Announcing Writers of Mason!

At heart, all university campuses are communities of writers.

In Mason’s Writing Across the Curriculum Program, we work with a diverse array of writers. Mason’s students write in multiple contexts, with different styles, and for a variety of purposes. Our faculty teach writing in classrooms, seminars, and as part of their local and global field projects. Students and faculty alike contribute to the literature of their scholarly, research, creative, and professional communities. Continue reading

Authentic Writing

photo-1414919823178-e9d9d0afd0acEmily Chambers is an English M.A. student in the Teaching Writing and Literature program and a Graduate Research Assistant for Mason WAC.  She taught sixth grade English for five years in Culpeper, VA before beginning her studies at GMU.  Emily’s main interests are in teacher development and curriculum resources.  She can be reached at echambe5@masonlive.gmu.edu.  

Educators often note that much of the writing students do in school settings (from k-12 to their first few years of college) is written for the “teacher as audience.” Many have suggested that “authentic writing” opportunities are more helpful to students, teaching them to consider audience and motivating them to write. Defined in simple terms, “authentic writing” is a phrase that describes writing for “real life” audiences and purposes. Examples might include asking students to write web text for a non-profit, proposals to granting agencies, letters to the editor, or pieces that will be submitted for publication.

In my five years of teaching middle school classes, the most successful and rewarding authentic writing experience was when I asked my students to submit to the America Library of Poetry Contest.  My sixth-grade students used the writing process to compose poems, and after peer- and teacher-conferences, they submitted these poems to be read by national judges.  We spent time through this lesson reading poems and talking about the strengths of good poems in our class sessions. This summer, I happened to read a short autobiography by a former student, written for a fundraiser.  As one of her interests, Lindsay listed “writing poetry,” and mentioned that she was a winner in a national poetry contest.  She had won! I was overjoyed to see that a classroom writing assignment had become a proud moment in my student’s life, and that she had taken on a role as a writer.   Continue reading

“I Changed My Mind”: Articulating Empathic Design

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By: Rachael Burke

Rachael Burke is a second-year Writing and Rhetoric PhD student at George Mason University.  Her research centers on empathic articulation and social-emotional design.  She has taught composition, ESL, and interdisciplinary studies, and she is currently teaching at GMU and Northern Virginia Community College.  You can reach her at rburke13@gmu.edu.

This post is the third in a series on empathy and writing scholarship. For the full series, please see her first post and second post.

When I think about what it means to write collaboratively and productively across the curriculum, I am always attempting to determine which frameworks best help us all define empathy ontologically and pragmatically. Toward this end, in my previous posts, I have attempted to simultaneously advocate for empathy’s inclusion across the curriculum even while I have tried to better define it. Admittedly, this is a complex task, and not just for me. As Daniel Batson (1991) says, “opportunities for disagreement abound” within the framework of empathy’s theoretical uncertainties (p. 11), and even with a “liquid” understanding of empathy (Burke, Permanence and Change, 1965 qtd. in Miller, 1984, p. 158), a firm sense of definition or application can be hard to come by. Continue reading

“Evolution not Revolution”: Empathy as Supportive Practice

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By: Rachael Burke

Rachael Burke is a second-year Writing and Rhetoric PhD student at George Mason University.  Her research centers on empathic articulation and social-emotional design.  She has taught composition, ESL, and interdisciplinary studies, and she is currently teaching at GMU and Northern Virginia Community College.  You can reach her at rburke13@gmu.edu.

This post is the second in a series on empathy and writing scholarship. For Rachael’s first post, please click here.

In my previous post, I discussed what empathy is partly by talking a bit about what it is not. The challenge presented by proposing we should actively include empathy as a curricular goal is convincing writing teachers that the change is a natural and necessary one. Consequently, my previous entry began the task of examining and overturning a few misconceptions that have long plagued how we talk about empathy in rhetoric and composition (when we talk about it at all), and then suggesting that a more constructive definition of empathy might help us reinvigorate some of our problematic or confusing writing practices. In this entry, I want to continue to expand our understanding of empathy in rhetorical practice on our own disciplinary terms. Continue reading

Empathy: Rethinking “Student-Centeredness” in the Writing Classroom

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By: Rachael Burke

Rachael Burke is a second-year Writing and Rhetoric PhD student at George Mason University.  Her research centers on empathic articulation and social-emotional design.  She has taught composition, ESL, and interdisciplinary studies, and she is currently teaching at GMU and Northern Virginia Community College.  You can reach her at rburke13@gmu.edu.

