For the second year, WIC’s spring event series will be held via Zoom. While the remote modality precludes WIC’s regular provision of pizza, it has also allowed for greater scheduling flexibility, and this year’s events will be offered in a variety of time slots. In light of this change, it may be more appropriate to refer to this year’s “Spring Lunch Series” as a “Spring Snack Series,” albeit one which is strictly BYOSnack. You can register for each of the events listed below using this link.

This year’s line-up includes the following:

The art of asking questions: How to prime stronger student engagement

Friday, April 9th (OSU Week 2), 10:00 am PDT.

Description: When you publish your discussion post, you’re hopeful. Hopeful that students will match the effort you put into crafting a great question: thoughtful, well-articulated, compassionate responses that demonstrate growth and understanding. And yet. A scattering of twenty word responses, some “please get me through this” posts, and a few eager students diving into the deep end—but where are the discussions that build to an energizing and meaningful conversation? Ask better questions and you’ll get better answers. Join us for a workshop where we’ll show you how to write questions that maximize student engagement and that create meaningful experiences for your students.

Led by: Jessica Al-Faqih, Erin Vieira, and Alexander Mahmou-Werndli, WIC Interns and GTA

Register here

3 quick hacks to build cognizance, agency, and logical flow in a STEM WIC class

Tuesday, April 20th (Week 4), 12-12:50 p.m. PDT.

Description: In the midst of the pandemic and a shift to remote learning, many are at our wits’ end converting classes, keeping our students motivated, and keeping ourselves motivated. Just thinking about how to better a WIC course or try something new may be daunting. However, biologist Lauren Dalton has some tried and true activities/strategies that may help both you and your students; she will share 3 quick hacks that are fun (or mostly fun) and also help build students cognizance around their communication abilities, agency in what they write about, and logical flow in their written pieces. We hope to see you there.

Led by: Lauren Dalton, Instructor, Biochemistry and Biophysics

Register here

Whose language? Inclusive teaching of academic communication across disciplines

Wednesday, May 5th (Week 6), 3:00 p.m. PDT.

Description: This 50 minute workshop describes the need for linguistically inclusive practices in all academic disciplines. It offers specific tips on how we can value and support students’ use of different languages and varieties/dialects of English, lower barriers to access, and increase learning opportunities for students from all linguistic backgrounds.

Led by: Adam Schwartz (OSU), Sergio Loza (UO), and Devin Grammon (UO)

Register here

How to design accessible and engaging course material

Wednesday, May 19th (Week 8), 4:00 p.m. PDT.

Description: Do you struggle to make syllabi, assignments, and other course materials look inviting? Do you worry that they are hard to read, hinder understanding, or that they’re inaccessible to students with visual impairments or reading difficulties? Learn easy-to-apply design principles at the “How to design accessible and engaging course material” workshop at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19th. (You’ll also learn what not to do!) In this 50 minute interactive workshop, design faculty members Christine Gallagher, Deann Garcia, and Andrea Marks will offer a range of practical tips and lead you through how to apply them to your own course materials.

Led by: Christine Gallagher, Deann Garcia, and Andrea Marks, design faculty

Register here

Using learning outcomes to create clear assignments

Wednesday, June 9th (Week 11). 2:00 p.m. PDT.

Description: Designing courses and assignments can be confusing or overwhelming, especially in courses with both disciplinary and WIC learning outcomes, but it doesn’t have to be. This interactive workshop walks through a series of steps to (1) understand what each learning outcome means, (2) identify how the WIC outcomes can support the disciplinary outcomes, and (3) integrate the two sets of outcomes in clearly defined exercises and assignments that will help students learn course content and disciplinary writing.

Led by: Sarah Tinker Perrault, WIC Director

Register here

Mike Caulfield's picture

Michael Caulfield, director of blended and networked learning at Washington State University – Vancouver and a nationally recognized digital literacy expert, discusses the roots of our current “digital dissensus” and explains how our approach to education may be making the problem worse.

Twenty three days after a conspiracy-driven coup was attempted on the White House following the presidential election loss for Donald Trump, Mike Caulfiled delivered a talk to faculty and students across the United States on the topic of “Teaching Truth and Trust in an Era of Digital Dissensus.” In an increasingly digitized world, it’s easier than ever to stumble upon misinformation. Snopes, a well-known fact-checking website, has expanded their categories to encompass a new host of “false facts” such as, “fauxtography” and “cokelore” (yes, this is everything CocaCola related). 

Caulfield cautions that there’s a deeper dynamic to the obvious spread of misinformation at play—and that arises from an increasing reliance on digital media where information is abundant, attention is scarce, and evaluating credibility is an afterthought. 

Students are expected to sift through sources and assess credibility yet there is a growing contingent of “bad actors” who shape misinformation to appear credible and, more importantly, to keep folks locked in an “information loop” which is the way digital media is now monetized: the longer a person stays on a site or the more shares a piece of information gets, the more revenue is generated. This poses a serious problem for students who are coming to terms with research in an age of digital dissensus. 

To that end, Caulfield addresses a series of important questions:

  • How do we design education for a world where information is plentiful, and attention is the scarcity? 
  • How do we encourage analysis and engagement in our students without having those same impulses gamed by bad actors? 
  • What epistemic stances and heuristics serve the public in a world where expertise is niche and very little is directly verifiable, and where facts are atomized, separated from analysis, and reassembled in bizarre and dangerous ways?

Misinformation in the Mundane 

Caulfield showed the two images below, and asked how people might respond.

Is either real? Both? One? Neither? What’s the backstory? What steps can you take to find out? 

He explained that if you’re like most internet users, you will run through a quick google search to find out what others are saying. You are looking for better coverage

In just a few seconds, you can find that some reputable online sources—the prominent food magazine, for example—support the kentucky fried chicken donut, and very quickly see that the top hits for “caffeinated ham” throw around the term “false” and “fact-check.” 

