Come to a WAW Workshop at CCCC: Rethinking Technical, Professional, and STEM Writing Pedagogy through Writing about Writing

This year at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, one of the Wednesday afternoon workshops will focus on supporting instructors of professional, technical and STEM writing in redeveloping an existing course through the lens of writing about writing (WAW). Instructors from all institutional types are welcome, but instructors from 2-year colleges, including technical colleges and trade schools, are especially encouraged to attend.

Instructors need not have any prior experience with the writing-about-writing approach to teaching writing. The workshop will provide support for identifying the aspects of a WAW approach that are relevant to the participant’s institutional context and course curriculum and create a generative environment for reimagining assignments, assignment sequences, lesson plans or the whole curriculum.

We wanted to circulate this information as early as possible in the hopes that a cohort of instructors from your institution might be able to attend together.

Below you will find a sketch of the workshop schedule. Please feel free to contact Sarah Read (sread :at: depaul.edu) with any further questions about the workshop. We hope to see you in Portland this March!

Title of Session: Rethinking Technical, Professional and STEM Writing Pedagogy through
Writing About Writing

Short Description: Workshop participants will reimagine and innovate courses in STEM and
Professional Writing through the lens of Writing About Writing

Workshop at a Glance:

1:30 Introduction and Overview
1:45 Identifying Core Tenets of WAW
2:30 Acknowledging Local Situations for WAW: The Strong-Weak Continuum
3:15 Break
3:30 Profiling Courses: What Can WAW Look Like in STEM and PW Courses? Breakout Sessions.
4:00 Reimagining Courses: Working Groups
5:00 Showcasing Innovations

Writing-About-Writing in the Student-Centered Composition Research Classroom

This blog post provides observations from an expository writing and research class I recently taught using a WAW approach. In the class, I asked my students to read series of composition articles organized by topic, to help students acclimate to a shared research environment. These topics included the use of grading contracts in composition research, peer review in composition classrooms and in professional writing situations, and articles providing historical context for the field of composition.

The general theme of these articles was an application to classroom writing activities and writing pedagogy. WAW approaches to teaching composition allow students a wide opportunity to gain familiarity with elements of composition theory and to gain further experience and practice using WAW threshold concepts in classroom discourse. But students learning in WAW classrooms achieve even more when they take responsibility, not only to learn content, but in teaching their fellow students.

When teaching composition I attempt to help students claim power by co-teaching the WAW curriculum with them. In doing this I attempt to invoke principles of critical pedagogy, following the principles Shor suggests in When Students Have Power. Shor explores the benefits and pitfalls of designing courses with students taking a more direct role in decision-making that affects the class (e.g. meeting times, class assignments). I attempt to do this by dividing the class into workgroups—usually five groups of four students—and then assign specific days and articles for each group to cover.

Although they are still subject to instructor power in the classroom, students co-operating in teaching WAW articles have liberty to select whichever methods they would like to help present on their assigned readings for the week. I provide students examples of what previous classes have done for activities (e.g. handouts outlining the reading, lists of generative discussion questions). I then ask students to lead discussion using their own activities. Having used this approach during the past several years of teaching WAW, I have three observations:

1. Students who are responsible for teaching articles make significant reflection on those articles during low-stakes, informal writing assigned for those articles.

2. Students who are responsible for teaching articles also specifically refer back to earlier threshold concepts they taught while engaged in later classroom discussions covering new threshold concepts. Cooperating in work groups provides students the opportunity to develop what James Gee calls affinity groups, which foster an environment to discuss threshold concepts.

3. Students have an easier time identifying with composition theory as a result of teaching the content with their peers. Although this could be considered a graduate student effect, undergraduate students also show signs of showing greater identification with a WAW curriculum when they are not only positioned as composition researchers but as co-instructors. Pedagogically, I’m concerned not just that students identify with metacognitive concepts but that they are able to transfer this knowledge to other rhetorical situations for their own purposes.

