February 24 – Black Lives Matter in Academic Spaces: 3 Lessons in Critical Literacy

Talk will be from 12pm-1:30pm PST

dr. Vay (Vershawn Ashanti Young) will be delivering a talk that describes ways that teachers and the public in both Canada and the USA have misappropriated the linguistic concept of code-switching as it applies to both Black language and Standard language speakers.

Attendees can expect to learn:

  • How race is related to writing instruction 
  • How to exploit the best culturally relevant literacy tools to boost academic instruction in writing 
  • Three lessons to explore and incorporate code meshing into literacy instruction 

February 25 – Workshop: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and Black Standard English: Implications for Classroom Writers 

Workshop will be held from 12pm-1:30pm PST

This OSU-exclusive workshop given by dr. Vay (Vershawn Ashanti Young) has three goals for its attendees:

  • Identify and describe prevailing models of writing/literacy instruction in relation to code meshing and identify your own. 
  • Revise your model of literacy instruction to support code-meshing and explain why code meshing is beneficial to students.  
  • Create a Black Body Acknowledgement that supports your current/present positive and supportive stance on code meshing. 

dr. Vay will lead participants through readings and exercises to help achieve the goals above.

Attention WIC faculty! 

Remember to identify strong papers from your fall WIC course as possible nominees for the WIC Culture of Writing Award in your discipline. 

Units submit nominations by May 23rd, 2022.

In order to recognize and value excellence in student writing at OSU, each spring the Writing Intensive Curriculum program sponsors the WIC Culture of Writing Awards in the Disciplines, offering $50 in matching funds to $50 from any unit that wishes to participate in this undergraduate writing prize.

As the name implies, the WIC Culture of Writing Awards are designed to help create a culture of writing in which writing is taught, practiced, modeled, valued, and recognized at the class level, the unit level, and throughout the university as a whole.

Why give writing awards in the disciplines? This recognition sends a message to undergraduates and to the university community that excellence in writing matters in the unit, is recognized by the faculty, and is rewarded. 

For many students, even knowing that a professor has nominated their paper for a writing award is a significant form of recognition and a source of pride. 

The WIC program conducted a survey of previous Culture of Writing Award recipients in the spring of 2018, wherein respondents articulated the value of the award to them as young scholars:

“I still have the certificate. It wasn’t until I received that award, that I might have even considered myself a good writer.”

Anonymous, College of Liberal Arts, 2006

“When Dr. Natchee Barnd presented me with the WIC award, I actually cried because, still, in my senior year, I wasn’t terribly confident in my writing and I think part of me thought I was undeserving of it for some reason. The award spoke far more to my skills than I realized, and it validated all my hard work that I’d put into my classes (I’m welling up just writing about it).”

Elena Ramirez Robles, College of Liberal Arts, 2018

“Thank you for your support. The Culture of Writing Award was the first award I received during my academic career. It’s an accomplishment with significant positive impacts on young scholars during a vital stage of their progressive young careers.”

Andrew Larkin, College of Science, 2010

Participation in the Culture of Writing Awards has thrived since 2006, as 351 total students have earned recognition and cash awards through both individual and collaborative writing projects. WIC would like to thank all participating units for their continued desire to recognize and reward outstanding student writing.

Participating units select and nominate the best student paper written across their undergraduate courses, whether it was written in a Writing Intensive Course or not. 

As each unit assesses the best writing by their undergraduates, faculty have an opportunity to more clearly articulate what aspects of writing are highly valued in their field and select the student writing that best represents those qualities. 

Recognizing that the qualities of excellent writing are discipline-specific, awardees are selected by faculty within each discipline, with the selection process administered within each participating unit. 

WIC and the home unit each contribute $50 toward a $100 monetary award.

In addition the WIC Program issues an award certificate that is unit-specific — for example, the WIC Culture of Writing Award in Forest Engineering, or the WIC Culture of Writing Award in Political Science.

How to Nominate a Paper:

  • Model 1: The academic unit might use the unit awards committee to ask faculty to nominate and submit their best undergraduate paper for the year. The committee chooses the awardee.
  • Model 2: The academic unit wants the awardee to be from a WIC course, so one or more WIC instructors select the best paper.
  • Model 3: The academic writing occurs in a capstone course with a team project. The unit selects the team with the best-written capstone project for the award. When the award goes to a team of four, some units divide the $100 award four ways, while other units contribute more than $50 so that individuals will receive a more substantial award.

