Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Unit 2 Rationale: Writing Across the Curriculum

For the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) project, you'll be working in small groups to describe how writing is used in other disciplines.  This description of the project is meant to provide an in-depth description of the scope and aims of the project.

Unit Rationale and Description

​Unit 2 is designed to build upon student familiarity with PowerPoint and online resources while introducing them to academic genre investigation. During the course of this unit, students will work in groups to research a specific academic genre (e.g. math, chemistry, history – ideally, the students in each group will all have one of these courses in common). As they conduct their research, they will create group presentations for the class to describe the conventions of each academic field’s writing, and then they will use these genre conventions to create “meta-documents” which describe how an individual would navigate the genre options of the given academic discipline.

​This unit will focus on two major components of writing preparation: group collaboration and multifaceted research. For the group component, students will be working in groups of four-to-five students each, and they’ll be a great deal of collaboration online using Facebook and Blogger. Each group will create a document on the course Facebook group in order to share links to their Blogger blogs. For this unit, they’ll be using Blogger instead of HubPages because HubPages doesn’t have an option for group collaboration, whereas a single Blogger blog can have multiple authors. The contributions of each author are still well delineated through the author bylines, but the more important measure of a group’s cohesiveness will come through the extensive Alternative/Participatory Assessment planned for Week 10.

​For this project, students will be expected to use a much greater variety of research sources than in Unit 1. Briefly revisiting the plagiarism blog post, we’ll discuss why responsible research and citation methods are critical for productive academic discourse, and then we’ll talk about steps they can take to ensure they find sufficient resources for their projects. Since the students will be working on the genres in their own courses, each group will be expected to meet with at least one professor in that discipline to ask about how writing is used within that discipline. Additionally, they’ll need to find a combination of library and online resources, and then talk about what separates the online resources from the printed sources (e.g. Are there genre differences between the online and print journals? Which ones carry more prestige?)

​Given the complexity of this project, I will expect students to effectively use Wikipedia and other online sources to determine which resources count as “scholarly” in their discipline, and then they are to find those resources and bring them to class (either books from the library or PDF’s of online journals) to pass around during their presentations. In their presentations, they’ll point out the specific similarities and differences in these genres, and why those differences are relevant for the given academic discipline.

​Following their presentations, the students will assemble their meta-documents. These documents will be intricate in that they are to be structured in a way similar to typical articles in the given genre. For example, one scientific journal might have all its articles begin with an abstract, and then the contributors would be listed in the beginning, or another might have the contributors listed at the end. The meta-documents are less about “matching” the genre and more about explicitly pointing out what to expect from the genre at the various points in a document from that genre. The emphasis, though, is that these meta-documents should be able to help undergraduate students complete the writing requirements for a given course. So for a document from mathematics, the meta-document might include a few example equations, but then depend on margin comments to talk more about the specific types of text one might see in a math document, or to talk about which equations one would expect to see where.

Unit II – Academic Writing Is Eating My Soul: Writing Across the Curriculum (Copied from Course Plan)

​Unit II is specifically designed to show students how writing applies to a variety of disciplines while helping them understand how to adjust their expectations of genre in order to succeed in multiple discourse communities. For this project, students who are taking the same courses outside of English 101 will work together in groups to create meta-documents describing the standards of discourse within that community.

​For this project, a “meta-document” is a document which describes its own genre conventions. For example, a meta-blog would be a blog describing how to use WordPress, or a meta-video would be a video describing how to film movies. Although a meta-document wouldn’t necessarily need to follow the exact conventions of the genre it describes, I will ask students to follow the general formats of the chosen academic genres in order to illustrate to their classmates how a given genre would look. For example, students in chemistry would not need to conduct a lab experiment in order to produce a meta-document for a lab report, but their description of the lab report text should start with the Purpose, Hypothesis, Procedures, Results, and Conclusions expected of similar scientific documents. Besides giving a visual representation of the genre, this also gives students practice expressing themselves within that genre.

