New scholarship in WAC

Greetings from the land of cheese and hotdogs, WAC-y colleagues!

During the time off teaching this month, I’ve enjoyed catching up on new and recent scholarship in writing studies, and I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned with you all as you put the finishing touches on your Winter 2019 syllabi.

From “WAC Seminar Participants as Surrogate WAC Consultants: Disciplinary Faculty Developing and Deploying WAC Expertise” by Bradley Hughes and Elisabeth L. Miller. The WAC Journal (December 2018).

First, more evidence of positive impact of groups like ours:

“Even though one-time workshops about teaching and learning have long been staples in faculty development programs, including WAC programs, the semester- or year-long faculty learning community (FLC) model has proven to lead to far more change in actual teaching practices (Desrochers, 2010).”

“From a dissemination study about FLCs across six research intensive or extensive universities, Beach and Cox offered persuasive evidence that as a result of participating in a FLC, faculty incorporated into their teaching, for example more active learning activities, student-centered learning, discussion, cooperative or collaborative learning, and writing. The faculty participants in FLCS reported gains in their own attitudes about teaching and in their students’ learning and improvement in their own attitudes about teaching” (10).

New evidence reinforces the idea that the more active the writing assignment (concrete audience, analysis of their own writing and the writing of their peers, etc.), the more effective the writing assignment.

The author looked at writing related questions from the National Survey of Student Engagement (72,000 students survey). According to the survey, “assignments engage undergraduate students and enhance student learning when they involve (a) ‘interactive writing process’ (b) ‘meaning-making tasks, such as ones that ask students to analyze, synthesize, apply or otherwise do more than just report’ and (c) ‘clear writing expectations’” (20).

“Instructors in this WAC seminar chose [authentic writing situations] in order to focus communicate tasks and give students opportunities to sue their developing expertise about course content to communicate what they know with non-expert audiences, as recommended in the Boyer Commission Report on Reinventing Undergraduate Education (1998)” (emphasis original) (23).

At some point, I would love for us to discuss the ways in which we are already helping our students engage with “real” audiences, how students benefit from these concrete interactions, and how we aspire to improve in this area.

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