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A range of work supports WAC practitioners as they develop this expertise e. What defines and complicates such consult- ing work is what Sandra Tarabochia , examined in a number of stud- ies of the interaction that occurs between WAC consultants and disciplinary faculty. Tarabochia focused on the role that language, power, and gender plays in the collabo- ration between disciplinary faculty and WAC experts. In her extensive study of and theorizing about CCL consulting work, Reframing the Relational, Tarabochia offered a powerful argument for basing that work on a pedagogical ethic, one that involves reflexive practice, reciprocal learning, negotiated expertise, change, and play.

Our study follows both Jablonski and Tarabochia, focusing on interdisciplinary col- laboration and interaction between the disciplinary faculty themselves as they partici- pated in our ten-week seminar. Which WAC concepts from the seminar do instructors report that they have learned? This research design raises the important question of whether or not disciplinary instructor-participants in fact already knew these concepts before the seminar. The instructor in this seminar clearly remembers from the weekly discussions that many of the prin- ciples participants reported learning were new to them.

We also deliberately framed our first survey question to ask what participants believe they learned from the semi- nar and expeditions. Participants Table 1 provides basic demographic information about the ten participants in the seminar and research study. Participants came from a range of disciplines and phases of careers.

Two of the participants were faculty one in the Medical School and one in Astronomy , one a post-doc in biology, and one an instructional staff member in technology support services. Six were doctoral students five of them teaching assis- tants—one was not yet teaching.

We also videotaped the roughly one-hour peer workshops in which participants provided feedback to one another on their draft assignments. Nine of our participants engaged in this workshopping: three groups of three participants each, resulting in approxi- mately three hours of video for analysis.


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That is, the video allows us to interrogate how faculty put WAC knowledge into practice within interaction. To analyze both the survey and video data, we first followed the open coding practices of grounded theory Charmaz, We coded for WAC knowledge and interaction, including codes such as those we feature in the survey analysis section below: incorporating talk, process, and instruction; expanding repertoire and awareness of the variety of ways to incorpo- rate writing; importance of and methods for giving effective feedback; understanding connections between writing and learning goals; incorporating peer review; learning about and using WAC resources; and discussing the importance of individual con- ferences.

After performing open coding of our three hours of video from the assignment design workshops, we decided to fur- ther analyze the workshopping video by using Andersen et al.

Exploring Writing: Paragraphs and Essays

We organize our analysis into these categories—which represent centers of gravity in current WAC research. These categories offered an effective way to analyze much, but not all, of our data. These trends and moments from the workshops are not intended to represent learning for all seminar participants.

Instead, they are compelling examples that most clearly reveal particularly evocative moments when participants draw on knowledge of WAC principles or use effective consulting methods. In our analysis, we did not pursue inter-rater reliability, but shared our open coding, came to agreements about survey codes, and then collaboratively determined that we would analyze the video using Andersen et al. After gathering some demographic information—about faculty roles and academic discipline, for example—the survey zeroed in on our pri- mary research question, asking directly what participants had learned, from the semi- nar, about teaching with writing and which of these concepts, practices, or theories they planned to implement in future teaching.

Other questions asked participants to evaluate how effective the design and various elements of the seminar were in help- ing them learn—we asked about particular readings, about the learning activities in the seminar, including the expeditions, and about the interdisciplinary group of participants. Nine of the ten participants who participated in the seminar completed surveys, and their responses to open-ended questions totaled about eleven pages of single-spaced text. This strong emphasis on an interactive writing process aligns power- fully with findings from Anderson et al.

Although they mentioned it less than half as often as the most common cat- egory of responses 11 times compared to 23 , in their next most frequent responses, participants explained that they had expanded their repertoire of possible kinds of writing they can assign, including low-stakes WTL, WAC, WID, and multimodal assignments. A smaller number of responses 6 focused on feedback: respondents reported that they not only learned methods for developing evaluation criteria and responding to and evaluating student writing effectively but also learned to re-con- ceptualize feedback as a way to help students learn.

And in five responses, seminar participants focused on something more theoretical that they had learned from the seminar and expeditions—they had learned to see writing activities as a means to help students learn the content of a course. In fact, many of their comments and explanations sound strikingly like the discourse of WAC professionals. Valuing the WAC Expeditions To understand how the WAC expeditions may have contributed to learning in the seminar, we asked participants which of the four expeditions— a interviewing a course coordinator or instructor in a writing-intensive course across the curriculum, b observing a writing center session, c watching video of one-to-one conferences of writing-intensive course instructors across the curriculum meeting with student- writers, or d observing a writing instructional session e.


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Respondents identified the interview with a writing-intensive course instruc- tor as the most beneficial 5 responses , then the observation of writing instruction within a writing-intensive course 3 responses , and then the observation of a writing center tutorial 2 responses. They seem to have a well- oiled machine of a class that actually teaches writing in an extremely integrated way. The others were valuable, but without having read the assignment that was being discussed it was difficult to have the con- text to fully understand what was going on.

I plan to do a lot of one-on-one conferencing with students in the future, and it provided a really useful model e. Most focused on the benefits of having participants with a wide range of teaching experience from none to decades of experience , while a few focused on the benefits of cross-disciplinary discussion. But too often in our experience survey responses are disap- pointingly thin. We wanted to explore how this developing WAC knowledge manifests itself through interaction among disciplinary instructors.