Student Feedback and Response

I invited students to voluntarily provide feedback throughout the course and at the end of the semester by means of an informal survey. In this space I will focus on one aspect of feedback students provided: the difficulty in students making links between the WAW articles and formal course writing assignments. As is the case in many classes, students in this sectioned noted how they felt they had to read too many articles. While I had taken care to limit the total readings to what seemed manageable to me, I do intend to revise the reading list to reduce the total number of readings required with their feedback in view.

Nonetheless, perhaps the most important thing I learned in making this attempt to teach this course as a WAW course is to more closely integrate concepts from the reading into the required formal writing assignments. As a WAW approach, inviting students to use the writing concepts they have been reading about in their writing means giving them an opportunity to do just that in writing. That is because education, especially in a WAW classroom, is somewhat reducible to what transfers to other rhetorical situations and contexts. In this class, I submit, the general skills required to access research scholarship (rhetorical assessment of authorship and situation, summary, synthesis, reflection, analysis) are all skills tied into gaining access to other sites’ discourses.

With regard to the student-centric group work, students acknowledged in their feedback that they seemed to get along quite well with their peers. Additionally, each article that they read provided an excess of content for students to wallow in. I had required students to write informal writing assignments for each of the readings, but this time I missed a vital opportunity to have students connect their wallowing to formal writing assignments. That would have potentially allowed students to make more connections among the articles, the other formal writing they were doing, and the specific research goals I was asking them to achieve.

A perennial issue, peer review and feedback, made its presence known in discussions with students throughout the semester. Students commented to me that group presentations allowed the class to discuss WAW threshold concepts from the readings together, to better understand them. I find it likely that asking students both to write individually and to present as groups, to discuss threshold concepts, both made the process somewhat tedious but also effective. At the end of the class, the entire class looked for patterns in the survey responses they had voluntarily filled out. Several students at that time observed that though they had not always enjoyed the workload, they had gained knowledge about writing throughout the semester’s reading and writing assignments.

Samuel Stinson, a PhD student, is a teaching assistant at Ohio University.

Call for proposals: WAW Sponsored Panel for CCCC 2017

2017 cccc logo

Cultivating Capacity, Creating Change

2017 Conference on College Composition and Communication
March 15-18, 2017
Portland, Oregon


The Writing About Writing (WAW) Standing Group and the WAW Steering Committee invite proposals for the 2017 WAW Sponsored Panel. The sponsored panel is guaranteed to be accepted to the CCCC program when the Standing Group submits it, and we are reaching out to the WAW community to identify potential presenters.

What is an Open Review?

This year, we will use an open review process to select participants for the WAW Featured Session. The chair of the WAW Sponsored Panel Committee will collect the proposals, remove all identifying information, and upload the content of the proposals to an institutional survey system.

From Tuesday, May 3 through Friday, May 6, members of the WAW community (reached via the WAWN-listserv and the WAW Network) will read the anonymous submissions and select their top proposals for the Sponsored Panel. Selected participants, and panelists not selected, will be notified of inclusion in the Sponsored Panel by Saturday, May 7, 2016, so that they will still have time to submit their proposal to CCCC on their own by the May 9 deadline.

Why use an Open Review?

We believe the open-access will bring more members into the WAW community; this open process will also help us cultivate next year’s vision for the Standing Group.

What kind of proposal fits the WAW Sponsored Panel’s goals?

We are interested in interactive panels as well as individual proposals. We are interested in proposals that help us extend the practice and impact of WAW pedagogy or research, particularly proposals authored and co-authored by new and emerging scholars in WAW. We are also hoping to include panels reporting on ongoing research into WAW programs and courses.

How will selected proposals be submitted to CCCC?

Sponsored Panels will be submitted by the WAW Sponsored Panel Committee through the regular CCCC proposal system, which is why we are asking for the same information as the online program proposal system.


To be considered for the WAW Sponsored Panel, proposals must be received before 11:59 pm on Sunday, May 1, 2016. Please send your proposal in the body of an email to Moriah McCracken at ilamc@stedwards.edu.

