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Discourse communities, Reflection

Recharging, Reflecting, and Revising: My Conference Weekend

Amy Metcalf and I just got back from a trip to East Lansing for MCTE and WIDE-EMU, where we talked about our projects on self-efficacy (Amy) and the inquiry environment (me). Now that I am home, in my dissertation sweatpants, in my chair, about to eat some pizza, I want to take a few minutes to share a couple of the myriad threads we talked about throughout the weekend.

Revisiting the value of conferencing: On Friday, along with Joe Paszek, we presented examples of pedagogical practice targeting “Personal Power in Learning” and knowledge transfer at MCTE; on Saturday, Amy and I prepared to talk about classroom activities using Pinterest and KWL at WIDE-EMU. The experience of presenting to a conference audience again served as a great warm-up for the conferences we have coming up for MCEA, NCTE, and CCCC (I know, I am doing shameless plugging, but it’s my blog post). It helped me remember that the purpose of talking at a conference is to share ideas and to get a conversation started. It’s not necessarily to present something so ultra polished that no one will have anything to say afterward. Conferencing is valuable dialogue. To that end, I want to encourage us (as a program) to remember that there’s more to conferencing than adding lines to a c.v.—attending these conferences and sharing our ideas is a great way to gather ideas for our teaching and program, to discover and highlight areas we need to talk about within our program, to do valuable networking, and to show other people what we have going on at Wayne. (I am ready to drive us all in a bus to WIDE-EMU next year—being the only two people from WSU there seemed like a huge missed opportunity for us all. It was free and we were drastically underrepresented.)

Rehashing my Winter 2013 schedule: Last week, I had the chance to talk about my I-Search project with graduate students in the practicum. Throughout the semester I have been reflecting on how I am going to revise this project within my sequence for next semester (something I do each semester), and I presented some of these revisions in the practicum. But, Saturday, learning about some awesome technology-based tools I can use for organizing my C’s presentation and for re-thinking how students work through the I-Search project, I came up with a way to overhaul my semester while solving problems like helping students sort through and apply theory and methods and making the project load manageable and the extended inquiry authentic and valuable for them. At this point, I am envisioning sharing the project with them first, then working with them through concepts like Discourse/discourse communities, accessing prior knowledge, primary research and inquiry methods, planning and executing research, collaborating in classroom presentation and workshop assignments, and reflecting on making choices in how to present one’s research process. Once I have my new schedule and plans sketched out, I will happily share. I think I have solved a problem with this assignment, and, while the technology I am looking at incorporating was the inspiration for the revision, the moment of reflection in that session was significant for me.

I should say, at this point, that it probably sounds like I am just riding some conference high and I am spouting off ideas I will never follow up on. Two things: 1) When I planned out my semester, I made sure I was not collecting papers to grade over this weekend so that I would have time to participate and reflect without added stress. Factoring that generative time into one’s semester seems important to me in terms of balancing my teaching and scholarship (one of the things Nicole Guinot Varty wrote about in her recent post) 2) One of the values of traveling with other people is the chance to dialogue your way into manageable plans on the way home!

Adrienne Jankens is a lecturer and Ph.D. candidate. She is writing her dissertation on the inquiry environment and the development of habits of mind in Introductory College Writing.

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