​The keystone of this project will be genre research. For this project, students will use the internet and the library to find examples of works within the given field, and then they will meet with ISU professors during office hours to ask those professors about the role of these genres within the context of each discipline. (As a side note, students should not ask the professor about his or her own personal practices in creating the genre – we won’t have an IRB for this type of research, and I plan on mentioning this to students.)

Learning Outcomes

Creating Content: Students will be working together to create detailed presentations, informative blogs, and meta-documents which illustrate how to produce an effective article in a given academic field.

Organizing Information in Multiple Genres: Students will be creating blogs, PowerPoint presentations (which they’ll share with the class), and then using the feedback from those projects to assemble their annotated meta-documents.

The Trajectories of Literate Activity: Students will be learning the genre conventions for classroom work they’ll be expected to complete in other disciplines, and then describing how those genre conventions apply to intellectual discourse within the discipline.

Flexible Research Skills: Students will be drawing on material from multiple academic fields, and they’ll be bringing in information from interviews, scholarly articles, and descriptions of scholarly articles. Additionally, students will be encouraged to look for ways to get direct input from individuals in the online community (e.g. asking questions on Yahoo! and HubPages, possibly requesting submission guidelines from journals in the discipline.)

Using Citation Formats and Citing Source Material in Multiple Genres: Students will be required to learn and use the citation formats of their academic field while also using the accepted conventions of URL hyperlink citations on their blogs and identifying sources of assistance at the end of their PowerPoint presentations.

Additional Outcomes will include Identifying Genres and Cultural and Social Contexts.


​As in Unit I, this project will be assessed using the student workshop format, except that the workshop groups will need to be adjusted in order to accommodate the larger scale and the larger numbers of students producing each work. As in Unit 1, commenting and weekly assignments will be graded 100% on completion, and grades will be assigned to the reading quizzes and larger projects.

​The first regular assignments will involve writing the e-mail to request a meeting with the professor (one professor per group, the group should pre-schedule their visits during the professor’s office hours, letting the professor know that this is for an ENG 101 project, and using accepted conventions of well-mannered politeness. E-mails should of course allow the professor to gracefully decline.) To receive full credit, each group will need to successfully set up (and keep) a meeting.

​The second regular assignment will involve creating a detailed CHAT map of the writing process for the given discipline. Each group should evaluate how and when writing is used in the field, providing linked and/or bibliography citations to the sources of this information.

​Throughout the workshop process, students will be posting comments for the blogs and presentations of the other groups, and these comments will be graded based on completion (as seen in the Final Portfolio).

​The first component of the project grading will come in each group assembling a blog and PowerPoint presentation, and then sharing their presentation with the entire class during Week 7. For this segment, students will be graded on how well the presentation illustrates the conventions of the academic genre they’re describing. In addition, this presentation should address the different available genres within the discipline (e.g. the artificial genre of the lab report as compared with the notes from a lab notebook as compared to an article from Nature.) During the presentation, they should describe these differences and then talk about how they’ll incorporate them into their meta-document.

​Following the classroom presentations, students will create their meta-documents during Week 8 and Week 9. Here, they’ll be graded based on how effectively the meta-document describes how to write a document in an undergraduate course in that discipline and how it compares that process to what one might expect from a scholarly journal in the same discipline. They’ll also be graded on how well the meta-document addresses questions brought up during the in-class presentation.

​Because this will be a group project, Alternative Assessment during Week 10 will be a prominent component of the grading. Each student will need to evaluate his or her own success as a group member as well as the contributions of the other group members. Students will conduct this assessment in a way similar to the workshop, except that instead of sharing their self- and group-assessments online, they’ll only be sharing them via the STV-250 folders.

​As a way to let loose a bit, the students will have a final assignment to write a parody of their academic genre (e.g. writing a historical documentary the velociraptor crossing the street.)

