styles that will be applicable to their future careers. This is reminiscent of Michael Carter’s discussion of empirical inquiry in his article “Ways of Knowing, Doing, and Writing in the Disciplines.” Carter describes empirical inquiry as “a way of doing that consists of answering questions by drawing conclusions from systematic investigation based on empirical data;” he references microbiology as a discipline that exemplifies empirical inquiry. While writing to learn is also incorporated in Dr. Field’s class, these specific assignments allow students to learn how they should be writing in the professional world in their discipline.
Similar writing assignments have been incorporated in lower-level courses through the inclusion of lab report writing in the general series of chemistry, biology, and others, but these are often sans critique and guidance. Students may be asked to turn in a lab report, but are only asked to complete a single draft and thus get very little feedback on their work. This is not the case with Dr. Field’s writing assignments. In order to mark up students’ work, ensure they’re on the right track and writing like scientists, Dr. Field requires a first draft for all of her writing assignments. She leaves it ungraded to keep the stakes low and gear it more toward the purpose of learning, but students are required to hand in this draft in order to receive credit. This strategy is in line with the WAC goals involving “writing to learn,” and slowly teaches students how to “write to communicate” in their discipline. These goals, outlined effectively by Susan McLeod in “The Pedagogy of Writing Across the Curriculum,” can aid in students’ understanding of material as they write to work through their thoughts, as well as their understanding of the expectations of writing within their discipline.
As for what she looks for in her students’ writing, Dr. Field asks for the work to be succinct. There shouldn’t be any wordiness, but often students find it hard to cut out the extra things they think they need to say, “‘the data derived from the research shows that A equals B’ when they could just say ‘A equals B,’” she added. Since some articles in the scientific community have word limits, shorter is better. She states that some writers from other fields may think it sounds rude to “just put it out there,” but to scientists, the quick relay of information “starts to look correct.” In addition to succinctness of writing, Dr. Field actually doesn’t like reports to be written entirely in passive voice. “Something didn’t happen all by itself. You have to have a subject in there,” she stated. She does admit that it takes some balancing, but entirely passive papers tend to sound “very awkward.”
Of course, like most educators, Dr. Field looks for proper grammar in her students’ writing. While she knows it isn’t her job — and realistically, it shouldn’t be her job — she explained “I kind of think of it as being my job,” and marks up papers for their grammatical errors as well as content and form. This is a difficult choice on her part because she is aware that students aren’t required to take grammar courses, and grammar may not be covered in public primary or secondary schools, so many students simply haven’t received an education on proper grammar. This grammar issue puts educators in a position where they must decide whether or not they’ll mark students down for grammatical errors. For Dr. Field, grammar is important enough to affect students’ grades, but she gives them the opportunity to revise and resubmit in order to raise that grade.
Incorporating lessons on writing into an existing course in the major can be a difficult task, but Dr. Field manages to provide her students with information on both emerging infectious diseases and writing like a medical professional. Educators like Dr. Field are giving students the opportunity to practice these skills prior to entering the professional world, preparing these scientists for their future careers in research and medicine.
“Dr. Kate Field.” Personal interview. 21 Oct. 2016
Carter, Michael. “Ways of Knowing, Doing, and Writing in the Disciplines.” Writing Across the Curriculum: A Critical Sourcebook. Terry Myers Zawacki and Paul M. Rogers. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2012. Print. Bedford/St. Martin’s Ser. in Rhetoric and Composition.
McLeod, Susan, “The Pedagogy of Writing Across the Curriculum.” Writing Across the Curriculum: A Critical Sourcebook. Terry Myers Zawacki and Paul M. Rogers. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2012. Print. Bedford/St. Martin’s Ser. in Rhetoric and Composition.
WIC and participating units strive to foster a commitment to excellence in undergraduate student writing and recognize the value of writing across the disciplines with the annual Culture of Writing Awards.
Participation in the Culture of Writing Awards has thrived since 2006 as students earn recognition and cash awards through either individual or team writing projects. This year, participation continues to be strong. WIC would like to thank all participating units for their continued desire to recognize and reward outstanding student writing.
Congratulations to this year’s awardees!
Unprecedented Retreat of Columbia Glacier Relative to the Last Millennium
Kate G. Field
Our Bumblebees Are Disappearing: the Neonicotinoid Connection
Crop and Soil Science
Exploring In-home Therapies to Increase Physical Activity for Children with Cerebral Palsy
Patrick Thomas Flynn
Undecidability for Higher Dimensional Knots
The Effects of Antibacterial Soap on Human Health
Who Supports the Legalization of Marijuana? The Impact of Liberalism and Age on Attitudes Surrounding Legalization of Recreational Marijuana
Ethical Concerns of Animal Experimentation
Brock Kocyan, Cody Cowdin, David Stitch
Project Summary: Smart Solar Disconnect
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Goodness and Failure Defining Humanity
A New Outlook to an Ongoing Debate: Affirmative Action through the Lens of Asian Americans
Tania Mendez, Caroline Brown
Malheur on the Move
Human Development and Family Sciences
Lori A. McGraw
The Paradox of Facebook: Interdisciplinary Perspectives of Social Support Online and Face-to-Face
Single-Molecule Analysis of a Novel Kinesin Motor Protein
Effect of Magnetic Field and Magnetite Nanoparticle on Power Production of Microbial Fuel Cells
Kate G. Field
Project Proposal: Multi-Use Facility
Construction Engineering Management
Individual Design Report: Coast Guard Base for Galveston, Texas
“Girl Power”: A look at Eighteenth-Century Feminism in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro
A Multi-Level Intervention Program for Breast Cancer Self-Screenings and Mammography Use in Native Alaskan Women
The Effects of UV Irradiation on the Biosorption of Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles to Heterotrophic Biomass
Corporate Oregon: A Narrative Study of Measure 97
Vibrational-Rotational Spectoscopey of HCl/DCl Gas
A Culture-independent Approach to Studying the Effects of Solarization on Soil Microbial Communities Using PRC and Illumina MiSeq
Awardees in Bio Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Environmental Engineering are not published at the request of the nominating faculty.
The WIC Faculty Seminar for the 2017-2018 school year will be held in fall term. Faculty interested in participating should ask their unit heads to email a nomination to WIC director Vicki Tolar Burton at email@example.com.
The seminar is designed for faculty teaching WIC courses and faculty using writing in non-WIC courses, as it focuses on learning best practices for teaching writing across the disciplines. Upon completing the five-session seminar, participating faculty receive a modest honorarium.
The seminar is held on five consecutive Wednesday afternoons, 3-5pm, in Milam 215 on the specific dates listed below:
Registration is now open and will continue throughout the summer. As of now, eight spaces are available.