The semester conversion is only a little over a year away, and I haven’t had time to figure out how I’m going to update my course. This summer is probably my last chance to work on it. What role might writing play in my semester courses?
Semester conversion provides an excellent opportunity rethink how you approach coaching your students’ writing process. There are many ways the WAC team can help you prepare for this impending shift, including working with you in individual consultations to address anything from assignment design to assessment strategies, providing departmental workshops for faculty and TAs, and even coming to do a classroom collaboration with you and your students.
To get you started, below you’ll find a list of our “next quarter” ideas from this school year’s WAC tips emails. We frame them to suggest the kinds of course revisions Ohio State teachers will have an opportunity to consider as we move to semesters.
Writing, Critical Thinking, and Engagement (Autumn 2010): Ask your students to apply a course concept or idea in a genre of writing that tries to persuade an audience, such as a policy proposal, an advertising campaign, or an op-ed. Engaging with a different genre of writing can help students see how their work might fit into a context outside of academia (e.g. popular culture, professional settings, or personal communications). Through practice with persuasive techniques, rich vocabulary, and alternative phrasing, students can also learn how to reach a variety of audiences with their writing. Most importantly, it helps them understand what is at stake when they have to communicate their ideas to others.
Arts and Humanities: One area rich with persuasive language is the advertising industry. Tackling advertisements can elicit dialogue surrounding target audiences and stereotyping, as well as consumer behavior. Teachers interested in exploring such topics might ask students to develop a product (real or fictional) to market on television. They must identify their target audience, television network(s) to whom they will pitch their product, and the time slots and television shows that will yield the most effective exposure. Students write a “pitch” that uses compelling language and “juicy” adjectives in order to sell their idea, and then deliver that pitch to classmates. Some instructors may ask students to rate whether or not they would “buy” what their classmates are selling as a way to keep them engaged throughout the presentations. Discussion questions following the assignment might focus on the reasoning behind students’ choices, the greater cultural narratives at work (generalizations, stereotypes, target audiences), and the connections to other course concepts and texts.
Sciences: In order to allow students to step back from laboratory research, pull together their conclusions, and consider how to communicate their findings, students can reframe their research writing into grant proposals, acting as the researchers pitching a research grant application in terms of its relevance to specific grant criteria. As a form of peer review, they might act as members of a review board who must solicit and select which of their colleagues projects will be funded. In this case, students would have to consider how to frame their research questions to appeal to a granting agency’s funding criteria, and learn how to evaluate their colleagues’ proposals using those criteria. Not only does this allow students to learn important, common professional practices, it forces them to consider how to focus their research findings as they prepare to present them to a wider audience.
Using Peer Assessment Effectively (Autumn 2010): Partner with another instructor in your department and have your students trade papers for peer review. Have students bring two copies of a paper or draft without their names on it to class. Students can draw or be secretly assigned numbers to put on both of their copies. Collect all of the papers and trade the set with another instructor in your department. Once you have the other set of papers, pass out two to each of your students and have them edit the papers--either in class or as a homework assignment. This can also be done electronically via the instructor if you wish. Not only will students learn extra material by looking at papers on topics from outside their original course, but their editing skills for their own work will be heightened through the experience of reviewing their peers’ assignments.
Engaging Students with Source Material (Winter 2011): Make engagement with sources a central component of how you scaffold a major assignment. Re-design a final paper or research project by having students work toward the final product in assigned steps, guiding students at several points during the writing process to better help students learn how to 1) find and assess arguments in sources relevant their topic, 2) figure out how those sources can work together to frame and substantiate their argument, and 3) insert their own voice into an already existing scholarly conversation. Using multi-step, scaffolded assignments like the one below can also help students avoid last-minute feelings of panic that might prompt them to plagiarize in a moment of desperation.
- Have students submit a draft thesis statement and a provisional description of what the paper will be about.
- Spend a bit of class time on discussions and activities addressing how to locate, identify, and critically engage with sources in the context of your discipline. You may want to use some of the other activities described above as a component of a scaffolded writing assignment, or you may want to take advantage of the many resources and services offered by OSU libraries (see the description below).