To be considered for the Sponsored Panel, please follow 4Cs guidelines when writing your proposal. In ~2,000 characters, briefly describe the focus and purpose of your WAW presentation. Remember to include the following information in your email:

  • Name:
  • Institution:
  • Institution Type (high school, 2-yr, 4-yr, HSI, HBCU, etc):
  • Home Address, including City, State, Zip:
  • Phone & Email:

Please also indicate

  • “NEW” if you will be a first-time speaker/ presenter;
  • “ROLE” if you are willing to chair a session other than the one proposed;
  • “DREAM” if you are a first-time presenter eligible for a Scholars for the Dream Travel Award;
  • “GS” if you are a full-time graduate student;
  • “UGS” if you are an undergrad student.

Note “LCD” or “INTERNET” if that technology will be essential to your presentation.

If you have questions and/or concerns, feel free to email I. Moriah McCracken at ilamc@stedwards.edu.

New to Writing about Writing (WAW Standing Group Newcomers Breakout)

Newcomers to the WAW standing group meeting at 4C’s 16 met separately to chat about some Writing about Writing concepts and pedagogical strategies.

We were a diverse group of seven, six from across the United States and one from Japan (that’s me!), and varying in our experiences with and expertise in Writing about Writing. I participated in the meeting as a newcomer in its truest sense, wanting to find out more about WAW while discovering that the basic principles of WAW resonated deeply with my beliefs and practices. Below are the notes from the meeting, and I invite everyone to use the comments space to make better meaning out of how I captured the discussion and to point out things that I might have missed.

We began by discussing how TFT (Teaching for Transfer) relates to WAW. Some of us were concerned that some scholars saw teaching for transfer and writing about writing as “mutually excusive”. Here are some points raised by the group in response:

  • Teaching how to learn to write for writing tasks beyond first year and advanced writing courses is one of the basic goals of WAW.
  • It may be useful to consider WAW as inductive and TFT as deductive learning. Inductive learning takes place within WAW approach because students learn how to write by engaging with content that deals explicitly with the “how to write” subject matter. But, once students internalise this “how to”, they can teach themselves how to write for any particular writing situation by reading primary texts in a given genre and discovering deductively the strategies specific to that context of writing.
  • Understanding the metaphors in Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life is an example of how inductive learning takes place.

We also shared some instructional strategies, prompted by questions from the group:

  • How would you teach technical writing through WAW?

–>Gather work by technical writers and build a discourse community.

  • How would you facilitate the learning of style as opposed to structure?

–>Prompt students to identify what the text is accomplishing and what moves are being made. For example, after reading a text, students identify a certain number of stylistic moves and give each one a name of their choosing.

–>Gather student writing corpus responding to a simple writing prompt (e.g. writing an email to professor regarding an anticipated absence) and analyze various stylistic moves.

–>Facilitate “reading like a writer” by providing guidance around reading primarily for style.

Elevator Pitches (WAW Standing Group Breakout)

During the WAW standing group meeting at 4Cs16, our breakout group discussed the potential coordinations and disjunctions across interest groups in transfer (e.g. WAW, TFT, threshold concepts) and made some first steps in what might become an “elevator pitch” for talking about WAW.

Here are the notes from our breakout group:

Goal: Write an “elevator pitch” for the uninitiated to WAW.

Questions we discussed:

  • In thinking about creating an elevator pitch, what do we need to acknowledge (implicitly or explicitly) and how does that change across audiences?
  • How do we convey what we know to be true about WAW?

Possible audiences for the elevator pitch:

  • Administrators
  • Colleagues in our departments
  • Colleagues outside of our departments
  • Colleagues who teach writing
  • The broader public

Possible pitches:

  • WAW is a pedagogical approach that positions writing as a subject of study, emphasizes metacognition, which we know to be important for transfer. (This pitch seems directed to ourselves/ writing instructors)
  • WAW helps students develop metacognition about writing and about themselves as writers. This type of reflective practice helps them to write more successfully in future contexts. (This pitch might speak to broader audiences, including , but is still incomplete.)

