Sunday, March 15, 2009

Interesting discussion on teaching

The event is called Academic Karaoke. It is often an opportunity for Coker professor to discuss what they did on the sabbatical, or present some ideas they have for a paper, or discuss their ideas on Existentialism. This past Friday afternoon about 15 professor and two students discussed some of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP)Committee's research on writing assignments provided for students. The Coker Quality Enhancement Plan for the Southern Association Accreditation is that we will increase the quality of student writing over the years prior to the next visit.

The QEP Committee did some research to discover if professor were using more or fewer short, medium and long writing assignments in classes. The results of the survey were shared with the group and there was extensive discussion about how long it takes to grade papers, how extensive the grading or marking up of the papers might be, etc. Quite candidly, I was not expecting much of interest from the discussion. It was nice to be wrong. First, it was quite interesting and exciting to be discussion classroom pedagogy. It is something I discuss with my daughters but I only have similar discussions with about four other faculty. Teaching is what we do but not something we talk about often. This was a good discussion. Second, we have a proprietary piece of software we call ICEBOX. It is a tool students can use to turn in papers. I have found it cumbersome and had not been an avid user. This discussion opened my eyes to some features, primarily a feedback button I had been ignoring, and I may find Icebox more friendly than in the past. This weekend I used the feedback feature and it will be interesting to hear if there is any response from the students.

There is another opportunity coming this week to learn more about writing in the classroom. A professor from Georgia State is going to lead a "learn-at-lunch discussion. Dean Pat Lincoln distributed an article that he wrote and his ideas are pretty much in line with mine. He talks in his article about the different reasons for writing and points out that teaching basic composition and expecting students to become great scientific paper writers makes little sense. I see this all the time in Writing for the Media. When we start working on news stories and forms like the inverted pyramid the students have to unlearn techniques that have made them successful in other classes. The early weeks when we approach this different structure of writing is somewhat frustrating for the students. I purposely do not grade for the first several weeks because I don't want them getting so frustrated they stop trying. About a week ago there was one of those quick rewards when a student said, "Hey, I am getting better at this news writing stuff." She was right, the continued effort has gotten her to the point where she puts together a pretty decent news story.

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