Specific instructions for nominating your unit’s award winner will be in the Winter term issue of Teaching with Writing. Remember to hold onto strong fall term papers for consideration.

For more information regarding the Culture of Writing Awards, please visit our website.

by Jessica Alfaqih, WIC GTA

Dr. Shawn Massoni is an instructor in the Microbiology and BioHealth Sciences departments at Oregon State University. Dr. Massoni was also a 2020-2021 Inclusive Excellence Fellow where he investigated the history of traditional grading models, and adopted new methods for grading more equitably in his courses at OSU. As a WIC instructor, Dr. Massoni focuses on bringing real science into the classroom through Journal Clubs–a model in which students take turns presenting research articles to the class–as a way to actively engage students in practical skills for STEM. In this excerpted interview with WIC GTA Jessica Alfaqih, Dr. Massoni discusses his experience as an undergraduate with journal clubs, and how they afford unique practices for students wanting strong, relevant STEM skills.

Jessica Alfaqih: Can you start off by telling us what a journal club is?

Shawn Massoni: Basically, there is a presenter for the week who picks a primary research article that they will present to the group. They read an article, digest it, and communicate their findings in a concise and knowledgeable way to their audience.

JA: How did you get started with journal clubs?

SM: In the microbiology lab in which I was working as an undergrad, all students–graduate students, post-docs, and even undergrads–had to participate in journal clubs. It’s great preparation for teaching because, essentially, you have to teach the class. In my case, the “class” were rooms full of established researchers! It was the school of hard knocks.

Being in the lab was hard because you weren’t in a safe space, necessarily.

We had a big screen on the wall and the other side would pop up in the conference room, full of professors.

There weren’t any students on the other side; this was just the way lab professors got together and had intellectual jam sessions over papers that were of specific interest to our particular work.

As a student in the lab, you were expected to present with the other professors, and you would get a credit for it.

In that scenario, there were medical school professors and other heavy hitters there waiting for you to present a document that they completely understand and will punch holes in it–and you–without compunction.

That was tricky, but that’s really what got me into it.

JA: How does the way you teach journal clubs now compare to your experience as an undergrad?

SM: When I started out you had to sink or swim.

I don’t want to do that to my students, but I do want to expose them to the literature. If you’re getting into this field in any way, shape, or form–from graduate school to working in a clinic or going on to medical school–it’s essential that you see what real-world science is all about.

Every student presents on one paper and that’s the way the class runs.

I give a mini lecture. They have writing prompts, occasionally, during a lecture in which they do their informal writing in a physical journal.

Sometimes those low stakes assignments are where students feel that they can be more engaged and committed because the stakes are lower.

Once they can informally wrap their heads around the science, they are more prepared for taking a deep dive into the material they have to present.

JA: How did you get started with Journal Clubs at OSU?

SM: I inherited BHS 323, Microbial Influences on Human Health, from a professor who is now at Lane.

Much of the writing had really gone out of it over the years and I worked to get the WIC component back in it.

Informal writing helps students get used to communicating to different audiences, so I brought that back in with journaling and would lecture very briefly so that we could have more of a two-way discussion on a particular topic. We would also have a particular reading to discuss for that day, so in a way my classes are also reading intensives, without textbooks.

For those of us in the science disciplines, courses are mostly taught out of textbooks, which are very generalized, full of inaccuracy, and rarely updated. Students don’t get exposed as much as they should to the primary literature, which is what science really looks like in the publication sense.

Instead, scientific literature became our textbook–real-world research.

My WIC class helps adapt students to reading the science article format. Reading a science article is not like reading a textbook; it’s not generalized. Students are challenged by it because they don’t already have a strong basis for understanding this material.

And so the journal club is what we do in class.

JA: They’re more difficult, but a journal isn’t as intimidating as a 300 page long, hard-bound textbook.

SM: Yes, these articles aren’t looking at the entire discipline. They’re looking at one little bit that I can relate to other things that we’ve talked about.

