Faculty who teach with writing in upper-level courses often ask about the prior literacy learning of students in their courses. Many of these faculty are uncertain about what their students have learned and what they need to learn in order to perform well on writing projects. Because they know students have taken writing courses, they want to know how best to leverage that prior learning. In other words, they are curious about how to support the transfer of prior writing knowledge. So, what can faculty who teach with writing do to facilitate that transfer?
One of the first questions that faculty new to teaching writing across the disciplines ask is: how do I add writing to what I’m already doing in my class? Balancing content and writing instruction is a difficult task, and often we feel like we just can’t fit everything in. And while teaching a writing course might carry extra expectations, faculty are often surprised to learn that small writing-to-learn activities can add a lot of value while not requiring a lot of work.
As teachers, we recognize that academic success isn’t based only on cognitive abilities; it is also significantly impacted by social practices and emotional well-being. But sometimes, we aren’t always certain how to articulate that for our students. That is why today we are sharing a video from our friend Karyn Kessler, Interim Academic Director of INTO Mason, in which she talks about her five tips for academic success. While she directs her advice to students studying in international contexts, much of it also applies to students studying in their hometowns and the faculty who teach them. We summarize her tips below.
A lot faculty struggle to find time to keep up on their research agendas during the semester. Between meetings, teaching, and all of the other things that add up to a faculty member’s work life, time often gets away from us. So, how do we make time for our research and writing?
In our last post, we discussed the qualities of good feedback. But as many writing teachers know, giving good feedback is only part of the equation; students still need to use that feedback in order to revise their drafts and develop as writers. And this second part of the equation can be a significant challenge for many writing teachers and students alike; as Katherine Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj note, drafts can sometimes become “like concrete:” once they begin to set, they aren’t likely to see changes deeper than the surface. So, the question becomes: how do we help students use our feedback and revise their writing?
Writing intensive courses are built on the concept that students improve as writers when they are given frequent opportunities to revise their writing based upon feedback from faculty. While providing feedback can seem simple, many writing teachers recognize that the task is complex, and it’s common for faculty to feel unsure of how best to provide feedback on writing. In consultations and informal conversations, faculty often ask us: how do I provide effective feedback, and what should I be mindful of as I provide my student’s feedback?
On January 9th and 10th, Mason’s WAC Program held its 5th winter faculty writing retreat and its 10th overall. Mason’s WAC Program began hosting retreats in May 2014 to provide a distraction-free environment for faculty to work on scholarly projects. Since that time, the retreats have garnered a steady interest, but this retreat was our largest one yet: a total of 48 energetic writers convened in Fenwick Library for two productive days.
As we have written throughout this semester, many challenges that students encounter with writing stem from difficulties with reading. These difficulties range across disciplines, but each discipline might face its own set of challenges. The problem many faculty in the sciences experience, writes Laura Davies in her article on teaching reading in science courses, is that often “students regard scientific texts as collections of facts.” Thus, Davies says, students engage articles purely for content and can overlook how that content engages in broader disciplinary conversations and practices, which are often critical for entering into a disciplinary community. So, how do we help students read for more than facts?
Earlier in the semester, we shared some resources that focused on using annotations and other strategies to support reading. The general intent of these strategies is to prompt students to engage more deeply and mindfully with their reading. In our post on “mindful reading,” we mentioned that effective readers often read for specific purposes that shape the way they engage the texts they are reading. For instance, if readers want to gain a general understanding of a text, they might skim it by noting the title, reading the introduction and conclusion, and browsing the main sections. But what if we have a different purpose? What if we are engaging a text not for its content but for its structure?