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Last week, I wrote about the remarkable work Jeanne Bohannon is doing to help her often deeply conservative students reach beyond their own boundaries and engage with differences. I’m writing today about another remarkable teacher, Maria Roberts, whom I’ve known for a very long time from the Bread Loaf School of English but who also responded to my call to survey students about what they thought helped—and hurt—their ability to engage with people who held differing views than they did. And Maria was gracious enough to speak with me, at length, about her experiences (as a potentially vulnerable but also fearless and indomitable part-time instructor), her students (80% white with small percentages of African American, Hispanic, and international students), and her school (small, and in a rural area of Colorado). The students of color and international students tend to live on one side of campus; the white students on the other side. And last year at Halloween, some white students came in Klan robes and one faculty member in blackface.

 

In this atmosphere, Maria says, being able to speak is “all about courage.” In her classrooms, she strives to create a safe space where such courage can be seen and engaged and rewarded. She says that if she provides a place that is understood to be a safe place to talk, they do talk, open up, and are honest with one another. But doing so requires constant work and vigilance on her part—she must be aware of where everyone is, literally and metaphorically, all the time.

 

For Maria, the connection between teacher and students is key and it takes time to establish the trust that will allow that connection to grow and solidify. Clearly, she and many of her students have such relationships—and she is always reaching out, opening doors, and hoping to reach others. After our conversation, Maria shared a message she had from a former student who was reflecting on her experiences engaging with difference.  Here are some of her extraordinary remarks:

            I’d say in general I was uncomfortable talking to people who “looked” different from me (i.e. minorities) because I really had just never done it before. Our school is pretty homogeneous and a lack of exposure to other cultures puts people at a disadvantage. Mostly, though, I was afraid of saying something wrong or coming off as racist. Now [that] I’ve moved to one of the most diverse areas of the country, it’s gotten easier. I still catch myself being intolerant of other people’s experiences because I don’t understand: like a person of color talking about being treated unfairly, I might think “that doesn’t happen now.” BUT I then try to think from the other person’s perspective and recognize my blatant white privilege. When it is to politics or religion, I absolutely don’t feel comfortable talking about those things to people I don’t know and often not even people I do know. There’s too much hate and intolerance of differing opinions today. I would love to have productive conversations about these topics, but it seems impossible to do so.

For me, it’s a little more complicated because as a journalist I’m supposed to portray a façade of neutrality. I recently was assigned to write a story about comments some parents made during a public meeting essentially saying that Black and Hispanic students couldn’t perform at the same level as whites. Since that story was published, some people said it sparked important conversations and changes, but other people were hurt and offended and mad. Without having these conversations, I don’t think people can understand these are real issues in today’s society. Rather, they assume the issues are just legends and they don’t “happen here.”

 

 

In fact, Maria said, the backlash against this young journalist was severe, requiring her to have protection.  This former student shows the kind of courage Maria described earlier, courage that often or always comes with a cost. But this student knew one safe haven she could always turn to: her former teacher. Hence a lengthy conversation, back and forth, as Maria listens, encourages, and most of all understands.

 

I think of Maria and teachers like her every single day who are slowly but inexorably making a difference in students’ lives. Yes, it is all about courage. But before that, it is all about listening and all about trust. About building a place that is safe.

 

Image Credit: Pixabay Image 3488861 by congerdesign, used under the Pixabay License

When I think back to my high school writing instruction, I remember red ink, error codes, rules written by hand (it was the early 1980s) ten times in an effort to earn back half the points deducted for rule violations on initial drafts. By my senior year, I had great confidence in my ability to deploy semicolons correctly, avoid phrasal verbs, and resist the urge to write a fragment for effect. I could generate error-free writing with very little trauma. But I was terrified to say anything creative or unexpected, because the secondary lesson of my instruction was that writing presents a million ways to make mistakes, and mistakes should be avoided above all.

 

It’s difficult to explore ideas and meaning—doubting and then believing yourself in turn (Peter Elbow had not yet made an impact on secondary writing instruction at that point) when you edit each line as it appears before you, even before a proposition has reached its final punctuation, to ensure that subjects and verbs agree.

 

I had not yet understood (or could not verbalize) that writing concerns meaning—and identities, relationships, and social expectations, among other things. Implicitly I must have known something of these concerns, for I recognized that writing “correctly” would open academic doors for me, as it eventually did – doors that bypassed first-year composition courses. But “correctness” for me entailed writing without a number of language resources that could have been helpful in clarifying meaning for different audiences and purposes: passive voice, phrasal verbs, first and second person pronouns, some sentence-initial conjunctive adverbials, and there is/are constructions.

 

My current composition classes are working on revisions to literacy narratives, and I am working to create classroom spaces for metatalk about writing and grammar, encouraging students to consider their language and writing resources, the choices they have made in this particular paper, and how they are assessing the effectiveness of those choices.  Similar to my own concerns in high-school, much of their talk revolves around rules and errors—and the fact that I have told them they can violate “rules” they learned in previous courses, as long as their decision to do so fits the purpose and evolving meaning of the paper (which requires them to think about purposes and meanings and how language might either align with or work against them). I am trying not to restrict their writing or language resources in any way.

 

But an upper-level student challenged me on this “no linguistic restrictions” policy during a discussion in my advanced grammar class recently. We were looking at the functions that be plays in English, particularly in the progressive aspect and the passive voice, as well as in there is/are constructions. Students were exploring the rhetorical and discourse purposes of these constructions—backgrounding/foregrounding, creating cohesion, denying or reducing agency, introducing topic shifts, etc. I casually mentioned that I hated to hear that be verbs were restricted in some composition classes, given what be-based constructions can accomplish within a text. Why would we ever want to restrict students from using legitimate linguistic resources, especially when avoiding those resources might lead to less than optimal prose?

 

One of my students suggested that he had found a restriction on using be verbs helpful to his development as a writer. When not allowed to use be in a paper, he became aware of the extent to which he did use be verbs. And in the course of our conversation, it became evident that not using be might help a student develop skill at using other structures—just as an athlete or musician might restrict the use of a dominant hand in order to strengthen a weaker or less-practiced hand. When assignments are framed strategically, as exercises designed to target a particular linguistic “muscle,” then such restrictions might make sense.

 

Indeed. I have done such exercises—framing them as ways of playing with language, especially at the paragraph level. To the extent that these exercises highlight and illustrate language-meaning relationships and the ways in which language choices can affect a reader’s experiences, they also support my goal to expand and explore metatalk in developmental and first-year writing courses. 

