“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

Error in Student Writing: A Balanced, Developmental Approach

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By Paul T. Corrigan

Paul T. Corrigan teaches writing and literature at Southeastern University, where he serves on the steering committee for Writing Across the Curriculum. He writes at Teaching & Learning in Higher Ed. You can reach him through Facebook, Twitter, and paultcorrigan.com.

Errors in writing may irk and confuse readers, imply ignorance or negligence on behalf of the author, and have unintended consequences in the real world. For these reasons, many teachers feel compelled to try to “cure” students’ writing of errors, often by prescribing heavy doses of red ink. I am grateful for the thankless efforts these teachers make to help students become clearer, more accurate writers. But I bear bad news. There is no cure for errors in student writing. We need to be absolutely clear on this. Short of not writing, students will continue to err, no matter what we do.

Butlet me hasten to addthis bad news is also the good news. Continue reading

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

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

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: Mason Faculty Writing Retreats – A Comprehensive Review

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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.

With the support of Mason’s Provost Office and Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence, the Writing Across the Curriculum Program hosted two Faculty Writing Retreats in the past 12 months: one in May 2014 and the other in January 2015. Such retreats had occurred in the past under the supervision of the Northern Virginia Writing Project, but not for quite some time. This blog post will review the different structures of the May 2014 and January 2015 retreats, give summaries of evaluation results for both retreats, and provide a few concluding thoughts about what we may try in the future at Mason.  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