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.

Framing the Writing Center for Your Students

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By: Alisa Russell

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.

As a recent Writing Center tutor, a Writing Center administrator, and a current teacher of First Year Composition, I am uniquely positioned between the worlds of the Writing Center and the classroom. This position gives me a type of fluency in both languages – that of the Writing Center and that of a classroom teacher – and I can see spaces where the two languages do not necessarily align. One of these disjointed spaces can occur in how professors talk about and conceptualize the Writing Center for their students and how the Writing Center attempts to create its image and goals for student writers in all disciplines.

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Wikipedia: What Professors Tell Students and What Students Do

Wikipedia

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.

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“The Rhetorical Situation” and Reading Strategies in Advanced Composition

Elements-of-Rhetoric

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

Against “The Library Scavenger Hunt”: Better Library Research Assignments

Scavenger Hunt Picture

Jen Stevens is the Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian at George Mason University and a consultant for Mason’s Writing Across the Curriculum Faculty Senate Committee.  She has extensive experience assisting undergraduate and graduate student writers discover new resources and information in their research process.  For her information and current InfoGuides, click here!

In my work as a Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian at George Mason University, I work with faculty members and their students to help the students learn how to do better research, which in turn leads to better writing.

Last week, I found the strangest thing in the Fenwick Library Reference area. . .

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