 

The student’s comments challenged me to consider yet again the way I frame instructions for assignments—both major papers and smaller classroom exercises; the nature of the framing language can either make my purpose clear or leave students bewildered, sensing that they’ve just encountered another idiosyncratic and arbitrary rule. The advanced student’s comments—and the lively metalinguistic and pedagogic discussion that followed—also reminded me of the value of opening spaces for first-year writers to talk about their writing with each other, not just with me.

 

What language restrictions do you give student writers? Are these restrictions part of a specific assignment? What is your purpose in restricting linguistic choices in that assignment? Do you explain that purpose explicitly to students? How?

Shannon ButtsShannon Butts (recommended by Creed Greer) received her PhD in English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Writing Studies at The University of Florida in August 2019. Shannon teaches courses on digital rhetoric, multimodal composition, professional communication, technofeminism, and first-year writing. She also serves as the Assistant Coordinator of First Year Writing and mentors graduate instructors. Shannon's research examines how digital and mobile writing technologies, such as augmented reality, locative media, and 3D printing, author new literacy practices for public writing and community advocacy.

 

How does the next generation of students inspire you? 

 

The students coming through my courses seem to have a hustle that understands the larger ecology of work, play, and education. College is not necessarily their end game but part of a growing skill set that will position them for more opportunities in the future. And that looks different for different students. People coming in from high school are hustling to make grades, get internships, start businesses – hustling to participate in an economy that has diversified the paths that people can take to make money and be successful. Similarly, students coming back to school or working on graduate degrees are hustling to build a portfolio of experiences that will help them advance in their current careers or start new ones. The hustle can be tiring, or seem disorganized. Yet, most of the students that I see are working to create a well-rounded set of skills to be not only competitive but happy in their work and life. The hustle includes physical fitness, growing plants, joining clubs, taking days off, having families, developing apps, caring about public issues, and fighting for equality and balance in new ways. The students I see now inspire me to hustle for both myself and others. 

 

What is the most important skill you aim to provide your students?

 

I want the students in my classroom to understand that writing is a process that grows and changes throughout their lives. As such, I want students to develop analytical skills that evaluate the nuances of any rhetorical situation or ecology. If students understand the complex components of an issue, then they can best evaluate how to respond and make change. Learning how to analyze arguments, identify evidence, and trace the connections between conversations can help students actively participate in the public sphere—where they not only receive or disseminate information but understand how to assemble new publics, to read and write for change, and to evaluate information for accuracy as well as applicability. If writers can map rhetorical ecologies and trace the relationships between evidence and argument, then I think they are better prepared to understand the complex systems that we all read, write, and participate in.

 

What is it like to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars?

 

Participating in the Bedford New Scholars programs provides a look behind the curtain of educational publishing. More than merely understanding how to test or market a text, the program has shown me how Bedford works to identify what is important to students, writers, and teachers in different schools and demographics. Through online resources, publishers have new opportunities to create platforms and curate content that works for diverse groups of students and instructors. While institutions may adopt one central text or program, Bedford has shown us how to work within the larger system to find what can best help students and instructors meet their goals for a classroom or course. By showing us multiple texts and platforms, the Bedford staff creates a forum for helping us understand the publishing process, but also gives a voice to the people who are in the classroom everyday. They not only wanted my feedback on existing projects but my critique and suggestions for change, and Bedford New Scholars offers an opportunity to participate in shaping emerging resources. 

 

What have you learned from other Bedford New Scholars?

 

I found the Bedford New Scholars experience empowering. Not only did I get the chance to meet some incredible teachers and scholars from different fields and institutions, but I also was challenged to continually evaluate my own teaching strategies and tools. By sitting down around a table and discussing the different dynamics of each Scholar’s school and experience, I was able to consider how my pedagogy might change while also affirming many of the common issues that instructors currently address: How can I make my classroom more inclusive and accessible? How can I empower my students through public writing? What kinds of emerging tools can help address inequality in the education system? The Bedford New Scholars offered a range of experience and insight and created a small community where instructors could share methods, critiques, tools, and camaraderie.  



Shannon’s Assignment that Works

During the Bedford New Scholars Summit, each member presented an assignment that had proven successful or innovative in their classroom. Below is a brief synopsis of Shannon’s assignment. You can view the full details here: Know Your Meme: Finding the Exigence

 

The “Know Your Meme” activity draws on research, analysis, evaluation, and remix skills to transform popular memes into detailed claims. Composing arguments requires an attunement to exigence—understanding an issue, problem, or situation and how best to address a public to motivate a response. For this activity, students are introduced to several popular memes asked to find the first time the meme was used as part of an argument. Instead of focusing on the isolated image, students should look to the rhetorical ecology of how a meme responded to a particular issue or idea. By asking questions like “What are the basic elements of the issue?” and “How does the meme engage a key component of an argument?,” students begin to define the exigence for the meme and the specifics of the rhetorical situation. Practicing good research skills, students can analyze the different arguments surrounding an issue and evaluate how their meme engages specific viewpoints.

 

After analyzing how a specific meme has responded to arguments in the public sphere, students gain a familiarity with the media as well as the details of the involved arguments. Memes are fairly simplistic in construction and can reduce complex arguments to pithy forms. The next step has participants evaluate memes for missing elements or logical fallacies and rewrite the media as a more complex claim with supportive details. Focusing on one specific use of their meme, students can ask, “What is missing to create a detailed response to the issue?” Drawing on their own research, students can then address the exigence of an issue by rewriting a meme as an argumentative claim with supportive details. Paying attention to research, exigence, and arguments, students learn to map the larger rhetorical ecology of public issues and craft detailed claims that participate in evolving conversations.

 

Learn more about the Bedford New Scholars advisory board on the Bedford New Scholars Community page.

 

Jack Solomon

The Panopticon 2.0

Posted by Jack Solomon Expert Oct 3, 2019

Michel Foucault's application of Jeremy Bentham's panoptic proposal for prison reform to the modern surveillance state has become a commonplace of contemporary cultural theory. And heaven knows that we are being watched by our government, by our computers, by our phones, and televisions, and automobiles, and goodness knows what else. It is also no secret that current and prospective employers monitor the social media imprints of their current and prospective employees—all those promises of airtight privacy settings and Snapchat anonymity notwithstanding. As I say, all this has become a commonplace of life in the digital era.

 

But a new wrinkle has entered the picture, a fold in the space/time fabric of modern life if you will, whereby the pre-digital past has come to haunt the digital present. For as the governor of Virginia and the prime minister of Canada now know to their cost, what goes into your school yearbook doesn't stay in your school yearbook. And thanks to an array of yearbook-posting alumni websites, anyone with an Internet connection can access virtually anyone's yearbook and immediately expose online those embarrassing moments that you thought were safely hidden in the fogs of time.

