Spring 2011 Minutes

NEWACC 13 March 2011

Anne Geller, incoming chair.


Michael Cripps (University of New England), Tiane Donahue (Dartmouth), Tom Deans (U Conn), Neal Lerner (MIT), Stefan Spezio (Dutchess CC)  Michelle Cox (Bridgewater State), Catherine Savini  (Westfield State), Lynn Hassan (LIU), Kate Tiribassi (Keene State), Kris Freeman (Northeastern) Patrick Ryan (Western Connecticut State), Kim Donovan (University of Southern New Hampshire)

Breakout Groups

We broke into two groups to discuss our current research interests and what kinds of research we might find collectively useful.  This document combines notes by Susanmarie Harrington, Michelle Cox, and Catherine Savini.  The two small groups took slightly different approaches to the questions of the day, and the notes reflect the different conversations.

What research are we currently doing (notes here by Susanmarie):

Susanmarie Harrington: working on a history of Toby Fulwiler’s years at UVM; also working with Sue Dinitz on a project investigating the role of disciplinary expertise in writing tutorial sessions.

Michael Cripps: NSSE writing questions; may be moving toward formal WAC program, but plans seem to be slowing down.  NSSE data in summer should be a oath to conversations about research.

NSSE writing questions will be used at Dartmouth and UVM as well.  Perhaps we can look at all our data.  Neal suggests that this data could be an interesting counterpoint to the generation adrift analysis.

Tiane Donahue: cross cultural WID research, personal project investigating Europe and US approaches to WID. Davis Foundation-funded three year project to investigate writing.  Two first year purses, one in writing, one a seminar in the disciplines, looking at first and last essays in each of the courses, looking at 4 cohorts (developmental, start in fall, start in spring, exempt) plus doing Citation Project.  Falculty are scoring so it’s all a faculty development project, too.  Is IRB approved.

Neal Lerner: cross-institutional project (with Anne Geller and Michele Eodice) surveying and then interviewing seniors at 3 institutions about their reports of most meaningful writing tasks.  How do students make meaning, and how and why do students determine that they are meaningful? Go back and interview faculty if clusters of students report meaningful experiences,  will train undergrad researchers to do the interviews of peers.  Question from MC:  MIT program emerged after alumni interviews. Will this project connect with that? Neal: no. We are trying to have students’ representation of what is important to them play a role.  Students are not usually represented in assessment.

Case studies of classes in which students are learning to communicate in science and engineering.  Had book come out.  Am doing a follow up to that with Mya Poe, interviewing seniors now who were sophomores in the book. Ask NL about here email address.

Stefan Spezio : Dutchess doesn’t have a WAC program. Wondering whether anyone ha looked into students, ability to self-select into particular writing areas.  Creating 101 or 102 program that would get them reading more in their areas.  Have Verizon-funded program that emphasizes labor.

Tom Deans: has been working with 6 departments to investigate what writing looks Ike in that department.  Faculty come together for 3 weeks to look at, and score, large batches of student writing.  So far has mostly generated reports.  Tom now plans to translate what he has written for internal audiences to external audiences. Several plans: to work with colleagues on articles for the discipline.  Second, write an article on method–used classic writing assessment techniques to score,  but added a few new twists.  Finally, he wants to write a summary of findings across six different departments.  Secondly, just coming out of two year stint on w task force, which resulted from one senator calling for the removal of all w courses. Wants to write a theoretical deice on anxiety about writing and how much work it can cause.  Committee collected all kinds of data on writing on campus. Did survey of faculty and students, 12 focus groups with faculty and students, looked at course evaluations.  Neal wonders what kind of questions Tom wants to ask.  Committee was focused on policy question, but Tom wants to take a fresh look and ask what can we learn from this. Do in stages: quick IHE piece after Senate vote.

Tom also wants to go back to WAC classics and re-do some studies, like minimal marking.  His wife runs national scholarship office on campus. Hears that no one is talking about the highest performing students on campus. Pretty much learned how to write themselves; they haven’t gotten a lot of instruction.

Michael tells story about philosophy class, with split grade.  End comments was “ok, so you can write.” Rest of comment addressed ideas, as a split comment.  He was unprepared for writing in graduate school.  Neal has heard that he role of writing is not to get in the way of the ideas.  But it’s not transparent at all!  Michael figured out how to make argument in philosophy by osmosis.  We need to make it more explicit.

What kinds of research would involve students in research? What kinds of research would be good for a consortium?

