Mini and Mighty: How the One-Minute Paper can Transform Your Teaching

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By: Tom Sura

Tom Sura is an assistant professor of English and the undergraduate writing coordinator at West Virginia University. Tom would love to know if you use one-minute papers in your courses and what discoveries they have led to. You can find him several ways: @tom_sura on Twitter, thomas.sura@mail.wvu.edu on email, and tomsura.tumblr.com online.

One of the most powerful tools in a teacher’s toolkit—regardless of the discipline—measures just three inches by five inches. That’s right. The standard-issue index card has a remarkable power for increasing student engagement, assessing pedagogy, and providing evidence of exceptional teaching. Continue reading

Portfolios in Writing Classes: Instructor Goals v. Program Assessment

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Editor’s Note:

Writing Portfolio (n.) : Since the mid-1980’s, portfolios—collections of student writing that have been workshopped and revised during a term or over series of terms—have become a fixture in writing classes and programs across the US. These tools are useful for program assessment, but they may have a number of positive pedagogical effects as well, such as increasing students’ attention to the process of effective writing, attuning students to the importance of feedback and audience awareness, allowing students’ ideas (and so work) to mature over time, and presenting opportunities for metacognitive reflection.

For those interested, the following websites offer more information about the use of portfolios in support of undergraduate writing:

Washington State University, Junior Writing Portfolio

University of Massachusetts-Boston, Writing Proficiency Exam and Portfolio

University of Washington-Bothell, IAS Degree Portfolio

– Dr. Michelle LaFrance, Director of Writing Across the Curriculum
  Editor, The Writing Campus

Portfolios in the Classroom: A Reflection

By: Cat Mahaffey

Cat is the Associate Director of First-Year Writing in the University Writing Program at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.  She teaches various levels of Writing and Inquiry in Academic Contexts.  She is an avid blogger.  Visit her teaching blog at catmahaffey.wordpress.com, follow her on Twitter @CatMahaffey, or email her at chmahaff@uncc.edu. Continue reading

Practice Makes Perfect: A Student Perspective on Mason’s Culture of Writing

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by: Mikal Lambdin

Mikal is a senior studying English at George Mason.  She previously worked with WAC to create disciplinary writing guides for student use. Mikal is graduating in May 2015! To reach her, please contact wac@gmu.edu.

When first asked to write a blog post about my experience with Mason’s “culture of writing,” I will admit that my first question was “What is a culture of writing?” In response, Dr. Michelle LaFrance, Director of Mason’s Writing Across the Curriculum program, showed me the WAC program website. It reads:

At Mason, the WAC program upholds a campus-wide commitment to student writers, writing-rich coursework, and writing in the disciplines. . . Central to our program’s mission is the belief that when students are given frequent opportunities for writing across the university curriculum, they think more critically and creatively, engage more deeply in their learning, and are better able to transfer what they have learned from course to course, context to context.      

Looking back at my own undergraduate experiences, I can clearly see that Mason’s culture of writing had an impact on both my overall education and my development as a writer in many ways. Continue reading

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

Supporting Faculty Writers: Book Proposal Workshop

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by Caitlin Holmes and Caitlin Dungan

On Friday, April 24th, Mason’s Writing Across the Curriculum invited three experts on academic publishing to present on crucial information for writing and submitting book proposals.  Our panelists, Dr. John Farina, Dr. Peter Stearns, and John Warren (click here for full biographies), provided thoughtful and supportive advice to attendees before workshopping proposals. Here, we will summarize a few key points that our presenters discussed, our tweets of the event (see the full Twitter feed here), and one presenter’s handout at the end of this piece.  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.

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Professor Expectations of Writing Assignments: A Student Perspective

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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.

In the subjective world of writing, there doesn’t seem to be any rules – just lots of different guidelines as we students move from class to class. However, effective communication is what writing is all about, and professors can best teach their students this skill by practicing it themselves, especially regarding their expectations of writing assignments. Before assuming that we know what is expected of us, professors need to consider our circumstances and differences: Some of us have not been in a focused writing class in years. Some of us have not taken 302 before taking the WI course. Some of us placed out of first year writing, or have transferred to Mason and are still adjusting to new professors and new expectations. And of course, most of us have probably received terrible writing instruction at some point.            Continue reading

Supporting Faculty Writers: The Writing Retreat—Take Two

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by Erica Jacobs

Erica Jacobs teaches writing at George Mason University. She has a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Columbia University and has published numerous articles in local newspapers, newsletters, and magazines. 

When I received an invitation to apply to the Faculty Writing Retreat to take place during the 2014-2015 winter break, I recognized I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. It was a similar retreat sponsored by the English Department in 1978 that permanently changed my writing and teaching. That was near the beginning of my career, and 37 years later—near the end—it was time to take the body of work I’d written over the years for local newspapers and see if it would be publishable as a collection.   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.

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New Series: Supporting Faculty Writers – “The Weekend Retreat”

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Erica Jacobs teaches English at Oakton High School and writing at George Mason University. She had a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Columbia University and has published numerous articles in local newspapers, newsletters, and magazines.  This article is a reprint from her 1997 publication, “The Weekend Retreat.”  Be on the look-out for her follow-up piece this February on her most recent participation in the WAC-sponsored Winter Faculty Writing Retreat that took place on January 7-8, 2015.

As a non-tenure track teacher at George Mason University, I was pleased to discover I was eligible to participate in a “Writing Retreat” sponsored by the English department and the Northern Virginia Writing Project in the fall of 1978. Don Gallehr had completed the first two summers of the Writing Institute with local high school teachers, and their success on the secondary level seemed to promise equal success on the University level.

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