Thursday, September 15, 2011

Laptops in the Classroom?

The comments on this blog post are very interesting, regarding different ways of looking at laptop use in the classroom. What are your thoughts and policies on laptops?

Professional Development Meeting Notes from September 13-14

The following is my notes from our recent professional development meeting for the adjunct faculty. Feel free to make any corrections or additions in the comments to this blog.

1. Introductions - Everyone went around the room and gave their name and how long they'd been at UVU

2. Announcements
  • --Make sure you submit your syllabus to Meredith Bennie either via email or a hard copy as soon as you can. As a reminder, you will also need to send a copy of your gradebook (either electronically or a hard copy) at the end of the semester.
  • --In about a month or so, the Writing Program Administrators (WPAs) will send out the form to ask for your schedule preferences for the Spring 2012 semester. They will use this form to create the teaching schedule.
  • --There was a typo on the recommended guidelines for the Exploratory Essay. The guidelines are that the paper should be approximately 6-8 pages in length (not 4-5).
  • --This next semester, the WPAs will try to schedule a time to observe your class, especially if you're new to the faculty this year. This is a good opportunity to get some helpful feedback from the WPAs.
  • --We were lucky enough to get a room on campus that can be used by the adjunct faculty to meet with students. The room is FA 742 (the Faculty Annex---the stand-alone buildings located in the southeast parking lot). It is occasionally locked, but we'll try to encourage the custodians to leave it open at all times.
3. Discussion about how to make the blog more effective (e.g. what kind of content you want and what would inspire you to add posts to the blog)

4. Discussion of any questions or concerns that have come up in the beginning of the semester

5. Discussion of the pros and cons of using student papers as models in class
  • --How does peer review function to help students see examples of other students' writing?
  • --Why do some (of the best) teachers avoid using model papers?
  • --When teachers use models, how are they best employed?
  • --What is the Graff & Berkenstein rationale for their "template" approach to teaching writing?
  • --Can model papers constrain or limit students' creativity and thinking?
  • --How can we ethically use examples of student writing?
  • --Should students look at the best writers rather than at the writing of other students?
  • --How was imitation used in classical rhetoric?
  • --What are some of the best ways to use model papers in class?
Gae Lyn handed out the first two pages of an article discussing the value of imitation in teaching rhetoric by John Muckelbauer. The article was entitled "Imitation and Invention in Antiquity: An Historical-Theoretical Revision" from Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric 21.2 (Spring 2003): 61-88. You can view the full article online in JSTOR:

(NOTE: This link will require you to login with your UVLink ID and password.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Scientific Breakthroughs in Effective Teaching

Ya gotta love science and its way of replacing assumptions with facts about how things really work. A recent NY Times article describes several such points about teaching methods that we can implement to improve our teaching. Even if you don't take the time to revise your syllabus right now, just being aware of these tips can steer you toward greater effectiveness.

Click here to read the brief article, and I'll summarize the main points for those who don't have time.

1. Quality of homework matters more than quantity.
2. Neuroscientists, cognitive scientists and educational psychologists have made a series of remarkable discoveries about how the human brain learns.
3. Implementing these elements have caused test scores to rise between 13 and 50% (in the incidents mentioned in the article).
4. Technique 1: “Spaced repetition.” Exposing ourselves to information repeatedly over time fixes it more permanently in our minds, by strengthening the [associated] neural networks.
5. Technique 2: “Retrieval practice.” Being "tested" or calling information FROM our brains as opposed to reading, reviewing, making notes, and putting it INTO our brains again is far more effective at cementing that knowledge.
6. "Another common misconception about how we learn holds that if information feels easy to absorb, we’ve learned it well. In fact, the opposite is true." The harder we work at learning something, the better we learn it. Researchers have intentionally made things harder to study (small font, blurry characters, punctuation errors, etc.) with positive learning results.
7. Technique 3: "Interleaving." Rather than having three similar story problems in a row, interleave them with dissimilar ones. When the student doesn't know what to expect next, s/he has to think harder and will learn better.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Creating a Research Space

Last year at one of our meetings, I shared some information about how I use CARS (create a research space) to help teach students how to write an introduction to their Researched Argument papers.

I had some people ask me again about it this year, so I thought I'd share.

The CARS model was identified by John Swales (Swales, John M. "Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings". Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990.). He is a linguist focused on genre. He defined genre as a text type that is ultimately determined by the task and situation and is immediately defined by communicative purpose. He studies speech communities (a group who share the same linguistic identity).

In his study of the speech community of research articles, he noticed a pattern in the article introductions, which he has defined as follows (from page 141 in his book):

Move 1: Establishing a territory
Step 1: Claiming Centrality [the researcher can claim interest or important, can refer to the central, favorite, or classic character of the issue, or can claim that there are many active investigators in the field.]
Step 2: Making topic generalization(s) [express in general terms the current state of knowledge, of technique, etc.]
Step 3: Reviewing items of previous research [relate what has been found (or claimed) with who has found it (or claimed it).]
Move 2: Establishing a niche
Step 1A: Counter-claiming
Step 1B: Indicating a gap
Step 1C: Question-raising
Step 1D: Continuing a tradition [follow the rhetorically-established tradition. This usually means that the researcher takes what is there already and delves deeper (conducts a test with more subjects, compares studies, etc.)]
Move 3: Occupying the niche [this move offers to substantiate the counter-claim, fill the gap, answer the question, or continue the established tradition. Most research article introductions end with Move 3-Step 1. Move 3-Step 3, if it is included, is always at the end of the introduction.]
Step 1A: Outlining purposes
Step 1B: Announcing present research
Step 2: Announcing principle findings
Step 3: Indicating research article structure
According to Swales, the moves show the need for researchers to re-establish in the eyes of the discourse community the significance of the research field itself [this is also part of what we teach regarding academic writing as conversation and could help students understand it better]; situate the actual research in terms of that significance [I've found that students struggle with making their papers their own. The four steps of move 2 help to point out where they can focus their efforts]; and show how the niche will be occupied and defended [this is where I teach them about the role of the thesis statement and of guiding the reader using signposts].

Some examples
Claiming centrality:
Recently, there has been a spate of interest in how to ...
In recent years, applied researchers have been increasingly interested in .. .
The time development ... is a classic problem in fluid mechanics.
Many investigators have recently turned to ...
A central issue in ... is the validity of ...
Topic generalization:
There are many situations where ...
An elaborate system of ... is found in the ...
Reviewing previous research:
X was found by Sang et aI. (1972) to be impaired.
X was impaired (Sang et aI., 1972).
Continuing a tradition:
It is desirable to perform test calculations ...
It is of interest to compare ...
Application for English 2010/2010 (perhaps 1010?)
I use this to help students get an idea for how to start their final paper. We talk about why all those articles that Swales studied would have used the same general organization unconsciously. This could be a good lead-in for determining whether something is an academic source, but I haven't explored that since I usually teach this toward the end of the semester.

I also take the opportunity to focus in on Move 2 and how they need to decide what their purpose is and how they will give a new, different, or unique perspective on the topic.

I also have them bring some of their sources to class and then have them pick out the moves and steps in the introductions. Then, I have them do the same with their introduction (that I had them write and bring to class). Then we work on making those introductions even better.

Finally, I am including here a scan of a page from Swales' book that shows how the moves and steps work in an actual article.