Undergraduates doing research can be a good hook.  Investigating your peers’ experience makes so much sense.  Dartmouth has undergrad and grad students involved in coding and data processing. Takes funding to pay the undergrads. UNE has research days.   Can use that as a way to look at what kinds of writing might be useful for students. Michael is looking for grant proposals to jump start investigation. Which students would be interested in doing that kind of research? Who wants to do research project around writing? Having students investigate writing in their own discipline gives them agency. U Penn has tutors doing writing in the disciplines research; they interview faculty about writing in the discipline. Tom has decided that it has to be a course on writing research. Gives him a self-selected group to work with. Tutors are overcommitted. Science majors can’t do a 3 credit course, so they have a 1 credit course. U Conn now has a vibrant Learning Commons.  They do guerilla tutoring sessions in science building right before the first lab report is done.  Helps recruit students to the writing center later.

Conversation about the writing fellows programs at Dartmouth and UVM. Dartmouth has 60 hours in a quarter; UVM has 50 in a semester.  Dartmouth has tutoring in writing in foreign languages. They co-vet the fellows with the language departments. UVM doesn’t check with departments before assigning fellows, but looks for experienced Writing Center tutors.  With content area tutoring, students are recommended by faculty. Michael: Content area tutors might work in writing without having support for doing it.  Might be a resource for recruiting writing tutors.

What is interesting to follow up on: What does expertise look like and what is its relationship to disciplinarity. Thaiss and Zawacki have a 3 stage model of increasing expertise where students start to see writing/disciplinarity as less arbitrary; in the third stage students understand variety within the discipline.

Notes from small group meeting

By Catherine Savini and Michelle Cox

In our group, we focused on questions that we have related to WAC and thought about ways to research them.  We first focused on second language (L2) writers and WAC, then discussed where to begin such research, which led to a discussion on longitudinal case studies and how long these case studies should be (include students’ experiences in high school? include students’ experiences after they leave college and enter the workplace?).  We also talked about the possibility of doing longitudinal case studies of faculty to find out how faculty take up WAC knowledge as they make their way through their careers.  We also talked about the importance of including faculty voices in research, which led to a conversation on the importance of being a proponent of classroom research, so that faculty can share the WAC pedagogies they’ve developed and get recognition.  We then discussed the book Engaging Student Voices in the Study of Teaching and Learning and wondered about the possibilities of undergraduate research in WAC.  We then turned our attention to students with learning disabilities (LD), and realized that many of the questions we have about L2 students can be asked about LD students.  We then wondered about the programmatic relationships between programs that work with LD students, as one group member discussed ways in which LD students are tutored in writing in programs outside of the WC.  This brought us to a discussion of the relationship between Centers of Teaching and Learning and WAC.  On some campuses, Centers of Teaching and Learning grow out of WAC, while at others, these Centers can eclipse WAC or even take the place of WAC, and in others, the two programs co-exist comfortably and collaborate.  We’d like to know more about the range of programmatic relationships here.  We ended our discussion with a huge question: has WAC changed since the early eighties?  Anne Geller told us about some of her research into the history of WAC, and told us that the agendas for early WAC workshops look eerily similar to agendas used today.  We talked about how so much of the early WAC work continues to feel new to faculty in our disciplines, so we continue to share it, but wondered then if WAC isn’t changing much.  This led to a conversation on the history of the National Writing Project and questions over whether the pedagogy shared through NWP institutes and workshops has changed over the years.  Below, we list the questions that came up during each part of our digressive but rich conversation.

Second Language (L2) Writers AND WAC:

  • How do L2 writers fare in WI/WID courses? What is their experience in WI/WID courses?
  • How are students functioning in writing groups?
  • How are instructors perceiving L2 students? Assessing them?
  • Are international students treated differently from immigrants? 1.5?
  • How can we improve curriculum so these students succeed? Are they succeeding?
  • How is faculty prepared to work with L2 writers?
  • How are L2 writers doing in the work place?
  • What is the gap between what we are teaching in the university and what S are doing in the work place?
  • How does global English influence the expectations of work place writing?

Learning disabilities:

  • How do students with LDs fare in WID/WI courses? What is their experience in WI/WID courses?
  • How are LD students functioning in writing groups?
  • How are instructors perceiving LD students? Assessing them?
  • How can the curriculum be improved so that they succeed? Are they succeeding?
  • How is faculty prepared to work with LD writers?
  • How are LD students doing in the work place?

Longitudinal studies—h.s.—workplace writing

  • Follow students through a field of study and into the work world in this particular field.
  • What are the writing expectations in the work world in particular fields?
  • What does WAC look like in secondary schools and what do students transfer?

Faculty Development:

  • How does faculty develop? How can we follow their progress out of WAC initiatives? How does multilingual faculty develop?
  • How do we trace/assess the development of faculty who WAC unofficially?
  • What happens if our program encourages action research? (what are the risks?)
  • How are graduate students learning to teach in their programs and what is the role of writing (or are they learning to teach at all)?