This exercise can show students that it only takes about 5-10 seconds to evaluate the veracity of something like the fried chicken donut sandwich post on Instagram. 

But what, he asked, happens when the context is muddier? What if, for example, you’ve found an article on a reputable looking dot-org website instead of the easy-to-suspect Instagram or twitter? What if the original source is harder to trace? What if an article seems to be peer-reviewed? 

Introducing the SIFT method

Caulfield acknowledged that there are any number of evaluations a student can perform to analyze the credibility of an article, but not all are useful in everyday or academic life. For example, the CRAAP method is an unfortunately named, widely popular checklist for evaluating sources. It requires students to answer twenty-seven questions for a full evaluation. 

Giving a student one minute per question to investigate the source and assess how well it fits the question’s criteria, it would take close to thirty minutes per source to perform an evaluation. 

Caulfield noted that checklist approaches demand an unreasonable amount of time and are, in many ways, actively undermining a students’ ability to verify credibility. 

When we give a student a source and ask them to evaluate it, “what we have inadvertently trained our students to do,” Caulfield says, “is to see if it makes sense. To see how the logic feels. To see if it’s written in a scholarly style.” 

The mistake this approach makes is that students can find overwhelming support of evidence for credibility from the least credible sources. Does the article have footnotes? Does it come from a .org site? Isn’t a dot-org more trustworthy than a dot-com? 

What Caulfield’s research has found is that students often go wrong by not asking the two fundamental questions first: 

  1. Who wrote it? (Are they in an authority on this topic?)
  2. What is the status of the claim? (Did I find this in an appropriate context?)

This, not checklists, is what we need to have students build as a habit. 

To facilitate fast, easy student student analysis and engagement, Caulfield developed the SIFT model which asks students to: 

  • Stop
  • Investigate the source
  • Find better coverage
  • Trace claims, quotes, and media to the original source

“SIFT,” he says, “is something you can do whenever you come to a source that hasn’t come through some already vetted route.” 

Caulfield offers a robust breakdown of the different stages of SIFT in a free, online course for teachers who can use the modules to teach their students the SIFT method. You can access that here >>

Evolving Digital Dissensus

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that untrustworthy sources, data, and facts are being presented in areas where we once looked to as paragons of credibility—members of congress believing in conspiracy theories, for example. 

Education alone will not solve the problem of disinformation and conspiracy information penetrating media and political elites, Caulfield cautions. “The solution to that would require a restructuring of incentives around telling the truth in politics and media.” 

But it is important that we talk to students about the idea of an important person or news outlet and if they are in a position to weigh in with credible authority on a certain topic. This goes back to the two fundamental questions Caulfield encourages students to ask: is the person an authority on this topic? And, did I find this information in an appropriate context? 

As students build a habit of recognizing when they’ve encountered a source that should be evaluated, SIFT can happen quite quickly to ensure that the source is credible. 

It’s important not to ask students to run a twenty minute check to make a simple evaluation—they’re not going to do it. 

Instead, we can encourage students to cultivate the habit both when doing research in an academic setting, as well as when they see claims in something like their social media feed or online. 

If students are in the habit of asking themselves questions as they encounter news headlines or social media stories, they will be more equipped to recognize the powers at play asking for their attention, time, and belief. 

The questions below can facilitate all the other literacies we’ve taught students to apply: 

Is this worth my attention? 

Is this worth my time? 

Do the people producing this content have my best interests at heart? 

Is this going to give me a real view of the current thinking on this topic or could it be deceptive? 

SIFT does not replace the media literacy we’ve been teaching students. It serves as a precursor to the harder work that is more time consuming. 

SIFT allows students to assess very quickly if a source needs deeper digging, or if they can get rid of it right away and look for something more reliable. 

These are basic habits we’re asking students to cultivate that lead into a more comprehensive strategy for evaluation. 

“As anyone who’s ever tried to stay on any health regimen knows, habits are some of the hardest things in the world to do,” notes Caulfield. “But even if you do not have 100% compliance with a habit—even if a student remembers to stop only when it’s really outrageous or when they’re really worked up—it can still have an impact at the margins there. I think over time we can get a bunch of students to practice this. Even if we get a small subset, that has a massive impact on spread. So even if five percent of your class walked out with this skill and applied it, we’re going to have a really outsized impact on the spread and belief in fact-checking.”

You can view a recording of Teaching Truth and Trust in an Era of Digital Dissensus here.

by Erin Vieira, WIC intern

Instructional librarians Hannah Gascho Rempel and Jane Nichols explore the topic of information literacy in their workshop “Information Literacy as an Act of Critical Exploration and Reading”.

Information literacy work is often presented as a linear process: you identify a need, find information related to the need, evaluate it for credibility, apply it in a specific context, and finally, acknowledge where it came from. Information searching, evaluating, and use is also presented as an iterative process. However, as Rempel pointed out, information searches are actually  often messy, and there aren’t always a specific set of skills or processes that every single person can follow. Rempel offers the following graphic of how research actually works:

Rempel highlights two aspects that are often undermentioned and over-assumed: exploration and reading. It is important to teach and learn about these two aspects so students have stronger information literacy. Although there is no specific method, we can facilitate how students ask questions with these aspects in mind. It takes time to model and build these ideas into assignment structures, but in the end, it can allow students to more actively practice this skill, which can be used for critical purposes in their field or to emphasize or create change as citizens.

Pre-Existing Reading Assumptions

Before delving into the specifics of reading for information literacy, Rempel first addresses preexisting assumptions she and other people may have about this aspect.

Rempel considers herself an ‘active’ reader. When reading for academic purposes, she typically uses a screen with her text on it and uses Zotero for notetaking. However, her reading process may differ from others; some may use a highlighter and a printed text instead. For many who have been reading a long time, it can be unclear why we make certain reading choices, so it’s important to understand how we each go about reading. Considering the range of what and why we read in our own fields can help us assess this.