 

(A parenthetical autobiographical note: I would be highly amused if someone dug up my high school yearbook—yearbooks, actually, because I was on the staff for three years, the last two as editor-in-chief. The first of the three was a conventional celebration of football players, cheerleaders, and homecoming royalty, but I changed all that in the next two when I got editorial control, dedicating the first of them to the natural environment— including two photo essays complete with an accompanying poetic narrative—and the second devoted to a contemplation of the mystery of time itself, which included repeating reproductions of El Greco's "Saint Andrew and Saint Francis," which were intended to convey an ongoing dialog between a wise man and a seeker of temporal wisdom. You get one guess as to why I don't have to worry about any embarrassing party pics in my yearbooks.)

 

So it isn't enough to cancel your Twitter account, max out your privacy settings on Facebook (good luck with that), or simply take a long vacation from the Internet, for the Net's got you coming and going whatever you do. I expect that one's reaction to this state of affairs (which is itself of semiotic interest) is probably generational; that is, if you grew up with the Internet, none of this is likely to be particularly alarming, but if you remember the days when personal privacy was at least a value (if not always a reality), then it could be disturbing indeed. And there is no escaping the situation, for just as it is impossible to avoid the consequences of major cyber hacks by refusing to conduct any of your business affairs online (if you have any sort of bank account, credit/debit card, health record, or social security number, you are vulnerable no matter how hard you try to live outside the Web), there is no controlling what may surface from your past.

 

Photo Credit: Pixabay Image 4031973 by pixel2013, used under Pixabay License

 

This summer I surveyed students at a range of colleges and universities, asking them to tell me about what they saw as barriers to communicating with people different from them and about what they saw as the benefits of being able to do so. I’ve written a bit about what the students had to say and will write more in time. But this week I want to talk about a follow up to this research with students, because I had an opportunity to interview some of the teachers whose students responded to the survey about these same issues.

 

I came away from these interviews deeply impressed with the work teachers across the country are doing, first to broach difficult and controversial subjects in the classroom and second to help students engage with them—and with each other. All of the teachers I spoke with recognize the urgency of this work; all feel the strain of teaching in a time of intolerance, misinformation, and deep divides. The two teachers I want to talk about today, both of whom have given me permission to quote them and to share their ideas, are heroes to me, courageous and absolutely steadfast in their belief in young people and in their determination to serve them well by, among other things, raising their awareness of—and the importance of—difference and diversity.

 

One of these teachers is Jeanne Bohannon, who teaches at a public university in a bright red state. During last spring term, several events targeted African American students for harassment and threats, acts which led some white students to defend the offenders and to harass anyone who spoke out against them, including faculty. In this atmosphere, Professor Bohannon continued her work: “The kind of work I do is civil rights rhetoric and working with the Atlanta Student Movement. And sometimes it is really tough, so I really started to embed a lot of my primary research with the Atlanta Student Movement into our first year writing courses.”

 

I took a deep breath and then asked, “So how’s that going?” Here’s what she had to say:

I have lost two students so far, and one of the students I lost because she didn’t feel like the work was valid, in her words. Another student I lost because she was afraid that her parents, who were supporters of Donald Trump, would see her work, and she would get in trouble. But everyone else has been wonderful… I have to tell you, this course is drawing students across different majors. I have communication majors. I have English majors. I have STEM majors who seek out this class so that they can work on this civil rights research.

 

Jeanne has been teaching this course for several semesters now, with equally good results. What specifically did she do, I asked her, to establish a classroom ethos of respect and openness?

One of the things I do first off is I talk with the students about how I practice democratic pedagogy, how I do contract grading with students. What that means for me is every semester on my syllabus, I have a community expectation statement that was written by me and students back in 2015 and every semester we tweak it depending on the class. We spend the first couple of days in class with everyone talking through what it looks like to be a part of a community. And we set out the ground rules of what it means to be respectful. And we stress that you can disagree, but you must think of people as your community members. And that is part of the syllabus and that is part of the contract they sign, saying “I’m staying in the class and this is part of what I am going to do.”

 

Here’s a brief description of the research project on which the course rests:

This course engages undergraduate student scholars in public, digital humanities research centered on the roles AU Center students played in the struggle for civil and human rights in 1960-1962. Student scholars are expected to conduct their work based on a contract model, where they will work in teams to produce public texts that they negotiate with each other and the professor.

 

And here’s the community expectation statement that the class co-constructed and revises term by term:

Community Learning Precepts

Writing and learning are methods of communication that are inherently dialogic, democratic, and sometimes digital. We practice democratic learning in our course, as a matter of community-building. What this means for you:

  • You are a vital and respected member of our community.
  • You will participate authentically in our work as a stakeholder in your own rhetorical growth AND the growth of your colleagues in this class.
  • Your voice is important because it drives our interactions as a group.
  • You will design and curate your own learning and work experience in this class as a "contract" with both your colleagues and your instructor.

 

Later in the interview, we talked about problems that can arise as students work together on what to some are very “touchy” subjects and about how they negotiate differences.

I wish I had a more codified, concrete strategy for managing conflict. But what we do when that happens, and it does happen—it especially happens with some of my white male students who really want to engage with the project, but who feel awkward or feel like they can’t join because they feel guilt or they feel some other emotion. They want to engage but they just can’t. And so what is important for me is to pair them up with some of the lecturers who come to campus [to talk about the Atlanta Student Movement] and to make sure that I’m always engaging with them and that their fellow students keep engaging with them and pulling them along. We do a lot of experiential learning. So we’ll take fieldtrips down to different museums and archives. And it is all about inclusivity. This is in our community precepts that we practice all semester. Everyone in the community has value. It is difficult content we work through, but as scholars, as professionals, and as community members we do this together. And that is how I embrace it. I just keep articulating it all semester long to them.

 

What stands out to me as I revisit this interview is that Professor Bohannon—Jeanne—doesn’t have some magic elixir that she uses, or some abstract theory she is working with to help her students engage across difference. What she has is openness to others, the ability to listen rhetorically, the goal of making students full partners in their classroom community, and the time to work through problems calmly and fairly and openly. What gifts! If you’d like to see some of the work that Bohannon’s students have produced during the course of this project (some of which was supported by a grant she won), you can find it here.   

 

I know that teachers all across this country are carrying out similar work in their writing classrooms in which they help students deal with some deep-seated biases and prejudices as they struggle to engage with people who are unlike them in some ways. And I know that the importance of this work cannot be over-estimated. It is urgent. It is real. And we must keep doing it.

