This is the first post in a weekly series featuring the teaching strategies of second-level writing instructors at OSU.
In the course I teach, Comparative Studies 367.01: American Identity in the World, students are asked to read, think, and talk about the ways in which race, class, gender continue to shape a culture that most students are proud to claim as their own. In order to mitigate discomfort that may result in defensiveness about one’s roles in systems of social privilege, I have my students engage these topics in a set of low-stakes assignments which lead them from self-reflexive analysis to cultural analysis.
How can we empower our students to engage critically with our course materials?
One of the most exciting results of teaching--but most challenging to achieve--occurs when students are able to express curiosity about your course’s subject matter. Check out the following ideas for using writing to encourage your students to think more critically about their work.
How can we use technology in the classroom to enhance students' understanding of composition and communication? Technology is constantly changing how we communicate and how we do our scholarly work. In the context of what are sometimes radical changes, it is important for us to help our students think critically about the ways they use technology and the ways technology affects how we produce, disseminate, and value knowledge. This doesn't mean, however, that we need to jump in and grab the latest gadget or adopt the most recent application to generate buzz. If we carefully consider how technology affects our teaching and our students' learning, we can find ways to help students not only enhance their written work through technology, but also provide them with the capacity to adapt and innovate in a rapidly changing environment. Here are some examples from some of your colleagues at Ohio State who are using technology to both enhance student learning and help students hone their writing skills.
How can we encourage our students to engage with their peers when their attention has shifted toward their individual projects and final assignments at the end of the quarter? Once students begin to work on final projects and look toward Spring Break activities, their attention often shifts from active engagement with their peers toward a focus on the instructor, or more specifically, course expectations and final grades. Students may also view you, the instructor, as the sole audience for their final writing projects, thus neglecting to take their colleagues into consideration. The following writing exercises encourage students to re-engage with their peers inside and outside of the classroom at the end of the quarter and help you maintain a strong learning community through finals week and beyond.
Question: How might I fix the kinks in my writing assignments this quarter? What has worked for my colleagues?
Activity Idea: Take some time at the end of this quarter to think about what writing assignments worked well and reflect on some of the challenges you faced teaching writing. Your colleague in the office down the hall might be your best resource for this, and you might be hers as well. In our work in WAC, we have the privilege of talking to Ohio State's most creative and resourceful teachers every day. For this tip email, we've collected a few approaches from three instructors we've worked with this quarter that have really inspired us:
“Writing in the Community and the University” was the second in a series of workshops designed to address ways teachers can motivate their students to write through unique and non-traditional methods. Drawing on Activity Theory which points out the disconnect for students between writing in classrooms and writing in the “real world,” our goals for this workshop were
1) to highlight programs and teaching practices across the university that connect OSU students with their communities We were able to record the event and publish it as a podcast. The podcast can be accessed at the end of this post.
in ways that motivate them to write for and/or about their communities, and
2) to provide interested teachers with the knowledge and resources to participate in these programs or employ these teaching practices in their own classes.
Though Ohio State connects students to the community through writing in a variety of ways, we chose to feature the following programs and practices: The Service Learning Initiative, the Professional Writing Program, and individual writing assignments.
A GTA in Comparative Studies asked us to facilitate a workshop on writing thesis statements for her Comparative Studies 367 class. We decided to use Writing Analytically to discuss the philosophy behind discussing effective thesis statements across disciplines. As the authors of this textbook indicate, thesis development is an evolving as opposed to a static process.
We were invited to do a workshop for the Women's Studies department on how to respond to student drafts. The professor leading a class for new GTAs indicated that her students wanted more information and "tips" on how to approach and comment on student writing.
I had the pleasure this quarter of working with Professor Mark Moritz and his Anthropology 620 class. Dr. Moritz centered his class writing assignments on producing a wiki on the topic of the class, which was hunter-gatherer societies
. I came into the class twice, and I'll divide my comments for each session into two posts. The first session addressed how wikis might fit into disciplinary attitudes toward writing and knowledge production.
Since we have a lot to say on this topic, I'm going to divide our summary of the workshop on this into two posts, beginning with my introductory remarks, and then following with an overview of what was shared by our guest presenters, Vicki Daiello from the Department of Art Education and Professor Scott Dewitt of the Department of English.