It is, in a sense, the culmination of an entire discipline applied to a single question. You need to understand everything that goes into it and start to know that that’s what you need. It’s challenging. It takes practice. And I think that’s good.

JA: I’m curious if there are notable benefits you’ve noticed the students coming away with?

SM: They learn how to access the primary lit (a skill in itself), how to read the literature, and how to be critical about it, which is a skill that they’ll need to have. They’re going to get papers from all sorts of different realms that they’re not experts in. I try to help them refine a method for themselves and figure out how best to approach difficult readings when they’re confronted with them.

That builds confidence too.

I wish I could offer this kind of exposure to freshmen, but there’s not that opportunity in that particular class. So I try to bring this element into all my classes now, in whatever way I can–bringing in the primary literature, exposing them to that, instead of textbooks.

JA: It sounds like there’s a feedback piece to all of this that helps with student development. Could you speak more about that?

SM: There’s a very heavy feedback element, and that’s what makes it so challenging because they often feel like they don’t have the chops to be able to judge whether a paper is good or bad in a lot of ways. But I tell them to bring in their opinion too, because the primary lit is full of veiled opinion as well.

They can say what they found to be beneficial, or not so beneficial. They can say, “What do I want to know more about?” And then they start to reflect on their own work as they make comments on others’ work. This process is internal and metacognitive.

I think it’s beneficial they do this as this is what they’ll have to do as part of their careers later on. That’s maybe a bit of an assumption, but I think it’s critical for them to have this exposure.

One of the things we do as faculty is peer-review our co-faculty. We sit in on classes and check boxes: do they use updated, relevant material? Do they project what they’re saying? Do they give real world examples?

This is exactly why it’s so important and why I like to bring the peer review aspect of journal clubs into my classroom. Because this is science in the real world.

JA: Are there difficulties with journal clubs one could be on the lookout for and try to prevent?

SM: One critical question is how to motivate the students to actually read the article.

Only one person has to present each week and all the other people review it and give the presenter their review. They’re required to give at least one comment, critique, and there are boxes for them to check off to rank a presentation strong or weak. But there’s no accountability for doing the reading or not.

I want people to be there because they want to be, but at the same time this class is not an elective. Everyone’s there because they have to be for their degree, which is tricky. I want them to want the knowledge and to want to be there, but I don’t always get what I want.

JA: How do you or how might you get them to do the reading, short of assigning a letter grade? Are you considering any changes to your class in the future to help students better understand the value of doing the reading, and to encourage them to actually do it?

SM: To incentivize students to actually do the reading when they’re not presenting, I just started using a daily rhetorical precis.

Even if they haven’t read or have only skimmed the article previously, this forces them to at least re-access it at that moment in class, right before the presentation. This way, they can start to gain an understanding about the paper being presented, form an opinion, or even start to imagine possible questions.

I find that knowing they will have to write a live precis gives them motivation to have read the material and tried to understand it previously. It’s really all about priming their thinking to be present for the paper and the peer presenting, and to be able to offer some valuable questions and criticism.

This was impromptu just this term, born out of my frustration at students not appearing to have done the reading (and having no extrinsic motivation to do so), and so was not graded in any way, but in the future I will likely fold it into the graded “informal” writing category.

JA: Do you have any advice for other faculty who might be interested in starting a journal club?

SM: For me, it’s a no brainer. Journal clubs expose students to the reality of your work, of your discipline. The students get to discover science in the real world, not in a boring textbook. The research articles actually show a relevant, up to date thing happening, and they show how and why and this is what they do as opposed to just accepting what is written in a text.

It’s great to use primary literature no matter what discipline you’re in. It keeps things vibrant, dynamic and challenging. And it gives students a more accurate picture of what people in a given field actually do.

By Jessica Alfaqih, WIC GTA

The WIC team is happy to report on a successful Fall event series throughout our ongoing remote modality. Each of this term’s events is summarized below, along with a bonus announcement for an upcoming event this winter.

Sept. 20 and repeating in winter via CTL– How to design accessible and engaging course material

In this interactive workshop, Design faculty members Christine Gallagher, Deann Garcia, and Andrea Marks taught easy-to-apply design principles. Attendees were shown how important design elements are to readability and engagement in syllabi design. Faculty were presented with examples and offered a range of practical tips for designing accessible and engaging course material. The workshop will be held across multiple dates in 2022. Check the CTL website for more information or watch the recorded workshop here.