- Have students submit a projected outline of their paper that includes sources and citations in conjunction with an annotated bibliography. In addition to having students identify the main arguments of each source on the bibliography, request that the annotations describe how the source relates to--or even uses--other materials on the list, as well as the usefulness of the source to the construction of the paper thesis. This will get your students thinking about how sources work together to produce a critical conversation of which the student is a part beforethey sit down to write their final drafts.
- Take part or all of a class period to have students workshop each other’s writing. Have students identify the thesis, the problem or question being answered by the paper, and the function of the other sources in relation to the author’s voice.
- When students submit their final drafts, you may ask them to write a short reflection paper describing how their ideas evolved over the quarter as they encountered and considered source material in relation to their initial paper ideas.
Composing in Digital Spaces (Winter 2011): Ask students to present their final projects in a highly structured, but still flexible digital multimedia forum such as a Pecha Kucha. Pecha Kucha (20x20) is Japanese for chit chat and is an increasingly popular way of bringing people together to share their stories and their work. The format is very precise, and it combines familiar “analog” presentation modes with digital ones: it requires that each participant show 20 images related to their project for 20 seconds each while talking about their work. What results is a multimedia presentation that is concise, engaging, and easy to accomplish with simple software like Powerpoint. The Dispatch recently featured an article on a local PechaKucha event. Read it here. When asking your students to compose a presentation using the Pecha Kucha format, take time as a class to discuss what would make an engaging and provocative presentation, given the content of the course, and the criteria with which such work should be assessed. Several examples are available at http://www.pecha-kucha.org/presentations/. Designing a rubric together will provide both you and your students a chance to explore the particularities of composing and communicating using digital media.
Helping Students to Understand Grading (Spring 2011): After spending time introducing students to course goals and to excellent research and writing in your discipline, develop rubrics in collaboration with them.
Remind students of the course goals and ask them to think about the ways the assignment reflects those goals. One option is to give them a rubric that is partially filled out. You can include the different levels of success (e.g. “exceptional,” “good,” “average,” “needs improvement”) and have them work together as a class to generate criteria, qualities, characteristics and point distributions for selected aspects of the writing process (such as thesis, organization, ideas, mechanics, style, etc.).
More Ways the WAC Team Can Help You: See an archive of our past tip e-mails at:http://cstw.osu.edu/taxonomy/term/40. For help thinking about redesigning your writing assignments for the semester conversion please contact us to schedule an individual consultation. The office will be open throughout the summer. To further our aim of facilitating dialogue about teaching writing, we offer workshops with faculty and graduate teaching associates that tackle issues involving the teaching of writing in various academic genres. We also can co-facilitate in-class presentations for your students, demonstrating innovative approaches to writing instruction and lending students strategies for overcoming challenges with assignments.
Finally, remember that the WAC team is only one of many resources available to assist you in making the change to semester. The University Center for the Advancement of Teaching offers several workshops addressing the pedagogical issues raised by semester conversion, and they also offer individual consultations to meet your teaching needs. This summer, take advantage of their Course Design Institute, which will also be offered each quarter and over Winter and Spring break.
UCAT Course Design Institute
Monday-Friday, August 8-12, 2011, 12-3 p.m.
150 Younkin Success Center
Do you need to revise a course because of changes in enrollment or for conversion to semesters? Are you preparing to teach a new course, or are you frustrated or bored with one you are already teaching? This five-part intensive institute is designed to provide you with the tools, the time, and the collegial support to really dig in and design or re-design that course. At the end of the institute, you will have created the basic structure of the course, including plans for a syllabus, assignments, assessment tools, and a course outline.
Stay tuned to the UCAT events website to keep up-to-date on upcoming workshops scheduled for fall quarter: http://ucat.osu.edu/participate/ucat_events/ucat_events.html. For more information on any of the services UCAT offers, visit ucat.osu.edu or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the current WAC team is finishing up its work this year, we want to recognize all of the exciting teaching happening at Ohio State. It is our privilege to work with OSU’s best teachers every day, and as much as we hope our work helps what they do for their students, their work is what inspires us. Thank you for teaching us as you teach your students.
Have a wonderful and productive summer quarter!
The WAC Team, 2010-2011
Dr. Chris Manion, WAC Coordinator
Lindsay Bernhagen, Comparative Studies
Mara Gross, Art Education
Deborah Petrone, Education: Teaching and Learning
Courtnie Wolfgang, Art Education
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