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

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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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Read-Around Groups: Low-Stakes and High-Impact Writing in First-Year Composition

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By Caitlin Holmes

Since Dr. José Bowen visited Mason in September 2014, I have been working to implement more of his suggestions for teaching practice into my class. I wrote previously about utilizing one such suggestion: a combination of reading, writing in response, and discussion to understand the rhetorical nature of APA style. More recently, I have experimented with another approach to improving student writing in a low-stakes environment that requires students to show the higher-order thinking skills that Dr. Bowen emphasized: read-around groups. During his workshop at Mason, Bowen reminded us that students respond well to uncertainty, failure, and experimentation, and read-around groups (or RAGs, as they are also known) certainly allow for those conditions to emerge in a productive way.

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