What could the following professors possibly have in common: sports administrator Daniel Mahony, religion expert Mary Stenger, physical therapist Christine Price, Air Force officers Mike Droll and Mark See, geographer Bill Dakan, radiologic technician Ann Obergfell, political scientist Charles Ziegler, and equine manager Shannon Neibergs? All care deeply about writing and represent disciplines that are meeting a critical need to develop enough writing-intensive courses to deliver their dissimilar curricula. Unless departments offer enough WR courses, the WR Requirement can be a bottleneck keeping students from graduating. Representatives of the above targeted disciplines participated in five workshops this semester to prepare courses that will form for their students a much wider, less congested passageway into careers.
The workshops covered numerous topics to help instructors initiate or enhance their WR courses. Workshop I began by addressing the chief reason for WR courses—that writing is a mode of thinking more elaborately about a subject than the limitations of short-term memory will allow us to do in “real-time.” The reviewability of writing allows us to “step back” from our thoughts and challenge ourselves, thus writing is the perfect medium for critical thinking.
But writing can help deliver many more course objectives as well, anything from the assimilation of disciplinary language to the assimilation of disciplinary values. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Workshop I participants inventoried their objectives and considered incorporating brief informal writings to help reach class goals daily. Participants were given a pamphlet discussing 28 kinds of writing that could help in this endeavor.
In Workshop II, participants discussed the most pertinent forms of informal writings and also considered how writing can help students with different learning styles. A writing process sequence began by discussing incorporating invention (idea-generating) strategies in class. Drafting issues, including writer’s block, were discussed. In Workshop III, topics included re-vision as well as proofreading. Also considered were the issues of whether or not to teach grammar in a WR course and how to write essay examination prompts.
Workshop IV addressed how to sequence a series of writing activities of increasing cognitive difficulty (e.g., from definition through classification through analysis) to deliver the desired skills and knowledge for the course. Also discussed were portfolios and syllabus design.
Our final workshop addressed numerous ways of evaluating writing, including peer group evaluation, rubrics, holistic and primary trait scoring, portfolio assessment, and standard evaluation. Collaborative writing was also discussed.
The response to the workshops was quite
favorable. As one participant put it, “I actually believe that all Ph.D.
students should take a similar course before graduating. Most of us emerge
completely unprepared for this very critical aspect of our job.” We encourage
all to apply for any WR Workshops we offer next academic year!
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