Feel free to add your ideas regarding an elevator pitch for WAW in the comments, and let us know which audience you imagine your pitch speaks to.

Writing about Business Writing: An Ethnography Assignment

 

Marianna Hendricks
The University of Texas at El Paso
mrdrum@utep.edu

Since 2010, I have experimented with integrating a WAW approach in my first-year writing courses. In 2012, I grew these efforts to include more business writing, both within first-year writing and in a dedicated course on workplace writing.

One way this has been successful is in the assignment below, the Workplace Writing Ethnography, which I developed alongside several colleagues at UTEP. This project stems from the commonly-assigned literacy narrative, or auto-ethnography, and extends the task of ethnography into exploring genres and conventions of a students’ target (or current) workplace. This is especially important for students who intend to enter a new career after college, as the project emphasizes analysis of the ways novices enter and integrate into a discourse community.


 

Workplace Writing Ethnography

Overview

The Workplace Writing Ethnography is different from the auto-ethnography. Rather than examine multiple writing practices for an individual (you), this assignment allows you to explore how written communication is structured within a single workplace. Ultimately, your objective is to: 1) get a sense of what genres are common within your chosen workplace, 2) profile conventions and “document cycling” practices (Paradis, Dobrin, and Miller, 1985) that are considered normal there, and 3) document (or propose) ways that novices could enter the written communication practices effectively and efficiently.

You will choose a workplace that you are either already in, or a workplace you would like to join in the future, perhaps as part of your career goals.

This assignment stems from class discussion of John Swales’ (1990) article “The Concept of Discourse Community,” where he gives six defining characteristics of discourse communities:

  1. A discourse community has a broadly agreed set of common public goals.
  2. A discourse community has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members.
  3. A discourse community uses its participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback.
  4. A discourse community utilizes and hence possesses one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims.
  5. In addition to owning genres, a discourse community has acquired some specific lexis.
  6. A discourse community has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise. (pp. 471-473)

Gathering Data

You will explore the six elements of discourse communities as they relate to the written communication within a particular workplace. When selecting your community, consider the guidelines listed below:

Locate a business or organization that is related to your future career aspirations. If you wish to study your current workplace, work with an upper-level supervisor to research beyond your current role.

  1. Contact an upper-level supervisor of this business or organization. Briefly explain your project, ask permission to observe people on-the-job for at least 3 hours, and set up an interview with the supervisor following your observation.
  2. Observe members of the community during a shared activity, and take detailed notes of how they interact (what are they doing? what kinds of things do they say? what do they write? how do you know who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’?).
  3. Request an interview with at least one lower-level employee in the organization.
  4. Collect artifacts and writing produced in the community. Consider requesting examples of emails, memos, business letters, web materials, brochures, mission statements, grant proposals, or procedures.

Record and/or take detailed notes during interviews with the supervisor and lower-level employee (we will develop research questions as a class beforehand).

Analyzing Data

After completing your observation and interviews, review your notes and the artifacts you have collected. As you read and re-read, try to answer as many of the following questions as possible:

  • What are the shared goals of this community? Why does the group exist and what does it do?
  • What mechanisms do members use to communicate? What are the purposes of these mechanisms?
  • Which of these mechanisms are considered genres? Which are primarily written?
  • Who are the normal audiences for these genres? What do they usually want to know? What do they expect to see?
  • What are some conventions for written communication in these genres? Is there a certain tone, specialized language, or standard way of saving or sharing information?
  • What kinds of “document cycling” take place in this community? Who provides feedback, and how often? When is a document considered final? How does it get there?
  • Who has expertise? Who are the newcomers? How do newcomers learn appropriate language, genres, knowledge?