Project 2 Schedule: Writing Across the Curriculum

Week 4 - WAC, Writing Research, and Blogger

Week 5 - Begin Professor Interviews – Posting Findings to Blogger

Week 6 – Genre Research: CHAT maps for the chosen field

Week 7 - Group Presentations to class on Genre Findings + Midterm Portfolio

Week 8 - Creating the meta-documents for that field

Week 9 – Workshop Meta-Documents

Week 10 – Alternative Assessment in the Context of Writing

Bibliography of Readings

Project 2 – WAC

Erdrich, Louise. “Two Languages in Mind, but Just One in the Heart.” Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times, pp. 54-59. New York: Times Books, 2001. In her descriptions of learning her grandfather’s Ojibwe language, Erdrich illustrates how the differences in language acquisition affect the genres we’re able to effectively communicate in.

Gentile, Angela. “Annotated Bibliographies for Dummies.” Grassroots. This article will help students see how to annotate their citations, providing direction for readers who are likewise interested in the research.

Godwin, Gail. “A Novelist Breaches the Border to Nonfiction.” Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times, pp. 71-77. New York: Times Books, 2001. Godwin’s article illustrates that research is a critical component of all writing (both fiction and nonfiction), and her descriptions of her research practices will help students understand how to work with multiple genres.

Harbord, John. “Writing in Central and Eastern Europe: Stakeholders and Directions in Initiating Change.” The Best of Rhetoric and Composition Journals 2010, pp. 2-25. Anderson, South Carolina: Parlor Press, 2011. This academic article shows how the disciplinary discourses in Europe are torn by the differing expectations of scholarship in English, scholarship in Russian, and the lack of traditional scholarship in their native languages. This will help show students that the navigation between academic genres is complicated, and that it is shaped by geographic, economic, and political contexts.

Jackson, Autumn. “Breaking Down Grammatical Snobbery: What Comedian Stephen Fry Can Teach Us about Language Flexibility in Genres.” Grassroots. Sometimes, you just have to lampoon your own research. This article will help my students feel safe doing so.

Koehler, Rob. “Writing for Use: Intersections between Genre and Usability.” Grassroots. In this unit, I want students to see that the academic genres they’ll be studying have emerged due to the specific needs of these disciplines, and I hope this will help them differentiate between which components of genre are “fixed” by necessity and which are simply expected due to long tradition and accepted practice.

Peha, Steve. “Writing Across the Curriculum.” Teaching that Makes Sense - TTMS.org. Web. 18 October 2011. http://www.ttms.org/PDFs/06%20Writing%20Across%20the%20Curriculum%20v001%20(Full).pdf. Peha’s article is more pedagogical and theoretical than students are accustomed to, and I hope it will help them see the challenges that teachers face in trying to produce effective courses. This way, they can relate their own struggles in learning academic genres to the real problem we all face in learning how to transfer genre awareness from teachers to students.

Shapiro, Alyssa. “Learning about the Genres of Biology.” Grassroots. This article will help my students one approach to learning an academic genre, hopefully showing them that there is a process to learning academic genres and that they can navigate that process.

Blog Entries

Levels of Research: Describes how students can use research to reveal the scope and the details of their work.

Online Collaboration with Blogger: This describes how students will be using Blogger to interact both with their group members and with other groups.

Parody and Satire: This article points out how parody and satire can help us identify (and exploit…) genre conventions.

Proposal Example: This gives very specific instructions regarding how to create a PowerPoint project proposal with slides and the presentation text.

Proposal Uploads to Facebook: Instructions for how to upload PowerPoint slides to Facebook. The directions will be similar for uploading to other websites.

Blogger Example Blog: This is a meta-blog which describes how to put together an effective blog. This blog post contains links to other posts with more details.


Creating Your Proposal Presentation: The example PowerPoint presentation for how to create a meta-document while balancing text and images.


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