Tag Archives: research

The Naylor Workshop in Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies

This post is written by members Joyce Kinkead and Jessie L. Moore.

We believe passionately in the transformative power of meaningful, authentic research for our students. Both of us are aware that students in English often don’t tend to think of themselves as researchers. Rather, they see themselves as rehashing others’ scholarly works. Part of the fault in their perception lies with us. We, as faculty members, may not have articulated to our students the methodology of inquiry in our fields. But we are working to change that. Joyce has written the first textbook for undergraduate students on how to undertake research in writing studies: Researching Writing: An Introduction to Research Methods.  In collaboration with the CCCC Committee on Undergraduate Research, Jessie oversees the annual CCCC Undergraduate Researcher Poster Session, where students have the opportunity to participate in a national, professional conference. Students also can publish in the innovative Young Scholars in Writing, a journal that was created over ten years ago, among other places.

Student Megan Knowles presenting her finished research project poster at CCCC in 2016.

While opportunities for undergraduates to present and, to a lesser degree, publish their work exist, opportunities for undergraduates to gather and share research in process are rare.  That’s where the Naylor Workshop for Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies, initiated at York College in Pennsylvania by Dominic DelliCarpini, comes in. The two of us have served as plenary speakers and mentors for the annual workshop. This weekend boot camp for students is exhilarating, energizing, and exhausting.

About 30 students are selected for the workshop from applications filed in the spring. Many of them are generously funded through the Naylor Endowment. The endowment also funds faculty mentors—like us. The weekend is organized so that participants arrive in time for an opening plenary on Friday evening that outlines the process: finding and narrowing a research question; reviewing the literature; determining appropriate methods and tools; drafting a plan and a timeline; and preparing for an initial report.

Prior to this date, mentors have been assigned a small group of student researchers and have communicated with them long distance about their projects. The intensive workshop experience continues on Saturday with small group sessions in which mentors listen to students’ individual research questions and begin providing feedback. Students write their research questions on whiteboards and revisit them consistently throughout the workshop, as the questions may change considerably as the students re-envision their projects. Yes, research is recursive—just like writing.

As faculty mentors, often collaborating with Naylor alumni, we lead a series of workshops that highlight tools and methods to conduct research and provide information about research processes, beginning with an overview of qualitative and quantitative methods and extending through resources for reviews of literature and advice on dissemination. Let’s face it: English majors can be frightened of numbers. Quantitative methods like coding can be daunting. The undergraduate researchers begin gathering tools needed to undertake research: participant-observation, interviews, surveys, and focus groups as ways to gather information. They learn about the difference between causal and correlational relationships and standard coding scales. By the end of the day, they have drafted a revised research plan.

Student Megan Knowles with her draft poster at the Naylor Workshop in September, 2015.

Sunday morning is, well, exciting. Students present their work. Their posters are printed for a gallery walk, and they deliver elevator pitches about their projects. One student presented on his research on middle school writers, which was so advanced and professional that Joyce told him, frankly, that she could see him as a future president of NCTE. In fact, our crystal ball on these students’ futures is quite clear: they are engaged in meaningful questions about writing. These are our future literacy educators.

Why are we so keen on undergraduate research? It has been deemed one among a small set of “high impact educational practices.” According to George D. Kuh, “The goal is to involve students with actively contested questions, empirical observation, cutting-edge technologies, and the sense of excitement that comes from working to answer important questions.” Another researcher, David Lopatto cited the many benefits of undergraduate research: “Research experiences enhance intellectual skills such as inquiry and analysis, reading and understanding primary literature, communication, and teamwork. . . . Undergraduate researchers learn tolerance for obstacles faced in the research process, how knowledge is constructed, independence, increased self-confidence, and a readiness for more demanding research. These benefits are an advantage in any career path.”