Connect your findings with at least two of our readings. Consider whether your research seems to line up with what we read and discussed, or if your findings call some ideas into question.

Presenting Data

You will present your findings within a 5- to 7-page article, using a format commonly used to share qualitative research in academic journals. This article should be double-spaced, using a 12-point font in Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri, and one-inch margins. Please include all of the following sections:

  • A title page, including a title, your name, class time, and contact information.
  • Introduction, providing an overview of your workplace and research questions.
  • Literature Review, using course readings and any other relevant sources to support the way you structured your inquiry, data collection methods, analysis, or findings.
  • Methods, providing details of how you collected and analyzed data, in a way that another researcher could reasonably replicate.
  • Discussion, making connections between what you found and what it might mean, especially to a novice entering the workplace or someone looking to improve current practices.

The final version of your article should follow APA format, including a title page with running head, in-text and reference page citations, page numbers, and first-level section headings.

Drafting and Peer Review

All students will have multiple opportunities to share working drafts of their article with peers and the instructor for feedback. Please come to class on peer review days with as much work completed as possible, and be ready to provide meaningful comments on “global” issues such as appropriate focus, helpful structure, clear descriptions, and sufficient detail. Students who wish to receive additional feedback may make an appointment with the instructor during office hours and visit the University Writing Center to meet with a tutor; however, do not come expecting an editing session.

CFP: First Conference for Rhetoric & Writing Studies Undergrad Programs

Call for Proposals

First Conference on Rhetoric and Writing Studies Undergraduate Programs

October 13-14, 2016

Camino Real Hotel

El Paso, Texas

Sixteen years into a new century, we can say that undergraduate programs in Rhetoric and Writing Studies (RWS) are a diverse and exciting landscape in which, to borrow Sandra Jamieson’s words, we can discern “a snapshot of where the field of writing studies is today” and “where it is going and what it might become” (vii).

Sponsored by the Association for Rhetoric and Writing Studies Undergraduate Programs, this conference will provide a space for scholarship, conversation, and collaboration related to all facets of undergraduate programs in RWS. As such, we invite proposals on any issue related to RWS undergraduate programs, whether existing, planned, or aspirational.

Proposed topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Defining Undergraduate Programs: Rhetoric? Writing Studies? Rhetoric &/or Writing Studies?
  • Curriculum of Undergraduate Programs in RWS
  • Teaching, Learning, and Pedagogy in Undergraduate RWS Programs
  • Institutional Locations of Undergraduate RWS Programs
  • Institutional Politics and Undergraduate RWS Programs
  • Undergraduate RWS Program Administration
  • Histories of Undergraduate RWS Programs
  • Student Recruitment, Mentoring, and Retention
  • Undergraduate Research: Mentoring, Presentation, and Publication
  • Education, Hiring, and Mentoring of Undergraduate RWS Faculty
  • Funding, Grants, and Resources for Undergraduate RWS Programs
  • Partnerships between RWS Programs and Publics, Government, Workplace, Nonprofits, etc.
  • Technology and Digital Studies in Undergraduate RWS Programs


PROPOSALS

The conference welcomes individual proposals as well as proposals for panels, roundtables, and posters.

Conference sessions will be concurrent, lasting 90 minutes per session. Individual proposals will be grouped into conference sessions by topic. Presenters may propose panels of 3 to 4 presenters, roundtables of 5 or more presenters, and poster presentations.

Faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students may submit proposals.

DEADLINES

  • Presenters should submit an abstract (500 words or less) of the proposed presentation no later than May 15, 2016.
  • Presenters will be notified of the status of their proposal by July 30, 2016.

TO SUBMIT A PROPOSAL

Proposals may be submitted by email to rhetwriting@gmail.com. Please identify status as faculty, graduate student, or undergraduate student.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Information about conference registration, hotel accommodations, and El Paso attractions will be posted to the Association website at www.rhetoricandwriting.org

Questions can be sent to Helen Foster at hfoster@utep.edu or Angela Petit at apetit.online@gmail.com

Work Cited

Jamieson, Sandra. Foreword. Writing Majors: Eighteen Program Profiles. Ed. Greg Giberson, Jim Nugent, and Lori Ostergaard. Logan, Utah State UP, 2015. vii-ix. Print.

