Inkshed 30 ONE-DAY Program: Detailed Session Descriptions

Wednesday, May 28

8:45 – 10:00 am, Plenary: Code Meshing, World Englishes, Linguistic Hybridity Now! But How? Vershawn Ashanti Young – University of Kentucky

10:15 -11:15 a.m., Bespoke Writing Instruction: Tailoring Workshops to Fit, Nancy Johnston, Sarah King – University of Toronto & Allyson Skene – University of Windsor (60-min workshop)

In-class workshops presented by writing specialists or trained TAs are a popular means of supporting student writing. But given the limitations of time, staff, energy and teaching experience, it often seems impractical for writing and research specialists to tailor writing instruction to support individual courses. As a consequence, many of these workshops become overly generic, reducing disciplinary and genre variety to a uniform academic language. In this interactive workshop, we will share principles and examples drawn from our experience at adapting generic academic materials to fulfill specific course needs. Through a series of short exercises focussed on two key strategies – modelling the writing process for specific assignments and annotating samples of relevant academic writing – we will demonstrate the methods used to tailor writing materials to specific academic genres and disciplinary needs. The workshop will comprise 3 short exercises (15 minutes each): (1) a commenting exercise to introduce participants to the principles and examples drawn from our experience; (2) a freewriting exercise to engage them in thinking through the ways to enable productive collaboration with faculty members to combine disciplinary knowledge with writing expertise; (3) a pair-discussion exercise to generate a checklist for a writing genre relevant to a specific discipline, and annotate an academic writing sample for teaching. As a wrap-up discussion we will invite participants to reflect on their experiences and sustainable practices in creating writing support to “fit” course-specific needs.

11:25 – 11:45 a.m, Beep! Beep! Technology coming through (the Writing Centre)! Jordana Garbati, Haydn Lawrence, Boba Samuels – Wilfrid Laurier University (20-min presentation)

Recognizing the important role that technology plays in our lives, one of the goals this year at Laurier’s Writing Centre has been to advance our engagement with technology in order to better serve the Laurier community. The limitations writing centres often face in addressing such goals are lack of resources, inadequate technological expertise, unfamiliarity with social media, and institutional imperatives. At Laurier, we have explored how technology at the Writing Centre could enhance students’ learning experiences and faculty members’ teaching experiences. We began the multi-stage process with a social media initiative. Next, we redesigned our website to include new features, such as a blog, improved graphics, and a focus on our research activities. In collaboration with the Intercultural Development Office, we then created an app focused on vocabulary development. The creation of this app has positioned us as leaders at Laurier in app development. Finally, we implemented a new online appointment scheduling system to improve efficiency for students, tutors, and staff.

The changes we made have increased engagement with the Laurier community as well as with international scholars. These initiatives have also positively affected the Writing Centre tutors’ work experiences. We were able to create a dynamic web presence that promotes a more modern identity for our Writing Centre. Workshops, resources, and tutoring services were presented in a more user-friendly network. Given the constraints regarding IT development at Laurier and our minimal expertise in web administration, we were nevertheless able to improve access through a multi-stage, low-cost approach.

In this presentation, we offer our reflections on how the integration of new-to-us technologies has resulted in positive experiences for Writing Centre staff and Laurier students. We will share the steps we plan to take in order to continue to move forward with our technology plan of action. Attendees who are interested in increasing their online presence will gain practical ideas from our experiences.

1:00 – 2:30 p.m., The Personal Statement: Sharing Frameworks for Instruction. Sarah King, Kira Bruschke, Sheryl Stevenson, Deborah Knott – University of Toronto (90-min workshop)

Personal statements are a genre that challenges both students and writing instructors alike. From the writing centre perspective, what do or should writing instructors “teach” addressing students’ personal statements? How do students learn to reflect publically on their own abilities and aspirations? Is it possible to offer instruction about a genre or type of rhetoric, or should writing centre involvement be limited to help with final editing? How do we avoid the risks of helping too much—risks suggested by the Rhodes Scholarship officials’ recent decision to disqualify any students who let anyone review or make suggestions about their application essays?

This workshop aims to elicit discussion of possible frameworks for writing instruction focusing on the personal statement, while also raising questions for discussion about areas of contention or risk. Our aim is to promote a sharing of strategies, as well as productive discussion of thorny issues, especially questions of writing instructors’ appropriate roles, if any, in the students’ process of reflection, writing, and editing as they create these important essays.

We’ll distribute a handout with frameworks for scaffolding personal statements that we’d like Inkshedders to consider. These include:
the idea that our research on, and experience of, reflective writing could inform a structured process that we could develop for students; a framework inspired by our colleague Franco Taverna, who has used the model of university students’ intellectual and ethical development associated with William Perry; a career development model with stages that could serve as a possible framework; some productive angles emerging from research on the rhetoric of personal statements.