Oct. 11 – How to use informal writing to promote active learning

WIC welcomed back faculty this Fall with a Kickoff Event featuring an interactive workshop led by WIC Director Sarah Tinker Perrault. In this workshop, Dr. Perrault demonstrated how to include informal writing that accentuates course content that helps develop students’ content learning as well as their academic writing skills.

By: Sarah Tinker Perrault, WIC Director

This quarter, WIC lost its founding director, Lisa Ede, and many of us in the program, at OSU, and in the field lost a guiding light. Lisa has been memorialized beautifully by her long-time friend and co-author, Andrea Lunsford.

The WIC program is part of Lisa’s enormous legacy, and one of our current projects is to digitize and share the program archives, which date back to the 1980s. The paper archive will be housed here in the OSU library, and an international organization, the WAC Clearinghouse, is interested in hosting the digital archive. WIC is one of the earliest and most successful WAC programs in the country, a testament to the work of Lisa and of long-term director Vicki Tolar Burton, and the archives should be of interest to scholars and to faculty working on creating or sustaining their own programs.

The work of WIC also continues, with some exciting things to report from fall:

  • We had two events this quarter. In September, designers Christine Gallagher, Deann Garcia, and Andrea Marks gave a workshop on how to create readable and accessible student-facing documents; they will offer a similar workshop through CTL’s “Tuesday Teaching & Tech Talks” in February and May. Next, in October’s fall kickoff event, faculty learned about how to use informal writing to support students’ content learning and give them practice with academic writing. A recording and materials from this event can be found on the Past WIC Events page.
  • WIC graduate assistant Jessica Al-Faqih and graduate intern Olivia Rowland have been working on new web materials. Both are M.A. students in Rhetoric & Writing in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film.
  • We have a Visiting WIC Affiliate, Hannah Whitley, who graduated from OSU with a triple major in Anthropology, Religious Studies, and Sociology, and is now a PhD candidate in Rural Sociology and Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the Environment at Penn State.

As we head into winter quarter, we are looking forward to virtually hosting renowned scholar, speaker, and performer Dr. Vershawn Ashanti Young, for a public talk on linguistic justice and code meshing, and a faculty workshop on linguistic inclusiveness in teaching.

Finally, don’t forget to identify strong papers from your fall WIC course as possible nominees for the WIC Culture of Writing Award in your discipline.

Nominations will be due May 23rd, 2022.

The WIC team is happy to congratulate the thirteen faculty members who completed the 2021 WIC Fall Seminar.

Top row: Sarah Tinker-Perrault (WIC Director), Jessica Alfaqih (WIC GTA), Dominique Bachelet, Tyler Anderson
Second row: Yong Bakos, Ingrid Scheel, Hannah Whitley (Visiting WIC Affiliate), Jen Myers
Third row: Sean Getson, Hilary Boudet, Yvette Gibson, Elisa Monaco
Fourth row: Ashley Vaughn, Hoe Woon Kim, Kari-Lyn Sakuma, Peder Nelson
Bottom row: Olivia Rowland (WIC Intern)

For five weeks, OSU faculty came together via zoom from around Oregon, and from as far away as Colorado. Along with members of the WIC team, participants talked about what it means to “write well” in the disciplines; about how they use informal writing exercises and formal writing assignments to help students develop field-, genre-, and audience-appropriate writing abilities; and about how to develop and refine effective and equitable practices for giving feedback and grading student work.

The 2021 graduates are:

  • Tyler Anderson, Sociology
  • Dominique Bachelet, Biological and Ecological Engineering
  • Yong Bakos, Computer Science
  • Hilary Boudet, Sociology
  • Olga Custer, Sociology
  • Sean Gestson, Civil & Construction Engineering
  • Yvette Gibson, Animal & Rangeland Sciences
  • Hoewoon Kim, Mathematics
  • Elisa Monaco, Animal & Rangeland Sciences
  • Jen Myers, Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences
  • Kari-Lyn Sakuma, Health Promotion and Health Behavior
  • Ingrid Scheel, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Ashley Vaughn, Health Promotion and Health Behavior