For those of you teaching writing-intensive (W) courses: every so often Writing at Queens holds workshops for instructors and professors. I recently joined one led by Karina Attar, which will meet six times this semester. Topics include: designing a W syllabus; developing a course vocabulary; scaffolding assignments; introducing students to theory and criticism; integrating grammar instruction; strategies for peer review; W courses and English 110; tailoring assignments for specific disciplinary content and writing conventions.
My main challenge is how to get students to come up with an original thesis– to even understand what a “thesis/argument” is– and how to produce writing that is intelligible, that flows, that adheres to the conventions of the English language. Some of my students’ papers are unreadable, and I don’t know how they made it through English 110. They need a line-by-line edit when the style obscures the quality of the ideas. (Of course I direct students to the Writing Center, but few go). Others are intelligible, but the argument is flat, there are no rhetorical thinking movies, no sense of “motive” (why their argument matters)…. Some of the strategies recommended so far (making a list of key terms you use in your course and having students discuss it in pairs, using secondary source materials as models for the types of essays they should write) I have already incorporated in my class, having taught for so long, but I’m sure I will learn something new. It can only help to brainstorm with faculty from different disciplines.
You should also be aware that you can always schedule a class at the library and the librarian (Nancy Foasberg) will guide your class through the research process, get them familiar with databases and reference materials and such. That’s important. No one taught me to do research; I learned myself, in the dinosaur days (pre-Internet). I recall how intimidated I was by microfilm. Now with so many sources online, reputable and ill-informed, students may not know where to begin….
I will also be asking about how to set up a blog for my students at one of the sites here.