Almost every semester, there is one assignment that I approach a bit differently from many composition teachers: the metacognitive essay. I love the overall spirit of this essay and what it asks students to do, as it encourages students to understand their own writing habits and the general composition process. And I certainly support the idea that rhetorically savvy writers must possess the capacity for introspective analysis. For me, however, part of the problem with the most traditional versions of this assignment (ones where students are centering their awareness on their own writing) is that it primarily asks students to re-form a relationship with their own ideas, feelings, and processes, in addition to cultivating self-evaluative judgment. Continue reading

Graduate Writing Consultations and WAC

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by Jenae Cohn

Jenae Cohn is a PhD candidate pursuing a Designated Emphasis in Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition in the English department at the University of California, Davis. She is a graduate writing fellow through the University Writing Program’s Writing Across the Curriculum program and her research interests include digital rhetoric, materiality, and the history of the book. She can be contacted via e-mailTwitter, and her personal website.

Never before had I seen an article filled with more numbers than words on one page. I was in the second-year of my PhD program in English and was working as a graduate writing consultant (“tutor”) through my university’s Writing Across the Curriculum program.

As someone who had trained as a tutor in an undergraduate writing center in college, I knew the techniques for skimming a long paper, seeking out the main points, and identifying the areas of higher-order concerns. In college, I had dealt with a variety of papers from disciplines across the curriculum, operating under the assumption that, as Pemberton (1995) puts it, “many aspects of text production… are ‘generic’ in nature and, for the most part, extend across disciplinary boundaries” (p. 367). Yet for the first time, I was confronted with the fact that there were disciplinary differences – and big ones – that I had never encountered before. I didn’t know what to do. After all, I was new to WAC as a pedagogy to use in tutoring and I didn’t thinking that my writing center knowledge alone was enough to equip me for the new challenges of reading and commenting upon the conventions of academic disciplinary prose at the graduate level.  Continue reading

Students as Teachers – Professor/Student Collaboration Improves a History Course

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In a recent post from Bryn Mawr’s Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education, Professor Alejandro Quintana, Assistant Professor in the History Department at St. John’s University, and his student Writing Fellow, Morgan Zajkowski, have written an excellent blog post detailing their work together. Over the course of a semester, Quintana and Zajkowski collaborated on ways to improve student writing, retention, and participation in Quintana’s history course, guided by the principles of WAC. They offer helpful insights into fostering student engagement and making the classroom a dynamic place for collaborative discussion, while using low-risk writing assignments to build student confidence.

“I expected at some point to be forced to say no to any major suggestion to change my teaching practices. To my great surprise this never happened; our collaboration was progressive and smooth. Before I realized it, we were making significant changes to my teaching methodology. I learned so much from Morgan and my teaching practices were reshaped for the better. Today, a year after our collaboration, I have incorporated into all my current courses all the activities and assignments she helped me develop during the spring semester of 2013.”

“Students as Teachers Transforming a History Course”  – Alejandro Quintana and Morgan Zajkowski

Write Nerdy to Me: Utilizing Fanfiction in WAC/WID Courses

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By Caitlin Dungan

Caitlin Dungan is a PhD student in Mason’s Writing and Rhetoric PhD Program. Caitlin is a Graduate Research Assistant for Mason’s Writing Across the Curriculum Program, and her current research interests include fanfiction, digital media and rhetoric, online feedback practices, and participatory culture.

It’s interesting, perplexing, and – I think – exciting that geek culture has emerged as mainstream. Realms previously reserved for a few indoctrinated fans are now open for participation to the many. One of the side effects of this growth in fandoms is the increasing number of emergent writers embracing fanfiction as a creative outlet. As young fans pursue this unique composition practice and post their works on online forums like fanfiction.net or Archive of Our Own, how much of this self-sponsored writing is informing their writing practice in the classroom?

Continue reading