Read and respond for 1/7


For our next meeting on 1/7, please read my Threshold Concepts in Writing Studies (link located on the syllabus), and respond to this prompt:

What threshold concepts from the above list inform, or could inform, your choices when it comes to teaching writing in your discipline? What assignments do you have already (whether formal or informal) productively act out and introduce threshold concepts in writing for your students?

Looking forward to seeing you all in the new year!


Jenna “WAC” Goldsmith

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2 Replies to “Read and respond for 1/7”

  1. I found the slide presentation on Threshold Concepts (included throughout this post in quotes and parentheses) to be thought provoking but mostly over my head. As I clicked through the threshold concepts, I felt increasingly more stupid, having never thought very deeply about the vast majority of these concepts! Having never taught students “how to write” or “how to think about writing” before coming to OSU-Cascades, the territory has been a bit challenging (I openly admit this on the first day of class…”All Writers Have More to Learn”). With that said, I also found that I DO emphasize/teach/utilize some of these concepts in my WIC class, without knowing it I guess, which also made me feel like maybe I’m doing something right!

    One purpose of my class is to teach students to read primary research articles as rhetorical (not objective) works. As such, their primary writing assignment is to use existing research to support their own research question using a rhetorical structure. They also supply a counterargument to their thesis as a means to further persuade the reader to their side of the argument (“Writing Involves Making Ethical Choices”).

    Students spend a majority of their term on this research paper, going through structured activities around brainstorming, outlining, drafting, peer review, instructor review, citation, and revision (“Writing is a Knowledge Making Activity”). They are assessed by their peers and the instructor using rubrics and have these rubrics as they construct their papers (“Assessing Writing Shapes Contexts and Instruction”).

    The last assignment is to turn their 2000-word argument paper into a 500-word Opinion Editorial. We spend some time reading Op Eds, discussing audience, tone, and the argumentative structure of a successful Op Ed. They learn how to use (and “cite”) research in this style and to use a catchy title and opening sentences that hook the reader, and end with some type of call to action (“Writing is Performative”). They also write an accompanying cover letter to their Op Ed, intended to convince the editor to read their piece (“Writing is a Social and Rhetorical Activity”).

    The final assignment is to read their Op Ed piece aloud to the rest of the class (“All Writing is Multimodal”). I’ve also done this as audio recordings that require students to respond to what they’ve heard. It’s so interesting to me how different their pieces sound orally than written. Orally, I can almost never hear the problems with their work, while I can quickly find issues with their written work.

    I love the “Hacks” you have included for each Threshold Concept . Let’s face it, without those contextual notes I don’t think I would understand what the Threshold Concept is! I will ponder all of these, looking for places to insert them and teach to them in my WIC (and other) classes. Thanks Dr. G (stands for Genius of course)!

  2. In reading through the Threshold Concepts in Writing Slideshow, I realized how much more cognizant I need to be in making my assignments more transparent and building towards threshold concepts. (Confession: I had never heard of “threshold concepts” before this year.) In my training, it was assumed that students knew how to read primary sources and write for history, and I’m learning just how challenging it can be to teach a survey class where students are across the board in their backgrounds and experiences.

    I do have students write bi-weekly reaction papers to the readings, and I provide comments, expecting them to incorporate my comments and improve over the term. (Which sometimes happens…) I also give them the opportunity to submit drafts early, and revise and resubmit papers. (A few take advantage). However, this term I am going to break down the paper-writing process into multiple “scaffolding” phases where they have to turn in chunks of the assignment, building towards the final paper. I hope this process will result not only in stronger papers, but also more understanding of how writing is a process (and non-linear–didn’t we discuss that last term?). I also like the concept of spending more time on revision than on writing. And I plan on incorporating Shannon’s peer review activity! Making citations a collaborative group activity could be useful as well.

    I think threshold concepts regarding how words/ideas transform over time would be useful for history (which, contrary to what students think, is alive and constantly changing). I would also like to give more thought to genre/audience to make assignments more relevant for students. And I will definitely emphasize the “shitty first draft”–I tell students that I go back and “make it pretty”–and how failure/frustration is all part of the process. (I remember being distraught on the phone with my dissertation advisor because I just wanted to be done and she suggested that I continue to revise. Of course, my dissertation was much stronger taking additional time to rework some ideas.)

    And finally, perhaps next term I will experiment with moving beyond traditional essay assignments by incorporating projects such as blogs/vlogs, podcasts, etc. Although I’m something of a luddite myself regarding digital history, I think students would find non-traditional assignments (or at least the option to do one) more engaging.

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