 

Many thanks to Jeanne Bohannon for allowing me to share some of her experiences and some of her strategies. I had intended to write about another teacher, but you’ll have to wait for another week to read about her!

 

Image Credit: Pixabay Image 3380192 by Fun_loving_Cindy, used under the Pixabay License

This blog series is written by Julia Domenicucci, an editor at Macmillan Learning, in conjunction with Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl.

 

Watercolors in a watercolor tray 

From all of us here at Macmillan Learning and the Grammar Girl podcast—welcome back to school! To celebrate the start of another semester, we’re going to look at some back-to-basics activities and podcasts that will work for classes of all levels.

 

Podcasts have been around for a while, but their popularity seems to increase every day—and for good reason! They are engaging and creative, and they cover every topic imaginable. They are also great for the classroom: you can use them to maintain student engagement, accommodate different learning styles, and introduce multimodality. 

 

LaunchPad products include assignable, ad-free Grammar Girl podcasts, which you can use to support your lessons. You can assign one or more of these podcasts for students to listen to before, during, or after class. Each podcast also comes with a complete transcript, which is perfect for students who aren’t audio learners or otherwise prefer to read the content. To learn more about LaunchPad products and purchasing options, please visit Macmillan's English catalog or speak with your sales representative.

 

In your LaunchPad, see the unit “Grammar Girl Podcasts” for instructions on assigning podcasts. You can also find the same information on the support page "Assign Grammar Girl Podcasts." 

 

Going Back to Basics with Grammar Girl

 

Assignment A: Place students in groups of three, four, or five, depending on the size of your class. From the list below, assign a different podcast to each group for homework. Have each group meet during class to discuss their assigned podcast. Give them about ten minutes to write a brief summary. Each group will then present that summary to the rest of class.

 

  • Where Do I Use Commas? [7:16]
  • Apostrophe Catastrophe 1 [8:12]
  • How to Use Quotation Marks [7:51]
  • Capitalizing Proper Nouns [6:58]
  • Dashes, Colons, and Commas [4:41]
  • Compound Nouns [5:57]
  • Noun or Adjective? [5:43]
  • Preposition or Adverb? [16:03]

 

Assignment B: Read the blog post Grammar Girl Essentials as a class—perhaps you might also listen to one or two of the listed podcasts together. Then, discuss the selections or have students write responses to the following: 

 

  • Which of the podcasts address an issue that you have noticed in your own writing?
  • What other grammar rules do you struggle with that are not reflected here?

 

If your students share similar grammar struggles, consider assigning a podcast from the Grammar Girl library in LaunchPad for homework and having follow up discussions on that topic.

 

Assignment C: Ask students to indicate a grammar rule they find confusing or struggle with. (Alternately, provide the class with a list of grammar topics to choose from—for example, commas, apostrophes, capitalization, and colons/semicolons.) Tally up the results, then assign relevant podcasts from the Grammar Girl library in LaunchPad.

 

Have you used podcasts to address common grammar concerns in your class? Let us know in the comments!

 

Credit: Pixabay Image 1067686by padrinan, used under a Pixaby License

 

I’ve recently been working on revisions of some of my textbooks and have been reading more and more about how easily images can be manipulated or falsified. I remember reading Kenneth Brower’s galvanizing essay “Photography in an Age of Falsification” in The Atlantic over twenty years ago, and it’s an essay I often taught for the cogent argument it makes. But that seems like more than a lifetime ago now: I was concerned then about the issues Brower raised (he offered fascinating examples of images being manipulated, even in National Geographic, to make them “better”), but I couldn’t have imagined—and I don’t expect Brower could have imagined—the proliferation of technologies to aid in producing fake videos and altered images of every conceivable kind. It now seems important—imperative even—for us to ask students to examine their own use of images and to talk about and explore the ethical implications of the choices they and others are making today.

 

Among the books and articles I have read, Paul Martin Lester’s work really caught my attention. He is a professor at the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at the University of Texas at Dallas and has written widely on the ethics of photography. In an interview, he says he begins every class by describing what he calls the most unethical photo he ever took: he was assigned as a young photographer to cover a reunion of two long-lost brothers at an airport. He was there, with all his cameras, waiting for the brothers to emerge from the plane when a very famous movie star emerged. When she saw him and the cameras, he says, she screamed and turned her face to the wall before pulling herself together and walking toward him. Stunned, he automatically snapped photos of her in this very vulnerable pose, an action he has regretted ever since.

 

So I ordered his book, Visual Ethics, and have read it with great interest, even though it is intended for students and practicing photographers. In it, he describes what he calls every photographer’s “personal journey” and opens with this question: “How can you possibly be expected to be objective and subjective, impassive and emotional, uninvolved and engaged given the physical constraints, technological changes, and sociological pressures that the mass communications profession offers?” His one-word answer: “Ethics.”

The key to produce work that aids the common good and satisfies your need for storytelling is a continual, inquisitive, and consistent path toward ethical behavior. (xii)

 

Lester uses his own journey as an example throughout the book, but in addition it is crammed with additional examples drawn from his long career in the field, many of them mini-cases that make for challenging class discussion and examination. He also deals with issues of misinformation, focusing in chapter 7 on infographics and cartoons and sowing how inattention to detail, sloppy design, and overpowering “decorations” can mislead and confuse audiences, even if the designers are not intentionally doing so.

 

Lester concludes with a meditation on empathy—the complexities surrounding the concept and its embodiments, the need for more of it in all aspects of our lives, and the challenge to those he teaches. They should, he says, always attempt to 1) be empathetic, and 2) be ethical. The Professional Photographers Association of America agrees, and they have developed a code of ethics as a result. It makes for very interesting reading too—and provides additional material to bring to students, who need to be thinking hard (along with the rest of us) about how their own use of images and visuals follows such guidelines.

 

Image Credit: Pixabay Image 1239384 by Robert-Owen-Wahl, used under the Pixabay License

Metalanguage, metacognition, metadiscourse, metapragmatics, metagrammar – I am seeing references to all things meta in professional journals and conference presentation titles. In his overview of scholarship on metadiscourse, for example, applied linguist Ken Hyland notes that metalanguage “concerns people’s knowledge about language and representations of language” (17); metalanguage engages language’s ability to reflect on itself, to be employed for the purpose of language analysis.

 

And we, as writing teachers, are aware of the value of reflection, particularly in teaching for transfer. 

 

But over the past couple of semesters, I’ve watched students in corequisite sections of freshman composition wrestle with the task of articulating reflections, particularly reflections on their rhetorical and grammatical choices. I am wondering what makes this reflective task so challenging. Is it a lack of experience in this sort of thinking and writing? A sense that reflection is one more thing that they need to get right for me, the instructor (and thus another opportunity to fail)? Have I not illustrated to them the value of the process? Is there a lack of vocabulary—words to capture the concepts that shape their revising and editing processes? Or perhaps those concepts are still quite fluid and thus resist articulation?

