Thursday, January 19, 2006

Hi All,

I'm writing to sketch out my idea for my spring project. I often teach advanced thematic history seminars, of which the central focus is the term paper that all students must submit by the semester's end. Several different times, I have experimented with holding writing workshops for students. My experimentation has never been very systematic, and my results have never been very positive. I am convinced that there is a way of designing a writing workshop that would prove productive for students. I'm also concinved that I have been reinventing the wheel, so to speak; I'm sure that there are published studies on this technique of teaching writing, and I would like to investigate them. I want to use this project as an opportunity to take the time to design a very well thought out workshop for my students that would give them the opportunity to revise and rethink their writing though sharing it with a group. My project, then, would consist of researching and designing a writing workshop, which I would then implement in my History 392W class this semester. I will share the results of this experiment at the very least by writing up a memo to distribute to you.

This project echoes some of the other RSWL participants' interest in peer review --how to do it, evaluate its efficacy, etc.-- and so I look forward to speaking about this with you all in person and hearing your ideas.

I have a second idea, as well. I am interested in organizing a panel discussion about teaching writing. This panel would be composed of STUDENTS, and not of teachers. I, for one, would really love to hear students' thoughts on the writing process. What better way than to ask them? When I was a graduate student teacher, I organized a similar panel and it was enormously successful and useful. The students loved the fact that their experience and opinion mattered, too. The trick would be to organize it at a time when people would actually show up, and to publicize it aggressively to ensure a respectable audience. It would also be necessary to invite a variety of students who would feel comfortable speaking somewhat publicly on this issue.

I look forward to hearing everyone's opinion on this.

Best wishes,



Blogger Robert Cowen said...

I like very much your idea about a panel for soliciting student response on teaching writing!

I have been browsing in the WAC journal which can be found through the links Jason has provided and there are lots of good ideas on running peer review sessions, etc. Like you I am teaching a W course this semester, Math 213W, and although I have taught the course before, I have never had the time until now, for systematic writing instruction.
I intend to use peer review and am convinced it has to be well prepared. That is why I am searching for materials. (Anyone have ideas or materials?)
Also, what do you think of setting up a blog for your course?

7:03 AM  
Blogger Jason Tougaw said...

I agree wholeheartedly with both you that peer review only really works when it is carefully designed. Students need quite a bit of guidance. It also helps to model the feedback/workshop process for the. You can do this by bringing in a student essay for them to workshop--perhaps something from a previous semester. It sometimes also helps to focus on some of the course reading as writing--and critique it, looking for the kinds of rhetorical strategies that students will also be developing.

There's an interesting book on student and professional writing groups, Candace Spiegelman's Across Property Lines: Textual Ownership in Writing Groups. We have it in the WAC office, if you want to take a look. You might also look through the anthology, Cross-Talk in Comp Theory.

I'll upload a handout I often using in W courses--Gordon Harvey's Elements of the Academic Essay. It helps students develop a vocabulary for discussing their own and each others' writing.

In the meantime, I think it would be great if you could develop some handouts or lesson plans that you might share with people in your department (and other departments). We could put these on the faculty resource page of the new WAC web site we're building. I also love your idea for a student panel. If you want, I can ask one or two of our writing fellows to help you plan and organize it.

7:38 AM  
Blogger Hefer Bembenutty said...

Bod, we ahev similar interest with regards to peer review. We should talk more during our meetings.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Hefer Bembenutty said...

Hi everyone,

I would like to find out how do you grade group projects.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Robert Cowen said...

Agreed, Hefer-- we should talk during out meetings about peer review and share materials. Jason can you make this a topic for one of our meetings and possibly find some readings for us?

6:48 AM  
Blogger Carrie Hintz said...

What Amy says about student articulations of their needs and opinions has really struck me. I would love to attend such a presentation--and I think it would also be good to ask students to become conscious about their hopes for their own education as writers and their own education generally. And I support the call for some peer review reading/ research/ exploration in the spring!

4:55 PM  
Blogger Jason Tougaw said...

We should definitely make peer response one of the topics for upcoming meetings. Those meetings will focus on your projects, so the conversation will arise naturally from them. I'd imagine that some readings will emerge from the research Amy and Hefer are doing, but I'll look around to and share anything interesting I find. I hope others will too!

6:33 PM  

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