For students, the topic of reading can be difficult. Sometimes, they think reading is unnecessary, too hard, and takes too much time. Without understanding the system behind reading, they can miss contextual cues that help them differentiate sources. Having more practice in reading can help students be able to identify the authority and credibility of their sources, and we can help them in part by sharing our own reading purposes and approaches.

A Framework for Reading

With this in mind, Rempel brings forward a framework distilled from Robert DiYanni because of its flexibility and adaptability to many different contexts. The framework suggests reading be done in three stages.

  1. Read to understand (annotate, verbally summarize)
  2. Read to look for meaning (make connections outside of the text, discuss)
  3. Read in conversation (generate response questions, discuss)

After going over the framework, Rempel opened up the breakout rooms for workshop participants with an activity.

In the breakout room, participants played the role of a student, but brought their teacher lenses. Rempel prompted participants to think of ways the reading framework may or may not apply to their own contexts, asking, “How could this be incorporated into your own teaching strategies?”

Pre-Existing Exploration Assumptions

After discussing the reading portion, Rempel then questioned what pre-existing assumptions people may have about the topic of exploration. When students think about exploration, it can often feel like a gamble, trying to guess what instructors want from them. Because of this, they avoid unfamiliar topics, leading them to choose overly narrow or broad topics. Overall, they can feel rushed to arrive at their final topics or conclusions and miss the exploration stage altogether.

A Curiosity Framework

To decrease the riskiness for students, Rempel highlights another framework, the curiosity framework. The goals of this framework are to:

  • Explore with your perceptions (notice if you are visualizing a place—what you might be seeing, smelling, or hearing)
  • Explore interpersonally (notice if you’re thinking about specific people, groups, or if you have implications about those preconceived groups)
  • Explore epistemically (think about similar language or patterns used in other sources, research, and in language and expression)

Much like the last activity, Rempel asked participants to go into breakout rooms, but with the curiosity framework in mind this time.

Transparency and Application to Own Context

Once the participants returned from the breakout room, Nichols spoke about applying what the participants had explored. She described the importance of being transparent about reading expectations and purposes; students feel more motivated when instructors are more transparent about the readings. Creating precise opportunities to practice reading and exploration skills can help them feel more motivated and engage in active and critical thinking.

Nichols also suggested the transition from an affective lens model to a holistic approach. She recommended using Carol Kuhlthau’s affective lens model, which establishes students’ emotional stages they go through during research and reading, and Jessie Loyer’s addition on how to foster student interest creates a more holistic approach, allowing for student care. There are times where research can open students to harm, with materials that can discredit their current knowledge, so it is important to acknowledge how to best care for the topic.

Nichols also notes that another way to care for students within reading is being transparent about their disciplines. Students often go through and switch between different disciplines. Naming skills and habits in a concrete way allows for more clarity for them.

With one last activity, Nichols asked some questions to have participants consider this aspect.

With these questions in mind, participants were urged to continue to reflect on their knowledge of information literacy and how to best incorporate it into their classes for both transparency and effectiveness.

You can view a recording of the workshop here.

By: Erin Vieira, WIC Intern

As many other student resources at Oregon State University have done, the Writing Center switched to a fully digital model since Spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Going from an in-person studio to an online model has influenced both the Writing Center staff and the students we work with based around the platforms we use to provide our service and the way we assist our students. First and foremost, though, student support always remains our top priority.

As a consultant at the Writing Center, I have striven to continue to assist students in their work, from essays, resumes, project proposals, and more, in supporting good composition and rhetorical practices, even when done from a digital format. Despite now being a digital format, the support we offer to students still stands as it did pre-COVID. The switch from an in-person studio to online has not been the easiest, but thanks to the hard work from the studio staff and a willingness to push through despite the difficult times, the Writing Center continues to flow effectively.

Instructional Technology

In Spring 2020, the Writing Center moved its services to fully online. Like many others, we have become accustomed to using Zoom services, which allows the Writing Center to provide face-to-face feedback. By still being able to view a student through a camera, I can have direct conversation with students, just as we would in person. Now that students are all over the world, time zones can be a difficulty in syncing up schedules, but thanks to our flexible hours, students are able to easily schedule a time that works for them. Even if there are problems with internet connection, an unavoidable part of working online, rescheduling is easy and allows students to continue to work around their own schedule.

Alongside Zoom, Slack became the new ‘Writing Center’ in our early stages of the digital model. Students would enter the Slack channel and be greeted by a consultant, who would assign someone to help them. Because of the various channels Slack has, consultants were able to chat with one another if they needed another perspective on the issue a student was having. However, students often found themselves confused on how Slack channels work due to the interface. If one wasn’t familiar with the concept of Slack, it was difficult to grasp where the student is meant to go. Although consultants attempted to avoid this issue by using hashtags to indicate where a student was meant to go when they originally joined the server, it was still difficult to navigate at times.

The Writing Center overhauled its online module in Fall 2020. Rather than having direct text channels of communication through Slack, the Writing Center added a live chat tool to the front page of its website known as Freshchat and started using a new scheduling system that would send students direct links to their Zoom session, removing the unnecessary steps between entering our Slack channel and then having to go into a Zoom consultation just moments after. Freshchat provides an anonymous question service for students who have brief questions about how the Writing Center works and the like. During these times of constant Zoom sessions in online learning, students may find the anonymity of Freshchat refreshing; the anonymity allows students to feel comfortable discussing their quick questions with us while still providing a direct line of communication.

Supporting Students in Live Zoom Sessions

Within Zoom, the Writing Center encourages staff to employ facilitative pedagogy rather than directive pedagogy—rather than telling students the direct answer to their problems, we create a conversation to get them thinking of the proper solution on their own. The pedagogy model practiced in-person differs from the way it happens over a Zoom call. In the in-person studio, consultants will generally move from student to student, provoking thought and providing feedback towards their questions before moving to another student. Once the student has had time to make further progress on their drafts, they can call the consultant back over for more feedback.

