Erin Bell (GTA) wrote the following in response to Adrienne Janken’s (1020 Lecturer) initial query regarding connections between Eng 1020 & 3010. You can find the original post by clicking HERE.
Update: Adrienne responded to Erin (meta!) – scroll down or click here
I find myself drawn to several aspects of Adrienne’s post, as well as in a unique position to respond. Though I have taught several ENG 1020 courses and many 2000 and 3000 literature classes, this is actually my first semester teaching ENG 3010, and I am doing so through a Saturday morning class that meets from 9:35-12:25 each week.
We have a lot of time in one weekly session, and I cannot imagine lecturing for the duration of the meeting. I would bore myself; let alone the students. That being said, I have incorporated a wide variety of group activities to break up the course meetings. I usually give about a half an hour lecture (laying out future assignments, key concepts, etc), followed by two activities, tasks, or collaborative assignments that take about an hour each.
To start the semester, I assembled the students into “work groups” at our very first meeting (a plan I borrowed from my more seasoned colleagues). With the exception of two students who had to form a bit of a “mixed bag group,” it went pretty well. I have a “medical group,” a “psychology group,” a “business and marketing group,” an “IT group” and the “inter-disciplinary” group of education and anthropology. Forming such collaborative teams on day one helps foster a good sense of class community. Because it is a random grouping there are usually a few stronger students in the same group with those who are less well-versed in writing.
I have discovered that many of students have not taken ENG 1020 at WSU, but instead took a similar course at a community college and transferred the credit to Wayne. For that reason (and many others), students do not come to 3010 with a uniform skill set or with the particular skills and knowledge I would hope for. The group setting can be helpful for reviewing key concepts and getting everyone up to speed. I have talked about reflection and working toward a reflective portfolio from the beginning of the semester, and I was a bit troubled by students’ understanding of the reflection process. When I asked students to discuss their understanding of the 1020 reflection project, one student said “it’s when we copy and paste all of our projects into a word document so other professors can look at it.” While that is in some ways true, it seemed as though the student failed to grasp how the project was of use to her! I think integrating the reflective moments in ways that demonstrate their value to students might be something we could continue to adjust. I want students to see these assignments as useful, not as simply a hoop to jump through at the end of the semester.
As for incorporating reflection and collaboration in a group setting; I have a good example of this from the last month’s work. I know that many of my colleagues spend at least some course time in ENG 1020 discussing the types of argumentative essays (Definition, Evaluation, Proposal, etc). Since we are working toward our final research papers in 3010, I mentioned that the students might want to select one of these modes of argument to organize their final paper, but no one seemed to know what I was talking about. I created a really intricate series of posts on my course wiki and tried to lecture about the types of the assignments. It was boring, they were bored. I thought about how I could remedy this situation, and the next week, I assigned each group a type of argument assignment to read up on and review. The groups had to describe what the assignment should “look” like and model an argument from their field for the class. Not necessarily ground-breaking, I realize, but, the students really, really engaged in the presentation of the information much more than when I tried to present all of it in an hour alone in lecture form.
After several of the argument styles were presented I had the students write an in-class reflection on which type of argument they thought would work for their final project. These reflections were far more developed and organized than their earlier attempts, so they were reviewing, reflecting and re-writing all at once.
The students have also worked in groups and presented a group presentation which is essentially a literature review of current trajectories in their field. I required all of the members to participate in a an oral presentation, and it was interesting to watch how the team members would correct each other, self-correct.
Moving forward, we will be doing peer editing, of course, but my final group exercise that likewise serves as a reflective moment is our course conference. If the class size and meeting time are conducive to such a project, I try to do a course conference when possible. The panels will be organized loosely around the work groups and since we have such a long class meeting time, it should be easy to have a 5-panel conference. When I have had such conferences in the past, the students present their projects before the very final paper is due. We have a question and answer period (which I moderate) just like one would at a scholarly conference. This gives the students to hear some real life feedback on their projects and incorporate any changes into their project prior to turning it it. In the past, my students have given me really positive feedback about the experience.
Adrienne’s Response (to Erin):
One of the things Erin points out in her discussion of the work she does with students in ENG 3010 is how students’ don’t necessarily come into the course with the same understanding of writing reflection that we have come to develop within the department. (And here I will note that we still are working to understand what we mean by writing reflection and the many ways that reflection can be used to support students’ learning.) That is, students, especially those who are coming into 3010 having taken their first-year writing course at a community college or other university, don’t always come in with the same language for writing or ideas about writing as students who travel through our sequence from 1010/1020. Further, what I take from Erin’s description of having to help students’ understand the reflection assignment is that recontextualization of prior (genre) knowledge is happening in 3010 just as much as it is in 1020, and that understanding and defining reflection as a genre, specifically, continues to be worth our attention.
The moment when a group presents their project and participates in a question and answer session, like Erin describes above, seems so significant, not just because it models academic practice, or because it gives students a sense of audience, but because of how that audience then becomes a part of the critical shaping of a project. In my classes, I have moved the presentations in our schedule to the class meeting before the completed rough drafts are due because of the especially valuable feedback from classmates that can help students shape their projects.
In terms of this social element of the course, particularly as it plays out in collaborative writing assignments, I am especially interested in Erin’s comment that “it was interesting to watch how the team members would correct each other, self-correct.” I would love to hear more about how this correction played out. I sense self-correction is motivated by many things, but there is a different social motivation at play in correcting others during a presentation. Much of the impetus behind such rhetorical moves may be understood through observation; by repeated observation of the developing social relationships in a collaborative writing group, accompanied by their written reflection on both the product they are developing and the process of that development, we might come to better know how to support positive collaboration in our writing courses. This is a research agenda I am keen to pursue, as much for continuing to develop my own teaching and the conditions of my classroom, as for any larger scholarly purpose.