Writing Across the Curriculum: “Writing to Learn, Learning to Write” Nicki Guthrie Don Kappel East Carteret High School
Today’s Agenda • Definition of writing across the curriculum • Myths • Writing continuum • Rationale • Informal writing strategies (detailed) • Semiformal writing, formal writing, and essay tests (quick) • Website info.
What is Writing Across the Curriculum? • Teaching practice based on the idea that the faculty as a whole, not just one academic department, is responsible for students’ writing skills • Other names for WAC: • Writing in the disciplines • Writing to learn • Writing in the content areas Maine Department of Education. http://www.maine.gov/education/highered/Glossary/Glossary.htm, 2007.
Let’s Write… • Spend five minutes freely writing about your beliefs, thoughts, concerns, etc. about WAC.
Myths about WAC • Takes away time for content • Unsuitable for some courses • Requires expertise in writing/grammar • Creates mountain of paper grading
Takes Away Time for Content • Writing about concepts helps achieve more learning • Less time spent reviewing/reteaching • Writing in the place of discussion, worksheets, etc • Writing is not added to content, but used as a way to teach content
Unsuitable for Some Courses Is your class too large? • Use writing to make students more responsible for own learning Is your class hands-on, experiential? (Band, PE, Auto tech) • Use writing to help students reflect about their activities • Lindeman, Erika. Center for Teaching and Learning, UNC-Chapel Hill, http://ctl.unc.edu/fyc4.html
Requires Expertise in Writing/Grammar • Respond as an expert in your field, not an expert in writing • Focus on higher-order concerns first • Always find something to praise • Address patterns of errors and your pet peeves • Grammar unimportant in informal writing
Creates Mountain of Paper Grading • Grade with a check plus/check/check minus system • Collect randomly • Create checklist rubrics • Respond to the class as a whole • Conduct peer review • Assign mostly informal writing
INFORMAL FORMAL Writing Continuum Anson, Chris. ITUE 10th Annual Symposium. NC State University. http://www.udel.edu/inst/june2007/anson-files/assignPM.pdf
Informal writing is usually low stakes an early draft personal thinking-on-paper “mechanics” are unimportant “writing-to-learn” Formal writing is usually high stakes a much later draft public analytical or critical “mechanics” are important “writing-to-communicate” Formal v. Informal Writing http://teachandlearn.missouri.edu/guide/chapters/writing.htm
Informal Writing Is…Writing to Think • “[Cognitive psychologists] … suggest that the writing process regularly involves the types of cognition generally labeled `thinking': discrimination, classification, specification, generalization, hypothesis formation and testing. In many cases, writing is not merely an aid to thinking: writing is thinking.” 1986 report to the UNC Faculty Council, the Ad Hoc Committee on Writing Across the Curriculum, Center for Teaching and Learning, UNC-Chapel Hill, http://ctl.unc.edu/fyc4.html
Informal Writing Is...Writing to Learn • “The process of making the material their own--the process of writing--is demonstrably a process of learning.” • Britton, James. http://writing2.richmond.edu/wac/wtl.html
Informal Writing Is…Writing to Write • “Writing skills have to be practiced and reinforced if they're to get better. And some students choose courses where little writing is required.” • Research shows that as students advance in a subject their communication skills in that discipline diminish unless they are constantly reinforced. -Erika Lindeman, Center for Teaching and Learning, UNC-Chapel Hill, http://ctl.unc.edu/fyc4.html -Costello, Chris. “Integrating Written, Oral, Visual, and Electronic Communication Across the Curriculum” Southern Illinois University Carbondale, 1999.