Zoom consultations, however, have made it necessary to adjust our pedagogy. Rather than going between students, consultants now stay with one student for 50 minute sessions. While the studio pedagogy is more difficult to emulate over a Zoom call, it’s not impossible; in my personal sessions with students, I’ve found myself trying to create ongoing conversation. In my earliest digital sessions, I found there were many moments of silence where I would sit on my laptop reading through the student’s paper. Now, rather than taking the time to read their paper while we sit in silence together, we actively discuss what their issues are and how to combat them. Students share their screen with me so I can see their writing, and I have no ability to edit their document. Any comments or revisions the student makes on their document will be created by themselves, maintaining the pedagogy model.

I’ve done a variety of consultations with students who have different disciplines. Instead of assigning consultants of specific disciplines, the consultant’s main focus is assisting students in framing an argument, organizing ideas, clarifying points, and using research appropriately. Having the student bring disciplinary expertise to the table allows staff to use their focus on writing to help students with these various issues. Sharing specific writing with a reader who may be unfamiliar with it can be helpful in making sure a student’s paper can be understood by a more general audience since that is where undergraduate studies lie. This all still stands true for the studio, even in a digitized format.

Working with a variety of students comes with a multitude of languages and cultural differences. The Writing Center continues to strive to support all students, including English Language Learning students. Because there are potential language barriers between the staff and English Language Learners, it is important for us to highlight what the students are doing correctly so they can continue to employ the methods they’ve learned. Knowing what writing techniques they’ve done well on allows us to support their language development, as they know to continue using those techniques.

The Online Writing Suite

Face-to-face Zoom sessions aren’t the only options for students. Now that everything has become digitized, many are finding themselves with “Zoom burnout”—an instance of feeling fatigued from constant Zoom calls and video meetings. To avoid this, students are welcome to utilize the Online Writing Suite. Rather than meeting with a consultant live over Zoom, students can receive written feedback. Written responses are an equally effective method of responding to students, focusing on specific feedback that the student requests on the Online Writing Suite form.

Students may request specific or general feedback when it comes to an Online Writing Suite response. For example, if they have concerns about the organization of their paper, they can let the consultant know they would like for that area to be focused on. Sometimes, students may hyperfocus on what they’d like to change about their papers, so it is important to incorporate praise into the response as well. By emphasizing what the students are doing well, it shows them what methods of writing they should continue to use.

With the written responses, I’ve found that students will sometimes follow up via email on the feedback I’ve given them, sometimes asking for clarification or specifying there was another issue they wanted to go over. Even though I do not see the student in-person or over a camera when they utilize the Online Writing Suite, emailing back and forth still provides an open bridge of discussion between myself and the student.

Being transparent about the services the Writing Center can provide has been the best method in keeping relationships with the student population. For example, we make sure students know that the Writing Center isn’t an editing service, even the Online Writing Suite. Additionally, I always make it clear that the student is welcome to schedule a live consultation if they have any further confusion and need to talk through something. By keeping open and honest conversations with our students about what the Writing Center can do for them, students are able to feel at ease even in these difficult times.

Despite never having met some of the students in-person, I’ve become familiar with regulars who come to our live studio hours and writers who regularly seek written feedback from the Online Writing Suite. The changes made to our digital services have opened avenues for students to be able to reach us. How the service is provided may have changed because of the switch to digital, but the goals of the Writing Center remain the same.

Are conspiracy theorists and anti-maskers anti-fact? Are people doomed to confirmation bias and ideological bubbles? Or is there a deeper dynamic at play?

If these or similar conundrums have arisen in the course of your teaching and scholarship, please join us on January 29th from 10:00 to 11:30 for “Teaching Truth and Trust in an Era of Digital Dissensus.” Mike Caulfield, director of blended and networked learning at WSU Vancouver and nationally recognized digital literacy expert, will discuss the roots of our current “digital dissensus” and explain how our approach to education may be making the problem worse.

In doing so, he will address the following questions: How do we design education for a world where information is plentiful, and attention is the scarcity? How do we encourage analysis and engagement in our students without having those same impulses gamed by bad actors? What epistemic stances and heuristics serve the public in a world where expertise is niche and very little is directly verifiable, and where facts are atomized, separated from analysis, and reassembled in bizarre and dangerous ways?

If you are interested in attending, please register via the following link. For more information, please reach out to WIC GTA Alex Mahmou-Werndli at

As a follow-up to this event, the WIC program is planning to partner with OSU Librarians and host an informational literacy workshop. Stay tuned for more information!

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 25th, 2021.

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 nomination 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.

One year after the initial interview for the positions I now hold as WIC Director and faculty member in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film, I am honored to be writing my first Pre/Views column for the WIC newsletter, just as I am honored to be leading one of the best WIC programs in the country.

Many things make the WIC program excellent, including the WIC team (operations manager Caryn Stoess, interns Alex Mahmou-Werndli and Erin Vieira, and director emerita Vicki Tolar Burton) and the WIC faculty advisory board, but I want to focus on the heart of any successful WIC program: a faculty-centered design.

WIC courses are the last in a series of ever-more-narrowly focused writing courses at OSU, with different kinds of expertise and pedagogy needed at each stage as students learn to adapt prior learning and experiences in new rhetorical situations and ever-more-specialized disciplinary contexts. Using an analogy drawn by Dr. Funmi Amobi in CTL, we can think of this process as parallel to that of an amateur cook who gradually develops into a professional chef.

The first stage, Writing 1, provides an introduction to college-level writing. It is analogous to a course in kitchen basics where students are introduced to knife skills and food safety procedures.