 

These questions are shaping my reading, thinking, and pedagogical experimentation this semester, not only in my corequisite section of FYC, but also in my sections of the grammar courses that English majors at my institution are required to take. As one of my graduate instructors used to say, I’m taking time this term to muck around in the data and explore the context; I’m focusing on creating opportunities for metatalk in my classes, and listening—or reading—as attentively as I can to what my students have to say. 

 

I’m also fortunate to collaborate with some advanced students who are making space for metatalk about writing and language for my students outside of the classroom. My corequisite students, for example, are working weekly with two of our “Writing Fellows,” who are workshopping papers with them in a small group setting. In my sections of grammar classes, I have student supplemental instructors who offer sessions during the week for class members to talk through and apply concepts we are covering in class. In these relaxed sessions, they are asking composition students and sophomore grammar students important questions: what’s going on in this paragraph? In this sentence? Why do you feel uncomfortable with it? What could we differently here, and how would it change our response?

 

In all sections, both composition and grammar, I’m asking for more drafts with annotations, questions, and—of course—reflections.

 

As I meet with the writing fellows, supplemental instructors, and students in my class, I want to hear what obstacles they encounter engaging in metalinguistic discussions, and then consider how my pedagogy might address those obstacles in future semesters—or how students can investigate metalinguistic awareness with me. As this semester progresses, I will be blogging both about my observations and about some of the strategies we are experimenting with in class. 

 

What are you investigating in your teaching this fall? What has energized you about your return to the classroom for this academic year? I would love to hear from you.

 

Earlier this year, I participated in a conversation on collective feedback during a Faculty Office Hours session (an online chat for teachers of professional and technical writing). Collective feedback, a strategy examined by Lisa Melonçon (University of South Florida, @lmeloncon on Twitter) in a five-year study (see her resources online), provides the whole class with details on frequent errors found in the drafts for the course, replacing some, if not all, individual feedback on projects. The process gives the instructor the chance to review common errors with everyone, eliminating the duplication of explaining to each student individually.

Building on Melonçon’s research, Dr. Sara Doan (Kennesaw State, @SDoanut on Twitter) described an in-class activity that she uses to guide students through revision of their projects. She explained that she would tell to the class that she was going to review “Ten issues you all need to fix.” She then asked students to open a copy of their project on their computers. Once students were ready, Doan then stepped students through common errors that they should correct in their drafts. For example, she asked students, “Is your name the biggest thing on your résumé? If not, you need to fix it.”

I love this strategy. I have given students checklists and rubrics to use as they evaluate their drafts, but the same common errors persist. The challenge for me is that my classes are all online. I cannot gather students and ask them to all open their projects so I can walk them through revision strategies.

I created a Google Slides presentation (click on the screenshot below) to solve the problem, calling it a “Stop, Read, & Apply” activity.

Stop, Read, and Apply Slides screenshot. Click to view the slideshow.

The instructions essentially match those that Doan used: Students open their project, and then advance through the slides, stopping on each one to read the details on the common error and then apply that advice to their drafts. To focus students, the slideshow addresses only common errors in memo format. If the activity works, I will create similar slideshows for other common issues students can review as they finish their work.

Because the slides are online, I can also use them in feedback to students. All I have to do is open the Slides file in a new browser tab, advance the presentation to the slide I want to reference, and copy the link from the browser. For instance, I can link directly to the slide on eliminating opening greetings in a memo. So simple!

I hope that this slideshow-based system will slow students down, encouraging to check their drafts more carefully. Further, I can easily adapt it to any course and assignment I might teach. I am eager to see if the activity helps students address common errors. I’d love to hear your feedback on the strategy as well. What do you think? Would you use a similar resource in your courses? Are there “Stop, Read, & Apply” activities you would like to see in a future post? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think!

 

CORRECTION: Edited to add details on Lisa Melonçon’s research on collective feedback, with apologies for the oversight.

This semester, my classes  are once again reading James Baldwin’s “The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity,” a lecture that Baldwin gave in New York City in 1963 in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. This year, I wanted to try a different approach to teaching analysis and interpretation. I hoped as well  to create an assignment that would actively demonstration Baldwin’s ideas of an individual’s responsibility to the community. 

 

With these goals in mind, the students and I collaborated on a crowd-source assignment, which is explained in detail below. Crowdsourcing would give many voices a chance to collaborate toward a common end: to allow students to do close reading and analysis of “The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity” and to work together as a community of first-year writers across classrooms and colleges to better understand Baldwin’s most significant ideas.

 

The crowdsourcing document is different from annotation because students must write several complete paragraphs that ask for analysis in depth rather than breadth. Students take responsibility for finding their own focus for contributing to the community’s analysis. Individuals receive credit through journal entries, while the community creates the document. In this way, the assignment explores tensions that Baldwin described between individual/community in “The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity.” 

 

Considered more broadly, students collaborated across my three classrooms (at two different colleges) to enact the work of analysis. This initial assignment was presented as follows:

  1. Choose at least 3 paragraphs from the list below, then respond in writing to both anonymously.   
    1. Summary: What does the paragraph SAY? 
    2. Interpretation: What does the paragraph MEAN?
  2. AFTER your response in the google.doc, write a journal entry on Blackboard explaining your choices. 
  1. Why do these paragraphs stand out to you? (200-500 words)
  2. Read the other entries in the crowdsourcing document. Describe your response to those entries (200-500 words)

 

Here are the steps that I took to present the assignment in all three first-year writing classes:

 

  1. Created a google.doc that listed the opening words of Baldwin’s twelve paragraphs.
  2. Invited students to write a brief summary and interpretation for at least 3 of the paragraphs in the text. Students did this anonymously so that there is no judgment of anyone’s interpretations or writing styles. 
  3. Added an end comment and marginal comments once the crowdsourcing document was completed.
  4. Acknowledged individual students’ participation: First, I express my trust in students to do this assignment, and to complete the assignment responsibly, without adding extraneous or inappropriate submissions. Second, in order to receive participation credit for this assignment, students needed to complete a 2-part journal entry. In the first part, students expanded on their interpretations of Baldwin’s lecture. For the second part, students read the crowd-sourced document and added their impressions.
  5. Observed students’ innovations to the original assignment. The most significant of these innovations is changing the font, size, and text color for their own submissions-- making sure that it is different from the submission above theirs.
  6. Asked students to complete anonymous follow-up exit slips with students assessments of the crowdsourcing document.
  7. Offered students the opportunity to cite the crowdsourcing document as part of the first writing project this semester.

