Building Faculty Confidence in Teaching Writing in the Disciplines: Long-Term Strategic Planning and Short-Term Tactics to Promote Student Success
AffiliationUniversity of Southern Indiana
TitleBuilding Faculty Confidence in Teaching Writing in the Disciplines: Long-Term Strategic Planning and Short-Term Tactics to Promote Student Success
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Topic/Problem Statement and Context:
If you have ever looked at a pile of papers with dread for what youâ€™ll find when you start reading them, felt unsure about providing writing-related feedback to students or avoided assigning much writing altogether, youâ€™re definitely not alone. While effective written communication is a foundational skill for studentsâ€™ academic and professional success in most disciplines, faculty sometimes have difficulty finding time to incorporate writing instruction into content-heavy courses or lack the knowledge or confidence to teach or assess writing effectively, leading to product-focused approaches to writing instruction and less-than-stellar writing from students. However, scaffolding smaller components of writing instruction throughout the curriculum of any given discipline and adding more frequent low-stakes writing assignments can improve studentsâ€™ performance in discipline-specific writing contexts.
This presentation introduces two approaches to help faculty teach writing better within their disciplines: one long-term strategic planning approach and one set of short-term tactics. First, it draws on disciplinarily-diverse examples from the University of Minnesotaâ€™s Writing Enriched Curriculum program to introduce a long-term planning process for strategically incorporating effective writing instruction in any given academic program through articulation of discipline-specific writing characteristics (both academic and professional), definition of desired student writing outcomes, and curriculum mapping that distributes writing instruction throughout a studentâ€™s program in ways appropriate to the specific discipline (University of Minnesota). Second, it provides a brief introduction to ways that that low-stakes, unassessed or minimally assessed writing instruction can be incorporated into classes with minimal impact on instructional time or faculty workload (Elbow 1997), to promote enhanced critical thinking (Ã‡avdar and Doe 2012) and confidence (Brownell, Price, and Steinman 2013), two key elements in student writing success.
What emerges from these two approaches is a set of practices that can be incorporated in any discipline to improve student writing and decrease faculty frustration with teaching and grading writing in their fields. Studentsâ€™ writing improves when they more clearly understand discipline-specific expectations of writing, and faculty can use their articulations of effective writing in their disciplines to improve instruction, feedback to students, and program assessment.
As educators, we want our students to learn complex formulas, read challenging pieces of literature, and perhaps perform some academic research (Rousseau, 2006). Yet, can students who are quite addicted to smartphones perform deep work or are they stuck in a life of shallowness (Newport, 2016)? Evidence suggests that prolonged smartphone use robs students of the willpower necessary to perform the cognitively demanding tasks we ask of them (Baumeister and Tierney, 2012). Hence, in this session I aim (1) to present data on internet addiction, (2) to have the audience share their feelings on whether smartphones have changed students, and (3) stimulate interest in a work group dedicated to researching internet addiction and disseminating strategies for combating it.
I assume that there is a chance that while you are reviewing this submission, you have looked at your phone at least once and have multiple browser windows open. That is also how our students operate in class â€“ and we cannot solve it by just telling students to put their phones away. Such short-term solutions do not produce long-term results. Students need to become aware of how their attention is diverted and their willpower is depleted.
Given only 20 minutes, I aim to build an awareness of this issue through presenting some selected research on what smartphone use is doing to students. I also aim to report results of an internet fast assignment that my students performed. Ideally, I would also like to recruit a group of colleagues interested in working on this issue with me.
I use 2012 as a proxy for â€œwhen things changed in the classroom.â€ The iPhone was released in 2007, but around 2012, every student came to class with a device more powerful than the spaceship that went to the moon. Before 2012, when I entered the classroom, students were talking to each other. After 2012, most of them were face down in a screen until class started. Before 2012, I could engage a classroom in a period-long discussion. After 2012, they stopped responding and I had to alter my pedagogy to get them to respond (I posed a question, had them write â€œminute papers,â€ then asked what they wrote). I assume that I am not the only person seeing this phenomenon. Thanks for your time.
Baumeister, R. F., & Tierney, J. (2012). Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength. Penguin.
Newport, C. (2016). Deep Work: Rules for Focus Success in a Distracted World. Grand Central Publishing.
Rousseau, D. M. (2006). Is there such a thing as â€œevidence-based managementâ€ ?. Academy of management review, 31(2), 256-269.
Brownell, S. E., Price, J. V., & Steinman, L. (2013). A writing-intensive course improves biology undergraduates' perception and confidence of their abilities to read scientific literature and communicate science. Advances in Physiology Education, 37 (1), 70-79.
Ã‡avdar, G., & Doe, S. (2012). Learning through writing: Teaching critical thinking skills in writing assignments. PS: Political Science & Politics, 45 (2), 298-306.
Elbow, P. (1997). High stakes and low stakes in assigning and responding to writing. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (69), 5-13.
Nicol, D. (2010). From monologue to dialogue: improving written feedback processes in mass higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35 (5), 501-517.
University of Minnesota (2018). Writing Enriched Curriculum (WEC) Model. Retrieved from https://wec.umn.edu/wec-model