The second stage, Writing 2, helps students move into a general type of academic writing—academic writing, professional writing, technical writing, creative writing, science writing, and so on. This is comparable to moving into a general area of cooking: culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, enology, and so on. Students start dividing based on broad areas of interest; cooks apply and hone their foundational knowledge while learning about and preparing different cuisines, while bakers apply and hone their foundational knowledge while learning about and baking pastries and breads.

In stages 1 and 2, students need faculty with expertise in rhetoric (an understanding of “what writing does and how it does it”) and composition (the teaching of writing), or in technical, professional, and scientific writing. Such faculty spend their careers teaching writing and doing research on writing pedagogy, and are ideally suited to the broader orientations of Writing 1 and 2. 

The third stage, WIC, teaches students how to adapt what they learned in Writing 1 and 2 to specialized academic contexts. The cooks have become aspiring chefs and started developing the specialized skills and sophisticated understandings within their chosen cuisines. The bakers have similarly diversified into niches of the baking world; the aspiring pastry chefs are learning advanced confectionery techniques; those wanting to open their own bakeries focus on food business management, and so on.

At this third stage, students need to learn from specialists in their chosen areas. This is true with writing as much as it is with cooking, baking, or any other complex and multidimensional craft, and is why OSU’s WIC courses are taught by faculty in each disciplinary area.  The SWLF faculty who teach Writing 1 and 2 turn their attention at this level to students in their own specialized areas of expertise (much as a mathematics faculty member might teach Math 111 to non-majors, then teach Math 451: Numerical Linear Algebra to advanced students in the major), while students in other majors turn to their own disciplinary experts for advanced writing in those fields. 

Here are a few examples:

  • Fisheries and Wildlife Management students receive coaching in FW 439: Human Dimensions of Fisheries and Wildlife Management on writing a research proposal to advance a fishery or wildlife conservation program.
  • In BA 354: Managing Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility, students from the College of Business learn about and produce a Personal Ethical Action Plan that integrates knowledge of core concepts ethics with self-assessments and that helps them prepare for inevitable ethical dilemmas in their future work.
  • By the time students in the School of Writing Literature, and Film complete Writing 495: Introduction to Literacy Studies, they will have been guided through drafting, revising, and editing an academic article targeted for submission to a national, peer reviewed publication, *Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society*.

As these examples illustrate, students across all of Oregon State University benefit from faculty’s expertise in writing for specific disciplinary and professional contexts.

In this issue of Teaching with Writing you can tap into some of that expertise: An article about the Fall Kickoff Event featuring Mary Nolan (anthropology) and Tianhong Shi (Ecampus instructional design) offers tips on responding to student writing during remote teaching, while an interview with Ana Milena Ribero (School of Writing, Literature, and Film) describes how an expansive view of literacies and languages, including multiple Englishes, can help us become better educators for minoritized and underrepresented students and all students who care about making the world a better place.

You can also get insights into the Writing Center from undergraduate intern and Writing Center peer consultant Erin Vieira, celebrate the amazing 2020 Fall WIC Faculty Seminar graduates who took the seminar despite the pandemic, learn about the Winter 2021 guest speaker and related workshop on teaching information literacy; and find out how to nominate writers in your WIC courses for a WIC Culture of Writing Award.

The WIC team would like to congratulate the 12 faculty participants of the Fall 2020 WIC Seminar.

Top row: Yong Chen, Janell Johnson, Caryn Stoess (WIC Operations Manager), Jessica Gorman 
Second row: Mindy Crandall, Penny Diebel, Taylor Rhodes, Breezy Winters (Studio Art), 
Third row: Andrew Lorish, Sarah Perrault (WIC Director), Janet Tate, Michael Trevathan
Fourth row: Jenna Goldsmith, Erin Marie Vieira (WIC Intern), Ren Guo, Alex Mahmou-Werndli (WIC Graduate Teaching Assistant)

Through five weeks of Zoom meetings, Canvas posts, and reflection logs, participants in the 2020 Fall Seminar explored topics such as connecting course learning outcomes and WIC learning outcomes, responding to student writing, and using informal writing exercises to help students both write to learn and learn to write in disciplinary ways. In addition, guest speaker Kristy Kelly (Assistant Director of Writing in SWLF) talked about peer response, particularly about how to guide students in effective peer view while teaching remotely.

One silver lining of the pandemic is that with the WIC faculty seminar happening remotely, Cascades and Ecampus faculty were able to join in. One participant in LaGrande had taken the seminar in 1998 via phone calls and cassette tapes with Vicki. This time she joined colleagues in Corvallis, Bend, and Virginia in our weekly  Zoom meetings. We plan to keep seminar accessible for all OSU faculty moving ahead

Post-seminar evaluations offered useful tips for next year’s seminar and highlighted how much participants appreciated connecting with and learning from fellow faculty about what works and what doesn’t. They mentioned enjoying learning from interdisciplinary views, the camaraderie found in our meetings and on the canvas discussion boards.

For my part, I learned firsthand why former WIC director Vicki Tolar Burton says the seminar was always a highlight of her year. It was a pleasure and privilege to learn with the seminar participants:

  • Yong Chen, Applied Economics
  • Mindy Crandall, Forestry
  • Penny Diebel, Applied Economics
  • Jenna Goldsmith,  American Studies; Writing
  • Jessica Gorman, Public Health/Health Behavior
  • Ren Guo, Mathematics
  • Janell Johnson, Animal and Rangeland Sciences
  • Andrew Lorish, Studio Arts
  • Taylor Rhodes, Economics
  • Janet Tate, Physics
  • Michael Trevathan, Political Science
  • Breezy Winters, Studio Arts

by Alexander Mahmou-Werndli, WIC GTA

This year’s annual fall kickoff event, “Responding to Student Writing,” featured two excellent speakers: Tianhong Shi and Dr. Mary Nolan. Tianhong has been an instructional designer working in higher education since 2006 and at OSU Ecampus specifically since 2014. She is currently a PhD candidate in Educational Leadership at the University of Cumberlands in Kentucky. Mary Nolan is a senior instructor in the anthropology program who has been teaching Ecampus courses for twelve years. Among these is the Anthropology program’s WIC course, which she has been teaching in its online format for the last eight years. A special thanks is also due to Ecampus’s Katherine McAlvage, whose steady hands managed and coordinated the Zoom event.

