Note: This it the seventh in a series of blog posts chronicling the piloting of the new ENG 1020 Curriculum. You can find all entries in the series here.
Piloting this new version of 1020 has its predictable highs and lows, but my emphasis on research this term has been particularly turbulent, with some really interesting strong point and some more tedious moments. After our collective work revising the learning outcomes for 1020 last semester, and boiling these down to four on reading, writing, research and reflection, I sent out an email to a few colleagues and acquaintances I’ve met at recent conferences to chat about how they worked research into their learning outcomes and how they addressed this in their own freshman comp classes. As usual an old Prof of mine at Windsor was quick to respond with a neat discussion about their ongoing use of a portfolio approach as they were taking a much more heavily genre-based approach. They were also extending their research assignment so that it involved a substantial partnership with the library. In doing so, he and his partner (who is also an English Prof and works as in Information Literacy specialist at the university library) published an article about that collaboration and it has a fairly detailed description of the assignment. Here’s the citation:
Heidi LM Jacobs & Dale Jacobs. “Transforming the One-Shot Library Session into Pedagogical Collaboration Information Literacy and the English Composition Class.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, 49(1) (2009), 72–82.
In a number of ways this seemed well suited to piloting a project that might scaffold our research and reflective outcomes, as the project included a prolonged research process and several reflective components. The assignment discussed in the article presents a kind of collaboration with Library staff which we couldn’t manage at a larger university with the number of 1020 classes we teach, but an adaptation of it seemed to potentially bridge all four learning outcomes in some interesting ways.
In my sections we just finished with my adaptation of the project, which included a Research packet (10%) and Research Article (valued at 20%, which was taught and described as a researched argument and should have been titled thusly). The process started with selecting a topic and developing working knowledge about this by establishing a suitable degree general reading (and responding to some questions and note taking prompts) before developing a research question that was sufficiently challenging, narrow and grounded. In the packet then students then wrote about why they chose their topic, considered the potential of this as a researchable subject (exploring potential areas of research and invested discourse communities), wrote a strategy for researching that included selection, evaluation, analysis and organization strategies, wrote an annotated bib, and wrote a reflection on the packet discussing the research process.
The research article then consisted of two parts: a well researched argument (where they use research as both proving and to advance their argument in several ways), and a second reflection on the relationship between their research, writing process, rhetoric and argumentation.
The process was pretty effective on the whole, but could use some streamlining and revision. I’m thinking about making some aspects of the packet shorter, re-emphasizing the first reflection so that we discuss metacognitive regulation at that point, and making the reflection more practical in that it is done in conjunction with actual revisions. I’m also thinking of making an audience analysis and discourse community analysis memo a formal component, as this wasn’t taken care of in a thorough enough or timely manner.
The project has its merits though, and picked up steam as it went on. It is also very adaptable to themed courses, or different versions of 1020 being developed at the moment. Finally, the reflective components and prolonged work on the packed should give students plenty to reflect on for their final reflective arguments.
Jared Grogan is a PhD Candidate in the Department and joined the faculty as a lecturer in Fall 2011. His research interests include Rhetorical Theory, Ecology and Sustainability, Eco-Composition, and Pedagogy. He currently teaches English 1020.