“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

Reverse Course Design

Based on a presentation by Melissa Broeckelman-Post, this learning module illustrates a methodology for course design that begins with the broad and gradually focuses in on how to create assignments and assessments. Each assignment is encouraged to link back to the original goals and outcomes desired for the course, so that everything remains focused and connected.

Consider using this method the next time you begin to design your class.

The Sticky Note Exercise

Looking for a new way to foster discussion in your classroom? Try this sticky note exercise! This highly adaptable exercise allows for meaningful discussion, while the anonymity of it allows students the freedom to express their ideas. Try using this method to discuss writing in your classroom, and see what new revelations your students come to.

Inspiring Faculty Community at George Mason University

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Cameron Carter is the Communications & Marketing Specialist for the Office of Distance Education at George Mason University. She earned her MA in English (Professional Writing & Rhetoric) from Mason in 2013, and she is currently a graduate student in the Higher Education Administration certificate program. You can reach her at ccarte17@gmu.edu.

Over the past five years, Mason’s Office of Distance Education (DE) has supported a number of faculty and programs transitioning their courses from face-to-face to fully online. From partnering each faculty member with an Instructional Designer in Learning Support Services (LSS) to connecting them to the accessibility experts with the Assistive Technology Initiative, highlighting the research and copyright expertise of the University Librarians to emphasizing the resources available through the Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence (CTFE), our role has focused largely on how best to connect Mason’s online faculty with the services and resources available across our campus.

As the DE Office, along with online education at Mason, continues to grow and take shape, we’ve asked ourselves – is this enough? This question has sparked a new effort for faculty support from the DE Office, mainly via an upsurge of faculty development opportunities. We don’t only want to support online program development and link to specific resources. We want to promote a sense of faculty community and a culture of shared knowledge and practice. Through a string of faculty development events hosted in collaboration with CTFE and LSS, we are making a push to inspire this shared place for faculty at Mason. Here’s the kicker – we aren’t focusing on online faculty alone.  Continue reading

When and How Should Your Students Use the Writing Center?

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Alisa Russell is a Master’s student in the Teaching Writing and Literature program at George Mason University.  She works as an administrator in the Writing Center, a research assistant for Writing Across the Curriculum, and a teaching assistant for First Year Composition. Her current research interests include the Writing About Writing movement in composition theory/pedagogy and Writing Center training and strategies for working with multilingual writers. You can reach her at wac@gmu.edu.

Whenever we assign writing assignments in our classrooms, we often peripherally acknowledge that the Writing Center is a viable option for our students to work with a tutor toward improvement. However, students may not fully understand the extensive options that the Writing Center provides for them. After scrambling for an appointment or not making one at all, the student may bring in a near-final draft for a quick check mere hours before the due date, which fosters little learning and room for growth. Instead, as the instructor and grader of your students’ work, you can steer your students toward when and how they should be using the Writing Center even more convincingly than our website or bulletin boards. Teaching your students when and how to use the Writing Center will not only provide more opportunities for your students to engage in transferable learning, but it will also lead to more fully developed and reviewed writing assignments.

Continue reading

Wikipedia: What Professors Tell Students and What Students Do

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by: Mikal Cardine

Mikal is a senior studying English at George Mason. She previously worked with WAC to create disciplinary writing guides for student use. To reach her, please contact wac@gmu.edu.

The average undergraduate will hear a variety of conflicting viewpoints from their university professors on the topic of Wikipedia. While some professors will openly express distrust of Wikipedia as a source for research, others are more open to the use of Wikipedia as a learning tool. While Middlebury College outright banned undergraduates from citing Wikipedia in any academic essay—stating that “students need to be taught to go for quality information, not just convenience” (Jaschik, 2)—professors such as Mark Kissling argue that faculty do a disservice to their students if they don’t help them to understand why instructors are concerned about the source. As Kissling writes, professors have a duty to teach “their students to learn to critically read Wikipedia…helping them understand how it is created, how it defines and positions knowledge, and what it makes possible and fails to do” (Kissling, 1).

As an undergraduate, I have to admit that Wikipedia is in. Originally branded as untrustworthy, the site is now our go-to research tool – but why? Has student scholarship fallen so far? Or has Wikipedia possibly become a useful research tool? Prompted to learn more, I decided to do a little research and created a simple survey to determine Wikipedia’s current value to both professors and students.

Continue reading

“The Rhetorical Situation” and Reading Strategies in Advanced Composition

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by: Caitlin Holmes

Caitlin Holmes is the Assistant Director of Writing Across the Curriculum at George Mason University.  She blogs regularly about teaching here at thewritingcampus.com.  You can reach her via email at wac@gmu.edu.  

During a pre-semester meeting to discuss the QEP assessment findings of Mason’s English 302 Students-as-Scholars Program, instructors of our Advanced Composition courses went over the primary student learning outcomes (SLO):

  • SLO-1, Discovery: Understand how they can engage in the practice of scholarship at GMU
  • SLO-2, Discovery: Understand research methods used in a discipline
  • SLO-3, Discovery: Understand how knowledge is transmitted within a discipline, across disciplines, and to the public
  • SLO-4, Inquiry: Articulate and refine a question
  • SLO-5, Inquiry: Follow ethical principles
  • SLO-6, Inquiry: Situate the scholarly inquiry [and inquiry process] within a broader context
  • SLO-7, Inquiry: Apply appropriate scholarly conventions during scholarly inquiry/reporting

What those discussions reinforced for my colleagues and me is that engagement in scholarship and knowledge transmission requires that students have advanced reading practices that often are not overtly discussed – or are sometimes presumed as proficiencies – as we work on writing competencies.   Continue reading