WIC Director Sarah Tinker Perrault kicked off the event by providing a general framework for organizing responses to student writing. As a means of distinguishing between revising, editing, and proofreading, she referenced the hierarchy of rhetorical concerns (pictured below).

Image credit: Sarah Tinker Perrault.

Feedback on student writing is most useful when it matches the level of the hierarchy on which the instructor would like them to focus. Mapping this hierarchy onto the writing process can thus help identify concrete points for intervention on global-scale concerns like genre, ideas, and use of evidence as well as local-scale concerns like polish and editing.

The rhetorical hierarchy mapped onto the writing process. Image credit: Sarah Tinker Perrault.

Following Sarah’s presentation, Tianhong gave an overview of several foundational teaching paradigms: backward design, Bloom’s taxonomy, and the brain targeted teaching model, each of which has pronounced implications for responding to student writing.

Backward Design

Backward design is an orientation of pedagogy that begins with identifying learning outcomes and works backward to generate assignments, activities, and lectures rather than the other way around.

Image credit: Ohio Department of Education

This model is particularly relevant when deciding what kind of feedback to give at each stage of a writing project. If your responses to student writing are meant to help students refine their presentation of content and meet the genre standards of a particular assignment, your students will need to receive formative feedback that sees their assignments as works-in-process and facilitates continued revision. If your aim is to simulate what happens when disciplinary or professional work is submitted (e.g. to a journal or professional readers), responding in summative feedback might be more appropriate.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

After her discussion of backward design, Tianhong moved to Bloom’s taxonomy. Rather than presenting the taxonomy as a familiar hierachy, though, she modified it to better reflect the pedagogical goals of WIC courses by presenting the six cognitive activities as an interwoven loop.

Image credit: Tianhong Shi

This interconnectedness rings particularly true for peer review, which we as instructors often use to accomplish multiple pedagogical goals at once. In order to respond to one another’s writing, students must first analyze their peers’ texts to evaluate how their writing is meeting the assignment’s outcomes and requirements. This activity prepares students for the cognitive demands of creating or revising their own texts, and peer review encourages students to reflect, self-analyze, and revise in a recursive process.

The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model

Finally, Tianhong moved to the brain-targeted-teaching model, the model which directly informs her own research. Neuro-pedagogy asks teachers to take into account the physical and cognitive factors which affect students’ learning processes.

Image credit:

Considering student’s emotional climates and physical environments when presenting feedback that carries the potential to affect students’ motivation and self-image as writers seems all the more relevant during the remote learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Teaching for Mastery and Teaching for Application connect to WIC course’s combination of content focus and disciplinary writing instruction, respectively, but in order to help students engage in evaluative learning Tianhong suggests not only responding to student writing but assigning reflective activities which ask students to evaluate their own writing.

Following some breakout discussions, Mary spoke next. She shared wisdom from her experience as an anthropology instructor, including the importance of designing a course so that students begin writing early and often, receive feedback, and have opportunities to revise and try again. Her description of her own writing process, beginning with rough drafts and revising before polishing her grammar, reminds us how important it is that we reinforce a revision mindset via the feedback we give. It is well documented that providing extensive feedback on grammar and punctuation can overwhelm students, while focusing too early in the process on surface errors will actually discourage substantive revision by leading students to believe fixing surface errors is enough to finalize a draft.

Perhaps most helpfully, though, Mary’s presentation emphasized how writing serves as a mode of thinking both in and outside the classroom. To this end, she first identified a recurring problem: her students’ tendency to “hide behind” field-specific terminology and the names of prominent scholars. Mary then provided several samples of ways writers using “hit-and-run” quotation tactics. She then role-played responding to such writing, showing how she would ask students to explain the concepts and quotations to her as though she were an uninformed outside reader, thus prompting them to articulate the significance of such evidence to their fellow novice anthropologists. Her examples of feedback to writing, therefore, modeled not only effective use of evidence for students but also how we as instructors can guide our students to greater content understanding through a focus on their writing.

A recording of the event is available on WIC’s website.

By Alexander Mahmou-Werndli and Erin Vieira

Ana Milena Ribero is an Assistant Professor in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film. Her research and teaching mainly focus on rhetorics of im/migration, rhetorics of race, critical literacies, Latinx rhetorics, and Women of Color feminisms. In addition to courses exploring these topics, she has taught a collection of OSU’s Writing II courses including Argumentation, Writing for the Web, and Technical Writing. For this interview, WIC GTA Alex Werndli and intern Erin Vieira sat down with Dr. Milena Ribero to ask about literacies, her pedagogy, and tips for responding to language variety in the writing classroom.

Teaching with writing has an audience which includes faculty from across the disciplines. To start off, how would you explain literacies to someone with no background in writing studies?

First of all, we use the plural to connote that there are multiple literacies, not just one literacy. Traditionally, people think that there’s literacy: you’re either literate or illiterate. But when you broaden your definition of the term, you start seeing that there are multiple. I think my definition of the term is that literacy is the ability to use language to create a better world. When I think about literacy and especially literacies as using language or using communication to actually work towards a better world, that gets very blurry with rhetoric for me; I look at rhetoric as not just using language, but using symbolic communication as a whole to create meaning. And so, I think that literacy is very closely related to rhetoric, especially when we remove it from its traditional definition based on alphanumeric literacies.

I also kind of struggle with the word ‘language’ because when we think about language, we think of the written word or even just speaking certain languages of power, and I think that’s a little bit limiting. There’s a lot of work being done on literacies that have nothing to do with language, that have to do with the land and protest (not that a protest doesn’t have anything to do with language).