WAC and other programs:

  • What is the relationship between FYC and WID?
  • What happens at Centers for Teaching and Learning around writing?
  • How do different programs that conduct faculty development on campus (teaching and learning, instructional technology) coexist/relate to one another?

Evolution/stasis of WAC:

  • How has WAC evolved? How has that National Writing Project evolved?

Large Group Discussion

It would be great to talk across institutions about what we are doing.  Keene State is doing a survey with its Task Force in Writing to learn about what sophomores are doing with writing and how they are building on first year writing. Neal encountered faculty without syllabi.  Susan Jarrett’s “Pedagogical Memory” piece addresses these sorts of questions and Anne found a report from the first round of research. Tom’s committee as asked bit students and faculty about their writing experiences. Possible go do under the over of a task force, but not possible to do as an individual researcher.  Interesting. Politics of research.  Committees can ask questions that individuals can’t.  Tom will share survey and results with anyone who is interested.  Those questions are geared toward the U Conn policy question, and may not be portable.

Can we share data pools in NEWACC?

Looking at configurations for WAC and CTLs across the country could be an interesting research project.  Stefan wonders whether anyone has done research on programs and how they are engaged by adjunct faculty? There are faculty who don’t assign writing in philosophy. What is classroom capacity? Class size can limit assignments, as can heavy teaching loads for adjuncts. Depending on the program’s structure, what does it mean to teach a course that is writing intensive.  Many institutions will specify how you get to teach a WI course.  That might cut out adjunct faculty, might also regulate class size or pedagogical practices. Might provide paid faculty development. There are also narratives about full-time faculty who teach writing and don’t care.  Interesting research possibilities.  Look at recent issue of College English. Also much research on exemplary WAC programs and their staffing.  Anne notes that adjunct faculty are an invisible element in WAC programs.  We don’t talk about the relationship between being part-time and using writing in the disciplines. Most adjunct faculty are not rewarded for doing research, and that is an important form of faculty development.  At Dartmouth there is nothing to encourage part-time faculty to do research in the first place, although there is a small pot of money that can support conference presentations.  U Conn has small funds to encourage part-time faculty to attend book clubs ($500 for attending book club meetings and online discussion; costs the institution about $20,000 a year). Tiane notes that it’s important to advocate as a group for institutions to provide better positions either tenure line or full time instructor. MIT has 45 lecturers, more than half are part-time.  Monthly staff meetings used to encourage research.  When budget cuts eliminated food for those meetings, attendance plummeted.  Colleagues have developed research projects. Unclear whether research counts in review.  For full-time lecturers, everyone who has applied for the recently-available Lecturer 2 rank has gotten promoted, but it’s not clear how much the professional development counts in that process.

At UNE there are lecturers, but not in writing.  They are pressing the Dean/Provost for lines in English. At CUNY, lecturers didn’t need to do research, but Michael encouraged those interested in future tenure-line positions to participator in research. Neal’s pitch is that it’s teacher research.  Investigating how students are learning helps improve teaching.

Business Meeting

Topics for fall:

  • how do we understand student experience in WAC settings?
  • Can we start to make a concrete plan for advancing a consortium research project?
  • What about doing  something around the NSSE writing questions?
  • Outreach to other institutions in the area

Anne wants to pre-organize talks in the fall. Should include attention to NSSE;  also have the goal of having a research project emerge from this group. The first-year experience folks have great approaches to studying student experiences. Michael notes that focusing on a discipline could be good. Michelle points out that we could also study a demographic, like L2 writers. Lynn notes that we need a clear question. Michelle notes the possibility of researching adjunct faculty in WAC programs.

Anne wonders if we need a subgroup to organize the research possibilities, given the time constraints. We should invite participation on the listserv as many people are not here.

Congratulations to Tom Deans, the new associate chair for NEWACC. Associate chair helps the chair.  Chair runs the fall and spring meeting. Associate chair will take office in spring 2012. NEWCA will be at St. John’s in spring 2012.  Kati offers Mt. Ida College in Newton MA for the fall meeting (and offers to provide lunch!). Late September can be good. We briefly considered the virtues of a Saturday meeting, but decided that Fridays are better.  Tentative date: 23 September, 11 to  2. 

We will re-title the survey a “membership survey” to help encourage more participation there, and also to help build the consultant list.  Susanmarie will send Michael the membership list. We need to ask members to send in brief bios, and we will emphasize the virtue of visibility.

New website: Thanks to Michael Cripps for all his work on it. There is a very visible link to us on the WAC Clearinghouse.

Need to make sure that information about our meetings gets communicated to NEWACC  membership.