 

The significance of community holds relevance through and beyond classroom collaborations, especially in class discussion of theClimate March in New York City on Friday September 20, 2019. The March took place on a day that I do not teach, and I photographed the above image as people gathered to begin the March at Foley Square in Manhattan. The March offers a wellspring of the inspiration of bearing witness to individuals of all ages and many different backgrounds gathering together in community. The students found deep connections between Baldwin’s Civil Rights era lecture, their own participation in the crowd-sourcing document, and the implications of Baldwin’s lecture for civic participation in the Climate March.  

Crowd shot of the Climate March in New York City, September 20th, 2019. Photo by: Susan Naomi Bernstein.

 

The students suggested that Baldwin urged individuals to participate in the life of their community. The crowd-sourcing document does this, the students said, by allowing students as individuals to take responsibility for learning and writing together as a community.

 

Further, the students offered, Baldwin persuades his audience to take a stand on events in the larger world. The Climate March offered individuals an opportunity to draw attention to and participate in a larger community statement. When conditions are as serious as climate change, the students advised, the people need to rise up and take responsibility for the world in which we live. The Climate March is a striking example of taking responsibility, as Baldwin impelled his audience in 1963. Connecting individual action to community responsibility continues to make Baldwin’s lecture relevant for our own time. 

Marissa McKinley (recommended by Bryna Siegel Finer) is a recent graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s English Composition and TESOL doctoral program. Marissa now serves as an Assistant Teaching Professor of English at Quinnipiac University, where she teaches four sections of First-Year Writing (FYW) and assists with administering the FYW Program. Her research interests include the rhetoric of health and medicine, feminist theory and pedagogy, and writing program administration. Marissa’s scholarship has been presented at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, Feminisms and Rhetorics, and at the Rhetoric Society of America; and her work is currently featured in the co-edited collection Women’s Health Advocacy: Rhetorical Ingenuity for the 21st Century.

 

What is your greatest teaching challenge?

Undoubtedly, my greatest teaching challenge is sustaining student interest and energy after Spring Break. I have now taught for nearly eight years, and in that time, I have noticed that no matter the course I am teaching, and no matter in which area of the country I am teaching, student interest and energy typically wanes. I get it: When my students have the opportunity to head home for a week, they fall back into the comfort and regularity of their home routines. They spend their quality time with people and places they missed. To get through the rest of the semester, my students often have to temper their feelings of homesickness. They have to remind themselves that in a few more weeks, they can return to their homes and relive their former lives.

 

As many of us know, it’s challenging to focus on tasks that don’t completely occupy our interests. As a teacher, I try to put myself in my students’ shoes and remind my students that they will soon re-experience freedom outside of the college or university. They just have to take one day, one task at a time and keep in mind that their current feelings will pass.

 

What is the most important skill you aim to provide to your students?

Critical thinking. I recognize that some instructors believe that critical thinking skills cannot be taught, but I believe they can. I am not so naïve to believe that critical thinking skills can be taught and mastered during a single course; rather, I know that teachers from across the disciplines must create and integrate learning opportunities that help students acquire and develop their critical thinking skills. One such way is to offer students opportunities to reflect upon what they learned after completing an assignment and to explain how what they learned can be applied in not just their other classes, but also to tasks outside of the college or university. This act of reflection helps students to build metacognitive awareness and to apply, or transfer, their knowledge across contexts. In the act of reflection, students must connect the dots between their learning in one class and the value of that learning in other areas of their lives. It is the connecting of the dots that makes up a part of critical thinking.

 

What’s it like to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars program?

It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars program. I have had the opportunity of conducting editorial reviews on composition titles, along with previewing digital learning tools that are in development at Macmillan Learning. These opportunities have provided me with behind-the-scenes insights into textbook and resource publishing that will serve me as I embark on the writing and publishing of my own academic book in the near future.

 

As a Bedford New Scholar, I have also had the pleasure of collaborating with new, upcoming scholars in the field of Composition and Rhetoric at the 2019 Bedford New Scholars Summit in Boston, Massachusetts. There, I met the nine other Bedford New Scholars, and together, we demonstrated our writing knowledge and expertise to Macmillan Learning staff and each other by introducing assignments that we deemed successful in the writing classroom. Additionally, we provided Macmillan staff with a look into the processes that we undertake as we plan a writing course and select a course textbook. The insights we provided will ultimately aid Macmillan Learning staff in developing future course materials and digital learning tools. I feel fortunate to be recognized and a part of the Bedford New Scholars 2019 program.

 

What have you learned from other Bedford New Scholars?

Thus far, I have learned the most from fellow Bedford New Scholar, KAREN TRUJILLO. On the final day of the summit, Karen presented her “Assignments that Work” lesson, a social justice project that she uses when teaching First-Year Writing. Consisting of three parts, Karen’s assignment asked students to “select a topic they were interested in, to research it, and to advocate action or policy to further their passion” (Trujillo). Simply, Karen wanted her students to “link [their] advocacy topic/issue to a social justice issue” (Trujillo).

 

When Karen introduced her assignment, I couldn’t help but be captured by its brilliance. Karen’s assignment assignment takes students through the writing process and helps them to become familiar with a variety of research-related tasks, such as locating sources and even selecting information for a source that will support a research argument. The most impressive part of Karen’s assignment, though, is the social justice aspect. By completing the assignment, students locate social justice issues, learn more about the issues, and learn how to advocate for a form of action through writing. Karen’s assignment highlights the importance of voice, experience, and the need to fight against injustice; it is one that I plan to adapt and use in my future Research Writing course.

 

 

Marissa’s Assignment that Works

During the Bedford New Scholars Summit, each member presented an assignment that had proven successful or innovative in their classroom. Below is a brief synopsis of Marissa's assignment. You can view the full details here: Rhetorical Analysis of a Text Writing Project.

 

The Rhetorical Analysis of a Text assignment asks students to summarize and rhetorically analyze a text of their choice (e.g., a speech, a print advertisement, a commercial). The assignment enables students to 

  • practice their critical reading skills;
  • summarize a print or digital text;
  • familiarize themselves with rhetorical terminology; 
  • apply rhetorical terminology during analysis; 
  • engage in secondary research; and
  • practice citing.