The students we worked with drew their own conclusions about how they grew professionally, suggesting that the Naylor Workshop helped them

  • Learn inquiry strategies
  • Grapple with interesting questions
  • Develop professional relationships
  • Construct knowledge
  • Pursue disciplinary interests
  • Gain self-knowledge
  • Find new questions
  • Challenge themselves
  • Pursue their passions
  • Build self-confidence

The Naylor Workshop provides its scholars with an opportunity to move from intuitive understandings of their work as writing fellows, tutors, and/or writing majors toward a deeper knowledge of the methodologies of our discipline. They are joining the conversation through a supportive and challenging learning environment. We are so pleased to be part of this transformative experience.

About the Authors:

Jessie L. Moore served as the inaugural plenary speaker for the Naylor Workshop in 2014. She is the director for the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University (@CEL_Elon) and Associate Professor of Professional Writing & Rhetoric.

 

Joyce Kinkead, Professor of English, Utah State University, was invited in that role for the 2015 Naylor Workshop. In addition to the leadership of Dominic DelliCarpini, we also acknowledge collaborator Megan Schoettler, who has assisted with the Naylor Workshop, beginning as an undergraduate at York and continuing as a graduate student at Miami University.

Anne Frank’s Diary

anne-frank-diary-openOn June 12, 1942, Anne Frank received a small red and white diary as a present for her 13th birthday. The diary, which she named Kitty, was her companion for just over two years. Frank’s last entry in the diary was dated August 1, 1944. Her family’s secret hiding place was raided three days later, on August 4. She died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in February or March of 1945.

Explore the ways that eyewitness reports shape our understanding of events we can’t see first-hand. Introduce students to this topic using a lesson (adapted to your grade level), such as Through the Eyes of a Refugee, which examines the first-hand reports of a Syrian refugee, or Evaluating Eyewitness Reports, which examines first-hand accounts of the Great Chicago Fire.

Then have students break into small groups for an end-of-the-year research project. First, provide an outline or list of the main topics you’ve studied during the year. Or, have students use their textbook as a reference. Have each group select an event to research, taking care that topics are not too broad, such as “World War II.” Using primary source documents, have students research the event using eyewitness accounts. A good source of primary documents can be found at the American Slave Narratives website. Finally, have each group present their research to the class, for an end-of-the-year review session.

How else can a diary be used in the classroom?

Teen Tech Week 2017

ttw17The Young Adult Library Services Association sponsors Teen Tech Week to draw attention to the importance and availability of various technologies in libraries. Besides offering technologies such as audiobooks, DVDs, electronic games, computers with Internet access, and more, libraries also have librarians with expertise in using many of these resources effectively. This year, Teen Tech Week (March 5-11) celebrates the teen-selected theme: “Be the Source of Change.” The 2017 theme encourages teens to take advantage of all the great digital resources offered through the library to make a positive change in their life and community. Here are resources to support that change:

Teens as Change Agents
Books featuring teens as change agents call attention to young people who are lobbying for change in their schools, communities, and the larger world. Tune in to this podcast episode to hear about teens who work for change by participating in political campaigns, defying social hierarchies, and even going to war.

Making Memories: An End-of-Year Digital Scrapbook
Students reflect on their school year, creating a digital scrapbook consisting of images and text to present to their school community.

Exploring Plagiarism, Copyright, and Paraphrasing
Students investigate issues of plagiarism, fair use, and paraphrasing using KWL charts, discussion, and practice.

Copyright Law: From Digital Reprints to Downloads
Students investigate how and why copyright law has changed over time, and apply this information to recent copyright issues, creating persuasive arguments based on the perspective of a particular group.

Copyright Infringement or Not? The Debate over Downloading Music
This lesson takes advantage of students’ interest in music and audio sharing. Students investigate multiple perspectives in the music downloading debate and develop a persuasive argument for a classroom debate.

Digital Reflections: Expressing Understanding of Content Through Photography
Striking images can leave lasting impressions on viewers. In this lesson, students make text–self–world connections to a nature- or science-related topic as they collaboratively design a multimedia presentation.

How will you recognize Teen Tech Week?

The 100th Day of School

100The 100th day of school is celebrated in schools around the country, usually near the month of February. The 100th Day of School is usually filled with activities, crafts, and math exercises based on the number 100. Here’s an idea for combining the school celebration with history.