An Analogy… • All students would be proficient runners. • All students would improve their times. • All students would experience less anxiety. • Some students would start to love running. • If students practiced running in all of their classes:
Writing and Basketball (Another Sports Analogy)… Imagine being successfully by… • Practicing only in high-stakes games • Never practicing • Never being allowed to mess up without consequences • Rarely working with other players • Being advised to just watch pros on TV • Playing infrequently Anson, Chris. ITUE 10th Annual Symposium. NC State University. http://www.udel.edu/inst/june2007/anson-files/assignPM.pdf
Yet, Here’s How We Do It… • The dominant model: • Writing only high-stakes papers • Never practicing • Never being allowed to mess up without consequences • Rarely working with other writers • Being advised to look at only professional writing • Writing infrequently Anson, Chris. ITUE 10th Annual Symposium. NC State University. http://www.udel.edu/inst/june2007/anson-files/assignPM.pdf
Characteristics of Informal Writing • May be list-like • Loosely structured • Written to self • May begin/end abruptly • May be agrammatical • Spontaneous • Varied in length It’s messy because thought is messy! Anson, Chris. ITUE 10th Annual Symposium. NC State University. http://www.udel.edu/inst/june2007/anson-files/assignPM.pdf
Getting Started • Ask yourself two questions: • What do I want my students to learn? • How can writing assist that learning? Erika Lindeman, Center for Teaching and Learning, UNC-Chapel Hill, http://ctl.unc.edu/fyc4.html
Ways to Use Informal Writing • Writing at the beginning of class to… • probe a subject • Writing during class to… • refocus a lagging discussion or cool off a heated one. • ask questions or express confusion. • Writing at the end of class to… • sum up a lecture or discussion. Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2001.
Journals • Can be open-ended or structured: • Learning logs • Reading logs • Guided journals • Double-entry notebooks • Lab notebooks • Current events journals • Exam preparation journals Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2001.
15 Strategies Handout Newsworthy Explanations Connections Debate on Propositions Unresolved Lab Problems Mini-Cases Double-Entry Notebook Dialogue Journals Voices This Was the Week That Was The “Provided Data” Mini-Paper Exam preparation Problems with the Problem Discussion Questions Summary Statements Visual Representations
More Informal Strategies • Letters to the author /scientist / historical figure • Extended analogies • Think-Pair-Share • Discipline-specific writing • Social studies: Biographies, interviews • Science: Lab reports, grant proposals • Math: Descriptions of mathematical theories • Acrostic poems
An Acrostic Poem Example • Gregor Mendel’s • Experiments • Now are • Evidence • That offspring • Inherit parents’ • Characteristics, like in • Spring peas and honeybees.
Some Semi-Formal Strategies • Require some pre-planning • Take longer to complete • Graded still for ideas mostly, but also need to address presentation of ideas • Can’t expect perfection unless they are given opportunity to revise
A Math Example… • In class yesterday, 80 percent of you agreed with this statement: “the maximum speed of a sailboat occurs when the boat is ailing in the same direction as the wind.” However, that intuitive answer is wrong. Sailboats can actually go much faster when they sail across the wind. How so? Using what you have been learning in vector algebra, explain why sailboats can sail faster when the wind blows sideways to their direction of travel rather than from directly behind them. Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2001.
A Psychology Example… • In the morning, when Mr. Cat opens a new can of cat food, his cats run into the kitchen purring and meowing and rubbing their backs against his legs. What examples, if any, of classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and social learning are at work in this scene? Note that both the cats and the professor might be exhibiting conditioned behavior here. Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2001.
A Science Example… • Dear Dr. Science:My girlfriend and I disagree about something we saw in a baseball game. A guy hit a pop-up straight over the catcher’s head. My girlfriend thinks that when the ball stopped in midair before it started down, its velocity was zero, but its acceleration was not zero. I said she was stupid. If something isn’t moving at all, how could it have any acceleration? Dr. Science, please help us… Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2001.
Tips for Formal Writing • Prepare a detailed student handout • Treat writing as a process: • Prewriting • Drafting • Revision • Editing • Publishing • Give feedback early in the process
Successful Essay Tests / Exams • Consider revealing questions in advance • Consider allowing crib sheets • Limit choice • Keep questions simple • Essay exams can’t take place of WTL activities Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2001.
A Final Concern… • Won’t the writing just be busy work? • “The relationship between the amount of writing in a course and the student’s level of engagement —whether engagement is measured by time spent on the course, or the intellectual challenge it presents, or students’ self-reported level of interest in it — is stronger than any relationship we found between student engagement and any other course characteristic.” The Harvard Assessment Seminars, Second Report, 1992.http://www.udel.edu/inst/june2007/anson-files/assignPM.pdf
Check Out the Website! • You can find this presentation, general information, and subject-specific information: ECHS WRITING: http://echswriting.wordpress.com