I’ll give you a couple of examples of what I mean. One of the articles that I read with my class recently talks about land-based literacies stemming from indigenous ways of knowing as a way to learn and know and relate to the land in ways that inform actions which advocate for and seek to create a better world. Another one I’ve read: there’s a scholar by the name of Steven Alvarez who writes about taco literacies – like the food. And the way that he writes about taco literacies, you could almost ‘read’ a taco and connect to all these cultural practices, right, of the food, the different ingredients, of different spices, the different meats that they put in there, corn or flour tortillas; then connect to labor practices, like the labor, the agriculture, or labor of planting corn, picking the corn and the tomatoes, all the social aspects of those labor practices and unfair conditions. So, you can learn a lot from knowing how to read a particular dish.

And so, I wonder how that connects to my definition of using language to create a better world. Maybe not just ‘using language’ but ‘reading.’ Like, maybe it incorporates reading practices as well as writing and speaking and creating practices. Because in that case with taco literacies, you’re really learning how to read a food to understand the ways that we’re all connected. Even if we just follow the trajectory of one ingredient, we can see all the people that are involved in making that ingredient, creating it, and being able to put it on your plate.

I’m teaching an intro to literacy studies class right now, we were thinking about what food would not be this socio-cultural window to dig deeper into, and we really couldn’t think of anything that would be devoid of a cultural factor. Even something like a hot dog- there’s so many aspects that you could look into about that dish as a cultural practice and labor practices and all these other things.

Yeah, if you think about it, even fast food like that still has its roots.

Right, and so I like to think about literacies as a way of reading something. I like the idea of fast food too, because when I think about food, I think about labor and about how we are so disconnected from the labor and the people that worked to bring this food to us. And fast food – I think we barely ever think about the labor behind it. If we think of McDonald’s, we think of a traditionally American food world. But, a lot of times, migrant workers are actually the ones creating that food and making sure that it comes to our plates. A lot of times, they are people that don’t even live in this country, so it’s like you’re creating this American idea through the hands and sweat and blood and tears of the other.

You’ve spoken about multiple literacies, both non-linguistic and linguistic. What would you say welcoming non-privileged varieties of English in the writing class looks like?

I think that it could look a few different ways, but I think probably the most important thing that instructors and professors throughout the disciplines can do is to help their students realize that there’s not just one variety of English but that there are Englishes.  Standard English is just one variety (that is, the privileged variety) but that doesn’t make it hold more truth or expressive ability or anything else than any others. So, even if you’re not comfortable as an educator welcoming different varieties of English into your classroom, I think that if you approach standard English as what it is – a variety of English that is, I think, always connected to white middle-class ways of knowing and being and speaking and making meaning – then you’re doing pretty good. Because then at least students know that Standard English is like an artifact. It’s like a technology that they must learn so that they can enter certain businesses or certain discourse communities, but it’s not the only way or the most valuable way or the best way to express yourself.

Probably the most important thing that instructors and professors throughout the disciplines can do is to help their students realize that there’s not just one variety of English but that there are Englishes.”

But if you are more comfortable incorporating other varieties of English into your classroom, I think you could do so a lot of different ways. A lot of instructors are most comfortable allowing students to plan, to take notes, or to do the invention part of the writing process in their own language varieties. Instructors with international students, for example, might say it’s okay if you want to take notes in your home language or your first language or in a mixture of English and your first language. Often, students don’t take you up on that. I’ve been in classrooms where I said you could write whichever way you want in your outline, and many students still want to do it in standard English, just because we’re so trained that that’s the only way. But even opening up that door… I think notes are a way that a lot of people are comfortable with, because again, it’s not something that you have to grade (or maybe you do, but it’s just a pass-fail kind of thing).

And would you say that opening the door has the potential to change students’ learning experiences?

I think it could help people be more comfortable because there’s a lot of fear in writing in a standard English that is further away from the ways that you speak at home. So, if you speak another language at home, or if you’re speaking African American Vernacular English, and you have to write in standard English, it can be scary because it’s this whole performance of competency and belonging… like if you can’t write standard English, you don’t belong in the university. That’s kind of the subtext, the message, that we often send to students, even though that’s obviously not intentional. Maybe opening the door will make students feel like their ways of knowing and communicating are valued. And I think that can go a really long way in engaging students more in their education, especially minoritized and underrepresented students. That’s what we want to do as educators, I think in any field: make sure that those who are underrepresented and marginalized actually feel like “this is your institution too, this is your university, this is your classroom. Just because there’s not that many of you in here doesn’t mean that it’s not yours.” And hopefully, if we make it a friendlier, more open space for minoritized and underrepresented students, then we will actually be able to recruit and retain more minoritized students.

At later stages in the writing process then invention, what are some best practices for teachers who are responding to writing which shows markings of being written in a dialect other than their own?

I think that I can give you multiple approaches. So, my approach (and I think it’s maybe controversial) is to just not really focus on correctness but focus instead on ideas and rhetorical effectiveness. I want students’ writing to be purposeful. Ideally, if students are using a language variety that is not their own, it should be for a purpose. But I understand that that’s not always the case, that sometimes students are not fully knowledgeable on how to express an idea in standard English, and so they use a language for it that is not standard English and not accepted in the institution. I try not to ever correct that because it doesn’t bother me as long as I understand what they’re writing, that an attempt was made to fit the genre that I’m trying to teach, and that the ideas are there. Correctness really is not the most important thing.