 

Students complete the Rhetorical Analysis of a Text assignment over a series of six weeks. This pacing allows students time to engage in various low-stakes writing activities, all of which lead into and help prepare students for the rhetorical assignment. For example, during weeks one and two of the course sequence, students read texts to familiarize themselves with rhetorical terminology and to practice applying that terminology to print and digital texts. During weeks three and four, students choose the print or digital text that they want to pursue, read or watch their text and take active reading notes, and write and workshop their text summaries. Finally, during weeks five and six, students rhetorically analyze their texts, locate sources to enrich their analyses, cite their sources, workshop their analyses, and reflect upon their learning throughout the sequence. 


The Rhetorical Analysis of a Text sequence is incredibly busy, and there is much to be taught. Students are easily overwhelmed with the assignment, so it is important to take a lot of time for learning and practicing the skills that are being taught throughout the sequence.

 

Learn more about the Bedford New Scholars advisory board on the Bedford New Scholars Community page.

Jack Solomon

America's Got Sentiment

Posted by Jack Solomon Expert Sep 19, 2019

As Sonia Maasik and I work to complete the tenth edition of Signs of Life in the U.S.A., I have been paying special attention to American popular music, which will be a topic for a new chapter that we're adding to the book. While our approach will be semiotic rather than esthetic, part of my research has involved listening to music as well as analyzing its cultural significance, and as everyone knows, there's nothing like YouTube to put just about everything you want to hear at your literal fingertips. Which brings me to the subject of this blog.

 

Well, you know how YouTube is. Even as you watch one video you are regaled with a menu of others that can take you on a merry chase following one musical white rabbit after another. And so it came to pass that I found myself watching some famous clips from the Britain's Got Talent and America's Got Talent franchises. Which means that I finally saw that audition of Susan Boyle's, which, while it wasn't a joke, started the whole world crying. With joy.

 

Talk about fairy-tale happy endings! Take a little Cinderella, mix in the Ugly Duckling, and sprinkle in a lot of A Star is Born, and there you have the Susan Boyle story. I'd say that you couldn't make this sort of thing up, except for the fact that it has been made up time and again, only this time it's true. And it helps a lot that the woman can really sing.

 

The semiotic significance of this tale is rather more complicated than it looks, however. On the surface, it looks simply like a sentimental triumph of authenticity over glitter, of the common folk over entertainment royalty. And, of course, that is a part of its significance—certainly of its enormous popular appeal. Just look at the visual semiotics: the glamorous judges, sneering Simon (I'm certain that he has made himself the designated bad guy to add melodrama to the mix), and the audience on the verge of laughter in the face of this ungainly, middle-aged woman who says she wants to be a star. And then she blows the house away.

 

But here is where things get complicated. For one thing, even as the celebrity judges fell all over themselves confessing to Ms. Boyle how ashamed they felt for initially doubting what they were about to hear, they managed to imply that it would have been OK to ridicule her if it had turned out that she couldn't sing, that losers deserve to be humiliated. After all, that's what those buzzers are for.

 

And then there is the notoriously oxymoronic nature of reality television, its peculiar mixture of authenticity and theatricality, its scripted spontaneity. One begins to wonder what the judges knew in advance about Susan Boyle; certainly she didn't get to that stage of the competition by accident. For to get past the thousands of contestants who audition in mass cattle calls for these shows, you have to have something that the judges want, and this can include not only outstanding talent but unexpectedly outstanding talent, the ugly ducklings that provide plenty of occasion for all those dewy-eyed camera shots of audience members and judges alike who are swept away by the swans beneath the skin. The whole thing has become such a successful formula for the franchise that when, a few years after the Susan Boyle sensation, a soprano/baritone duo named Charlotte and Jonathan came onto the stage, Simon Cowell made sure to quip, in a loud stage whisper to the judge beside him, "Just when you think things couldn't get any worse" (funny how the camera caught that), only to have Jonathan steal the show with a breathtaking performance that Sherrill Milnes might envy. Call me cynical, but somehow I think that Cowell knew perfectly well what was going to happen.

 

But let's not forget the designated duds either, the poor souls who get picked out of the cattle calls in order to be laughed at later, to be buzzed off the stage. After all, with so many truly talented people in the world, surely there would be enough to have nothing but superb performers on these shows. But failure is part of the formula here as well as success, for schadenfreude, too, sells. 

 

So the semiotic question isn't whether Susan Boyle can sing; nor is there any question that without Britain's Got Talent she would almost certainly not be enjoying a spectacular career. The semiotic question involves what is going on when television shows like Britain's Got Talent and America's Got Talent play upon the vicarious yearnings of their viewers to shine in the spotlight in a mass society where fewer and fewer such opportunities really exist—even as those same viewers sneer at the failures. Thus, as with so much of reality television, there is an uncomfortable love/hate relationship going on here, a sentimental identification with the winners alongside a derisive contempt for the losers. And in a ruthlessly hyper-competitive society where more and more people through no fault of their own are falling into the loser category, this is of no small significance.


And I have to add that I'm certain that if a young Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen had appeared on America's Got Talent, both would have been buzzed off the stage.

 

 

Photo Credit: Pixabay Image 1868137 by Pexels, used under Pixabay License

 

During a visit to the Bread Loaf School of English in August, a place I have taught on and off for nearly thirty years and one whose natural beauty (in Vermont’s lush Green Mountains) always renews my spirit, I got to attend a workshop put on by Bread Loaf students. Titled “An Anti-Racist Teach In,” the workshop lasted two hours and engaged everyone in the audience (probably 40 to 45 of us) in a series of activities designed to make us more aware of racist words and deeds and to help us develop ways to combat them.

 

The leaders began by introducing us to their “community contract”:

  • Be willing to sit with your discomfort.
  • Don’t assume. Ask questions to clarify.
  • Speak from your own experience.
  • Remember, impact is more important than intention.
  • Be conscious not to shift attention away from people and situations that are negatively impacted by systems of oppression by focusing on those who are privileged by them.
  • Expect unfinished business.

 

These statements gave us much to think about and to discuss in small groups, which were all, thankfully, diverse. The leaders also asked us to carefully consider some terms and, perhaps, come to a new understanding of their meanings: race, racism, whiteness, anti-racism, postionality, privilege, intersectionality, microaggressions, and white supremacy. While these terms are all familiar to me, our discussion of them added a lot of nuance and what Wayne Booth called “overstanding” so that I came away with new information not only about the terms themselves but about their effect on real people in real places. I was particularly struck by our discussion of “microaggression,” defined as “small daily insults and indignities against marginalized or oppressed people.” What I learned was how such small things always accumulate, becoming overwhelming and intolerable, and how such “small daily indignities” felt to the people in my group.

 

After these discussions, we went outside and paired up in various configurations to do some role playing that involved a LOT of listening really closely to others, a lot of careful observation, and a lot of making a space that was inviting and open. The student leaders (all high school teachers) had worked out every detail and led us in easy yet sure-footed ways. Brilliant. And effective.