Association for Rhetoric and Writing Studies Undergraduate Programs

www.rhetoricandwriting.org

www.facebook.com/RhetWritingUP

rhetwriting@gmail.com

Reflecting on WAW: A Pedagogical Journey

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by Heather Camp, Associate Professor of English and Director of Composition at Minnesota State University, Mankato 

The invitation to guest blog for the writing-about-writing network has led me to reflect on the ways I have benefited from WAW over the last five years. As I survey this period, I see a dynamic relationship between WAW and my teaching philosophy, a relationship that has challenged and changed me as a teacher and administrator.

Like others interested in WAW, my initial explorations were motivated by the work of David Smit, Anne Beaufort, Elizabeth Wardle and others who were asking pointed questions about the transferability of writing skills acquired in first-year composition. These questions impelled me toward transfer research, including Linda Bergmann and Janet Zepernick’s maxim that we teach students “how to learn to write” for future writing situations (emphasis added). This seemed like a genius idea to me, and it shaped my personal teaching philosophy and the theoretical orientation of the Composition Program I direct.

Other ideas from WAW appealed as well. Long concerned with the question of content for FYC, I eagerly embraced the notion that writing itself was a rich and appropriate subject matter for the course. I felt that this content would teach students more about writing than would readings about popular culture or current events. I also was persuaded that incorporating composition scholarship into the course would provide students with a more concrete introduction to the notion of disciplinary communities and their unique discourse practices. These ideas continue to speak to me, even while I now recognize (through WAW-based teaching experience) the complexities that accompany these pedagogical decisions.

On multiple occasions, I have helped develop a WAW curriculum for my university’s Composition TAs, who teach English 101. During their first semester of teaching, these teachers work from a common syllabus and assignment sequence designed by a group of TA mentors and myself. In the WAW renditions we have adopted, we have embraced a loose definition of WAW, one that accepts Downs and Wardle assertion that “any meaningful genre, form, writing-related content, and medium can make an appearance in a WAW class” (133 emphasis added). Anecdotal evidence suggests that teachers have valued adopting readings on the writing process most of all; these readings, they claim, have provided a foundation for the process orientation of the class. Metacognitive practices also seem to have been widely accepted.

Today, I continue to grapple with the transfer question that led me to WAW. However, I am in a different place than I was five years ago. New voices and ideas have entered the conversation and are influencing my teaching philosophy in various ways. These ideas include findings from neuroscience on how the brain learns, retains, and retrieves information—and what that means for teaching. They include research on the importance of novelty and relevance in remembering. And they include my own longitudinal research on writing teacher development and the evolution of teachers’ theories and practices over time. This new body of knowledge alternately affirms and challenges tenets from WAW and is helping me continue to work out my philosophy of teaching.

At their best, Composition theories and pedagogies spur us to ask new questions, take our work more seriously, evolve our teaching practices, wrestle with tensions between practice and theory, and come to a better understanding of our teaching priorities. They keep us alert, engaged, and curious. I am grateful for the growth opportunities I have been afforded by WAW, and to the vibrant scholarly community it has permitted me to join, whose members share my interests but travel on their own unique, intellectual journeys.

Works Cited:

Bergmann, Linda and Janet Zepernick. “Disciplinarity and Transfer: Students’ Perceptions of Learning to Write.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 31.1-2 (Fall/Winter 2007): 124-149.

Downs, Doug and Elizabeth Wardle. “Reimagining the Nature of FYC: Trends in Writing-about-Writing Pedagogies. In Exploring Composition Studies: Sites, Issues, and Perspectives.    Eds. Kelly Ritter and Paul Kei Matsuda. Logan: Utah State UP, 2012. 123-144.