2:45 – 3:45 p.m.  “I Don’t Really Use What I Learned”: Adjusting Expectations in Qualitative Research, Stephanie White – University of Wisconsin–Madison (60-min workshop)

Community-engaged pedagogy is an approach to higher education that dismantles the borders between the community and the university. For students in writing classes, this pedagogy promises encouraging results, including transferrable writing knowledge. However, the existing qualitative scholarship on community-engaged writing instruction too often uses anecdotal evidence alone to buoy its claims of effectiveness (Angelique, 2006; Herzberg, 2000; Hull and James, 2010; Kessler, 2005; Morton, 2010). And, while much research examines transfer in composition (Artemeva and Fox, 2010; Nelms and Dively, 2007; Nowacek, 2011; Reiff and Bawarshi, 2011; Sternglass, 1997; Wardle, 2007), little scholarship addresses the question of transfer in community-engaged writing instruction.

To fill in some of the missing pieces, my dissertation considers how writing knowledge transfers from community-engaged writing classes to other academic work. Specifically, I ask: How and why does students’ writing knowledge change when they participate in community-engaged writing classes? Through semi-structured, text-based interviews with students, complemented by surveys and classroom observations at two research sites, I examine a small first-year introductory composition course in Washington, DC that fulfills general education requirements and a 1000-student Engineering Communications course in Toronto, ON. Through qualitative grounded theory methods (Charmaz, 2000), I provide case studies of how students experience transfer of writing knowledge from community writing contexts to academic writing contexts when they participate in community-engaged undergraduate writing courses. At the current stage of my research, I have collected data from the first-year composition course site in DC, and I am in the midst of collecting data from the Engineering Communications class in Toronto.

I am running into unexpected challenges, however, as I attempt to fit the Engineering Communications class into my study design. My study design relies on the concept of transferrable rhetorical knowledge being the key goal of a composition course. In the case of this engineering communications course, however, the key goal is to develop proposal-writing abilities, not generalizable rhetorical strategies. This difference is causing me to question the appropriateness of my interview protocols for my Toronto research site, as well as the effectiveness of my study design overall.

I am therefore seeking ideas, perspectives, and questions about how to research this Engineering Communications course within my current study. In the first part of the session, I will describe my research design and provide information about the Engineering Communications course. I will then generate suggestions from participants for how to seek out useful information from my research site within the structure of my study design. In the second half of the session, participants will have the opportunity to productively reflect on their own research, particularly any occasions of disjoint between study design and research sites.

4:00 – 5:00 p.m., An Unlikely Collaboration: How a Dramaturge and a Chemist Overcame Their Disciplinary Languages and Helped Each Other Cross the Phd Thesis Finish Line, Deborah Tihanyi and Jennifer E. Lofgreen – University of Toronto (60 min workshop)

When it comes to writing your Ph.D. thesis, the idea of taking risks isn’t exactly something that comes to mind. The stakes are so high that you more likely end up focusing on taking the safest road possible. But when you’ve spent time away from your doctoral research, and are returning to it to write, you take an inherent risk because you come back to it with a changed perspective.

We both found ourselves in this position in April of 2013: Deb was finishing a sabbatical and Jenny had four months left to finish her program, and we had both previously set aside our doctoral research to work full-time in the Engineering Communication Program. Granted, our roles were different (Deb is a Senior Lecturer, Jenny is a Communication Instructor hired on a contract basis) and our circumstances were different (Deb had two months remaining in her teaching sabbatical, Jenny was in her sixth year of her Ph.D. program), but we both had the same goal: finish writing our Ph.D. thesis by July. So, we decided to support each other. Through weekly meetings, we kept each other in check, challenged each other, and persevered. By late July, we were both finished. Jenny successfully defended her Ph.D. in September 2013, and Deb is currently working through the process of gaining reinstatement so she can schedule her defense.

So what’s the risk we took by working together? Well, Deb studies dramaturgy, and Jenny studies chemistry. We speak entirely different disciplinary languages. Our fields are drastically different, and so are the expectations for writing. Jenny was writing from scratch, and was completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task. Deb had an older draft that needed reworking, and was faced with the challenge of reimagining and rewriting content to which she had already devoted countless hours. What we found, however, is that the differences actually precluded the type of unsolicited—and sometimes not quite appropriate—advice common to sounding out disciplinary colleagues; instead, we were able to help each other articulate what we really needed and support each other in taking risks in thinking and writing without the second-guessing of fellow experts.

We would like to share our story with Inkshed as a way to encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration in writing. In a 20-minute talk, we will outline how we came to our collaboration, then discuss our shared experience over those two months, and finally explore the impacts that this collaboration had on the work we produced. We also want to discuss how our shared experience in teaching engineering communication informed our writing process (despite yet another level of disciplinary difference), and how our experience continues to influence the way in which we write and teach and collaborate with each other and our colleagues.

Our goal is to explore the idea that we don’t necessarily need to speak the same disciplinary language in order to facilitate the writing process—in fact, the differences we bring to the table can be valuable. Following our talk, we would like to lead a workshop (30 – 40 minutes) in which participants can explore this idea. Beginning with an individual writing exercise, participants will describe an element of their current work in teaching and/or writing. Then, in groups with maximum disciplinary diversity, participants will read and respond to each other’s writing. Small group discussions will be followed by a global discussion, where we will explore the ways that different disciplines can in fact support one another in teaching and writing.

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