Invite students to investigate what life was like 100 years ago. Using multiple sources, have students read and talk about the clothing that was worn during that time, who was President (or Prime Minister, King, or Queen), what inventions weren’t around then (computers and television, mobile devices, hoverboards, video games, etc), how many states were in the United States at that time (and what the US flag looked like then). Ask the students to find and share other surprising differences between now and 100 years ago. They can record their discoveries using a Venn Diagram.

To take this idea a step further, engage students in researching various aspects of a setting’s decade.  Then using the information they have gathered, students communicate their findings via a presentation tool. Through the sharing of their findings, all students gain an understanding of the historical decades. This understanding can be transferred to historical novels or other studies of history. After all students have presented, students will write a paragraph explaining which decade they would have like to have experienced firsthand.

How do you celebrate the 100th Day of School?

What Teachers Can Learn from Web Designers

digitalwritingTeachers who want to engage students may be able to learn from successful websites. The Internet is rife with digital forums where people interact. These forums thrive on user-generated content, yet only a few visitors choose to create that content. Many visitors simply “lurk.” Websites, however, can be designed in ways that nurture active participation, and so can lesson plans.

In the current issue of College English, writing professor Rebecca Tarsa offers research on how a website’s interface affects visitors’ decisions to return to the website and to transition from lurkers to active participants. She interviewed 30 students at two colleges about their Web surfing and drew some interesting insights.

One conclusion Tarsa reached is that visitors’ decisions about whether to return to a given forum were driven more by the visual appeal of the forum than by the content. “What students remember most vividly about participatory spaces they no longer visit is how they looked,” Tarsa reports. “If an interface makes a bad impression, what it presents hardly seems to matter.” As one student she interviewed told her, “It’s not that I can’t figure it [the website Reddit] out. It’s that I don’t want to because I look at it and it’s so boring.”

If a Web forum looked appealing, visitors might linger and discover engaging content. But to participate in that conversation and add their own content, users usually had to create an account, an inconvenience visitors were only willing to endure when properly motivated.

Once users were motivated to create an account, did they jump into posting content? Not usually. There was still one thing needed for most visitors to make the transition from lurker to content provider: a stepping stone form of participation.

The most successful Web forums have such stepping stones in what Tarsa calls “qualitative affordances.” These are features that allow visitors to easily register their appraisal of the content they find. On Facebook, it’s the “like” button. On Twitter, it’s “retweet.” On Reddit, it’s “upvote” and “downvote.” Each of these forums offers some way that users, with a mere click or two, can applaud (or in some cases, can boo) the content someone else has provided, and this offers new users an easy way to begin participating in this new environment.

Not only is clicking “like” less work than typing out a full comment, it is also less risky. When you write and post content, you risk negative reactions. If you try to share information, you risk the embarrassment of being caught in a mistake. If you share an opinion or just try to make a joke, you risk being viewed by this new community as insensitive or oversensitive or biased or illogical or weird. There is less risk to simply clicking “like.” Even if people hate the comment you like, the brunt of their criticism will fall on the author of the comment, not on you.

These ”entry-level forms of participation” lead lurkers in the direction of fuller participation. Nearly all the students Tarsa interviewed created accounts in forums for the purpose of voting on content but then later came to add their own content as well. She concludes that “qualitative affordances … create higher levels of comfort with and investment in a site overall; and that students who displayed such investment wrote more often and more spontaneously than those who did not.”

These lessons can be applied to the structure of an English class. If we want students actively engaged, Tarsa suggests, we should give them low-stakes ways to respond to literature: “Create more opportunities for interactivity that fall between consumption [reading] and production [writing]. Allowing students to contribute content they come across in other contexts to a class compendium, for example, that would then be collaboratively curated into a digital bibliography for the course themes.“

Those working to engage students in reading and writing can learn a few lessons from those who have succeeded in getting Web surfers to read and write on their websites.

To explore this idea in greater depth, read Rebecca Tarsa’s complete article “Upvoting the Exordium: Literacy Practices of the Digital Interface.”