But I think that that’s controversial. I think that a lot of people feel like flawless writing or as close to it as possible is the goal. First of all, I don’t think there is flawless writing. I don’t think I’m a flawless writer. Flawless writing is a standard that we’re definitely not going to reach with our students when we have them for 10 weeks. But I think if someone was really intent on having their students’ writing fit into standard English, then maybe I would approach it as almost a translation instead of an error. When we think of different varieties of English as errors, we are devaluing students’ cultures, right? Let’s say somebody comes from rural Appalachia, and they’re expressing themselves in a way where maybe they use the word “ain’t” or a double negative or they didn’t put the apostrophe in the possessive. That’s what I’m talking about – like, I still know what you mean. Even if you didn’t add the apostrophe, who cares? If students are doing that and we say “this is a mistake, this is wrong”, then you’re actually saying “your culture is wrong. Your home is wrong, your parents are wrong, the way they speak is wrong.” So instead, let’s think of it as a translation, and instead of saying “this is wrong”, say “in standard English, we use the apostrophe when we mean possessive”, “in standard English, we don’t write ‘I could of’ with the OF , we write ‘I could have’ with an H. A. V. E.” I think that would be maybe a softer way of showing students that this is the way in which we want them to write.

Sometimes what we consider error are things that reflect a different variety of English. And sometimes what we see in error are just ticks that people have or things like using the wrong ‘there.’ I don’t think anybody’s doing that necessarily on purpose. I can bet most students know what ‘there’ goes where, but in writing something fast, it gets confused and forgotten and maybe they didn’t have enough time to edit. That’s not important; the most important part is the ideas, like I said, the attempt of writing in a genre and for a specific audience. There can’t be perfection, even when we’re asking our students to write for academic audiences; they’re gonna make little mistakes, and by focusing on that we’re taking away from all the learning that they are doing.

Faculty often express concern about balancing between helping students grow as citizens or community members and helping them prepare for professional success. What are your thoughts on this concern as a professor of rhetoric and writing?

I mean, I feel like I need to assume a lot of things to understand that as a binary. So, when you’re a citizen and a community member, what are your concerns versus when you’re a professional? You see what I’m saying? I guess, like community writing is different than professional writing?

I think that professional genres are distinct. And I think that maybe that’s the approach. To really make sure that your students know how to write in their profession is to focus on genres and be specific about the genre in which you’re teaching, right, like “this is the genre of lab reports, this is the genre of academic articles” or whatever it is that you’re doing. But when we think about ‘citizenship’… I’m not a super fan of that word because of all its colonial baggage. But let’s define ‘citizenship’ as ‘involved, caring community members.’ How I’m seeing the binary is this: do we want to create engaged citizens that will again work for a better world or do we spend time professionalizing our students? How are those not the same thing?  Because yes, we want to professionalize them in ways that are going to care for their communities, in all fields. We want to professionalize them in ways that are ethical; in ways that are community centered; in ways that are attentive to justice. And those are the same things that we want our citizens to do. They intersect. But the professional part –100% it’s important. We want our students to go into their jobs feeling comfortable enough to be able to succeed. So teaching genres as genres is, I think, a really great approach.

I think that this is something we struggle to think about as educators, because we want to do right by our students, and we want them to be prepared. But then if we just continue to replicate the dominance of academic English, then we’re never going to stop spinning the same wheel. If our students see that we’re talking about varieties of English, or at least about academic English as one variety… if they have that perspective when they’re the ones doing the hiring, it can spread and lead to more equitable language practices.

Hearing this discussion about different varieties and professional genres reminds me of the calls some writing scholars have made for code-switching or code-meshing pedagogies. Would you compare this to teaching students to code-switch?

I think there’s definitely some of that in approaching error as a translation issue. I think that’s a good approach, because we all learn to code-switch in a way, right? If I’m having an interview with you two, especially Alex because I know you, I communicate in a certain way, but if it was Peter [Betjemann, Director of the School of Writing, Literature, and Film] and Dean Rogers [College of Liberal Arts], I would communicate it a different way. We all do it; just for some of us, the code-switching, the two codes are more closely linked. Some of us are allowed to be a little bit more lax in our code-switching because of our skin color. For example, if you’re a black academic and you show up to your meeting with your department chair and you don’t code switch completely – I don’t know, I feel like you’re not allowed to do that as much as those of us who are white or white presenting.

So, yeah, I feel like that is a good approach to continue trying to see if it actually does what we want it to do, right? Especially outside of the writing classroom. Is it going to help us to be able to teach students about Standard English without completely devaluing how they are coming to our classrooms and where they come from? The cool thing about code-switching is that our students already know how to do it. They just haven’t really been purposefully asked to do it in their writing before. A black student who comes to predominantly white University is adept at code-switching – she already knows how to do it. Or a student who speaks Spanish at home, or Spanglish at home – they already know how to code switch.

Are there any specific resources that you would recommend for people to learn more about everything that we talked about today?

First, this book is awesome – it’s called Vernacular Insurrections by Carmen Kynard [available as an ebook through OSU Libraries], and it’s about a more expansive idea of literacy to literacies. Kynard looks at black protest and black student movements, social movements, as literacies that have affected the way that writing happens in the classroom and that have affected composition and literacy studies, but that are often not recognized as having done so. I think that this is a good book to read, especially in this moment where people are more willing to engage with black authors, black ways of knowing, and black knowledges. I also mentioned land-based literacies earlier – that idea comes from an open-access article by Gabriela Rios titled “Cultivating Land-Based Literacies and Rhetorics.”  It’s a really great article and it’s very accessible, I think even to those who are not in the discipline of literacy studies.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any quick things, and I think it’s because considering different varieties of language and different literacies is not a quick fix or a quick practice. I think it takes soul-searching about your comfort level and your own biases. You have to come to terms with your own biases when it comes to language and literacy and students… and that’s sometimes not fun to do. And you have to really think about the why – why it’s important, what you really want to do for your students in the classroom, and whether you really want to put your teaching where your mouth is when it comes to diversity, equality, and social justice.

This interview is the first entry in WIC’s linguistic justice series. A review article in Winter 2021 and a Spring Lunch will continue to explore related topics.