 

I came away grateful not only for what I learned but grateful for these teachers, and for those of us attending the workshop, all now back in classrooms across the country trying very hard to implement anti-racist teaching. I’m wondering if readers of this post did any work this summer on anti-racist teaching and, if so, if you would share your experiences with us. We all have so much to learn—and also the responsibility to do so, and to pass it on.

 

Image Credit: Pixabay Image 3513653 by rawpixel, used under the Pixabay License

 

On August 31, at about 2:30 in the afternoon Eastern Time, Nancy Johnson, Professor of English at Ohio State University, shuffled off this mortal coil, leaving so very many of us bereft and grieving. Nancy (as I never learned not to call her!) was a great teacher. A GREAT teacher.

 

As I flew to Ohio that day in a futile attempt to be with her, I kept thinking of that part of her identity. Like all of us, she was many things: daughter, sister, mother, partner, writer, reader, researcher, friend, gardener, artist. And more. She was all those things, along with being a magnificent teacher, as legions of her students will testify. I first met Nancy at a conference in 1980, I think, and then I had the great good fortune to be on the hiring committee that offered her a position at the University of British Columbia in 1981, where she taught until 1990. I remember her impish grin, her quick wit, the funny spin she put on almost everything. I remember her kindness, her way of being absolutely present in the moment. And I remember her passion for pedagogy and for students. Her intense attentiveness to students was a gift that kept on giving: I have seen her, patiently and quietly, draw out of students insights they wouldn’t have imagined they could have, ideas for articles and talks and dissertations that they had never dreamed of.

 

So. I’ve been thinking this week not only of Nancy, of her brilliance in the classroom and of her deep caring for students, but also of all great teachers. Somehow, in this time of near despair at a world spun out of control, hovering on the brink of disaster and presided over by a person without a shred of integrity, thinking of good teachers—of those who in Marge Piercy’s words do “the work of the world” and keep on doing it in spite of everything—lifts my spirits and touches my heart. So here’s to all those teachers and to one teacher in particular: Nancy Johnson.

 

Image Credit: Pixabay Image 768458 by Free-Photos, used under the Pixabay License

Caitlin Martin (recommended by Elizabeth Wardle and Jason Palmeri) is a PhD candidate studying composition and rhetoric at Miami University (Ohio), where she also serves as graduate assistant director of the Howe Center for Writing Excellence. She has taught courses in composition theory and business writing in addition to face-to-face and online first-year composition and advanced writing courses. Her primary research interests include threshold concept theories and conceptions of writing, writing-related faculty development, and writing assessment.

 

What is the most important skill you aim to provide your students?

No matter what class I’m teaching, my ultimate goal is to help students develop as reflective practitioners (Shon). Reflection isn’t just crucial to learning about writing, it’s crucial to most learning situations we all encounter. I want the students I work with to be able to ask good questions about their knowledge and experiences so they can determine how to bring that to bear on their current and future educational experiences. When I first started teaching, I struggled with teaching this because I had never really been given adequate support to reflect on my own experiences. I studied reflective self assessment in order to teach for transfer for my MA thesis, and it helped me to think about reflection not as a genre I ask students to write, but as a strategy that is useful at all stages of writing a given product. Providing multiple opportunities for reflection also helps me learn about my students and meet them where they are, which is important to me as a teacher.

 

How do you hope higher education will change in the next ten years?

One change I hope to see in all education, not just higher education, is a shift away from deficit models of learning. Instead, I hope more educators will adopt strength-based models of education. Elaine Maimon, President of Governors State University in Chicago, explains this model as “building on what is right about students rather than fixing what is wrong” in her book Leading Academic Change: Vision, Strategy, Transformation. Instead of focusing on what students can’t do, it can be really powerful to think about what they can do and to consider how a course might build on that existing knowledge or set of experiences. This model also more accurately reflects how learning works. People aren’t empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge. They have lived experiences that influence how they encounter the worlds, and then they integrate new experiences, ideas, beliefs, and values with those experiences. It doesn’t serve learning when we as teachers only focus on what someone isn’t currently capable of doing. 

 

What do you think instructors don't know about educational publishing but should? 

When I was offered the opportunity to be a Bedford New Scholar, I didn’t know much about the publishing world except ongoing conversations about rising textbook costs and some skepticism about the publishing industry’s role in developing curricula. I imagine that other instructors, especially those who haven’t had the opportunity to meet and work with publishers, might view the industry similarly. I was really excited to learn how Bedford/St. Martin’s values disciplinary expertise when developing its textbooks and products. The editors I’ve worked with care about helping authors translate their research into textbooks meaningfully. I was also completely unaware of the amount of focus group research they conduct when developing new projects. They have really committed themselves to responding to teacher needs by finding a variety of ways to figure out what those needs are and to work with experts who can help meet those needs. I don’t think that’s something most of us think about when we consider whether to adopt a textbook.

 

What's it like to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars program?

Being part of the Bedford New Scholars program has been a great opportunity to learn about the educational publishing industry and learn from other New Scholars about how writing is taught in a variety of contexts. But most importantly, it was a really energizing and validating experience. Of course, it’s always nice to be recognized for my work by my mentors who nominated me. But there was a really awesome sense of encouragement as we shared our Assignments that Work during our summit in Boston, and I left the summit being really excited about my scholarship and my teaching because of the ideas I’d heard from others and the feedback I’d gotten on my own assignment. I have enjoyed this opportunity to meet and learn from others who I otherwise might not ever cross paths with. 

 

 

Caitlin’s Assignment That Works

During the Bedford New Scholars Summit, each member presented an assignment that had proven successful or innovative in their classroom. Below is a brief synopsis of Caitlin's assignment. You can view the full details here: Teaching Revision and Research through Full-Class Collaboration.

 

I chose to share my approach to teaching research using full-class collaboration, which I explored in a first-semester composition course that focused on research-based writing, typically by developing a research project over multiple stages throughout the semester. The first time I taught the course, I saw my students struggle with using sources in their papers and discovered that most of them had never been taught how to take notes, so I created an assignment in which we read and took notes on the same resources together and then wrote an argumentative paper as a class. Students then revised the draft on their own by trying out what I call “radical revision”: rewriting everything in a given paragraph except one sentence. This assignment doesn’t fit with the FYC curricula I teach now, but the semester I used this approach is still one of my favorite teaching memories, and I try to find ways to bring successful aspects of this assignment into all the courses I teach.

 

Learn more about the Bedford New Scholars advisory board on the Bedford New Scholars Community page.