We wondered how deeply our research participants had taken up these concepts, how they applied that knowledge in planning their courses and assignments, and how they used that knowledge as they interacted with each other in discussions about WAC assignments. To answer those additional research questions, we wanted to have a window into the unstructured talk of disciplinary instructors discussing their draft assignments and assignment sequences with seminar colleagues. To analyze this video data, we first used research findings from Anderson et al. We focused on the interactions among disciplinary instructors using concepts about procedural WAC knowledge from Jablonski , and we close by analyzing some of the limitations of the WAC knowledge that disciplinary instructors displayed in these workshop conversations.

Anyone analyzing the workshop discussions of our WAC seminar participants could not miss how central all three of these constructs were within the discussions. The draft assignments themselves sounded, in fact, much like Anderson et al. One of the draft assignments from an introductory astronomy course, for example, called for students to persuade a skeptical public school board to incorporate into the high-school curriculum some instruction about the big bang, dark matter, and black holes.

As they offered advice to each other about ways to revise draft assignments and as instructors planned their revisions, the seminar participants frequently talked about incorporating into their assignments more interactive writing processes, such as in-class workshops about preliminary ideas, conferences with the instructor, or peer reviews.

For an assignment in a toxicology course, workshop participants suggested that the instructor incorpo- rate a complex two-stage peer review with different kinds of readers who represent different audiences for the paper assignment. The third construct—clear writing expectations Anderson et al.

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In response to such questions and suggestions from colleagues, instructors regularly articulated plans for revising their assignments to clarify their expectations for stu- dents, to add examples to illustrate what they were asking for, to add additional ques- tions to promote the kind of analysis they wanted, and to make their rubrics more specific in order to convey their expectations more explicitly. We found no shortage of examples of this disciplinary awareness. Similarly, a medical school professor workshopping assignments with a humanities graduate student new to teaching referred to the writing center tutorial she observed in Expedition 2 for our seminar to make sense of disciplinary differences in writing assignments.

While these are important moments of disciplinary awareness, we observed that workshop participants did not always fully or explicitly grapple with what disciplinary differences show up in writing—or consider how we may support students writing in our respective disciplines. As WAC experts know, making disciplinary differences in discourse apparent to disciplinary faculty is one of our primary challenges. The following excerpt features steps toward understanding this foundational threshold concept, but also some limits of that understanding.

This discussion occurred between three teaching assistant instructors across disciplines A in com- munication arts; B in ethnobotany; C in toxicology : B: Something that I struggle with.

Writing - Transitions - in addition, moreover, furthermore, another

A: Cool. B: Yeah.

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A: Okay, okay. A: Yeah. B: Mmm.

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B: Oh yeah. I like that.

You start to see patterns emerging. C: That might be a good like alternative to the outline. A: Oh yeah!

Exploring Writing: Paragraphs and Essays

Because I know that Bean was not really a big fan of starting out with an outline. So, if it was like starting out with grouping your different resources somehow. Instead of an a, b, c outline. Instructor A drew on her experience as a student herself, receiving explicit instruction in how to write literature reviews by grouping and making connections between various sources. Still, the three instructors are clearly talking about the kind of rhetori- cal work that needs to be done in effective writing and communication in the sciences and social sciences.

But because of the imperatives for assessment within higher education, Anson argues, these same faculty often strip rhe- torical context out of the assignments they give students. Within the draft assignments and the workshop discussions in our study, authentic writing situations and sophisti- cated discussions of audiences abounded. Instructors in this WAC seminar chose par- ticular situations in order to focus communication tasks and to give students oppor- tunities to use their developing expertise about course content to communicate what they know with non-expert audiences, as recommended in the Boyer Commission report on Reinventing Undergraduate Education Most compelling about these workshop discussions of rhetorical situations and audiences were the varied and complex concepts of audience within their WAC assignments.

In the case of the draft writing assignments for a graduate course in toxicology, the instructor explained that she has created a professional rhetorical situ- ation and audience to motivate students who are not toxicology majors to care about the assignment and the course content. For an environmental studies capstone course built around a community-service project, the professor designed a series of writing-to-learn reflection assignments.

With those assignments, whose audience typically would be the student-writer and the course professor, the instructor wanted to persuade students to be honestly critical about their often less-than-ideal experiences with community projects. The instructor felt that students understandably were reluctant to express their disappointments with projects and with the course.

One suggestion from the workshop group was to define the audience for this reflection piece as students who will take the course the follow- ing year, so that students would be offering advice to a familiar audience in the form of an advice letter, and their role would be defined as helping future peers rather than criticizing the course. For a communications course in digital design, the instructor wanted students to design a poster about the course itself; the poster would be used to recruit future students into the course and into a new minor.

In the WAC seminar workshop discussion of this draft assignment, disciplinary instructors had a nuanced discussion about the rhetorical situation and multiple audiences for these posters. For an intermediate-level course on animal biology, an instructor designed a word low-stakes assignment asking students to explain a biological concept to a friend.

Low-stakes writing assignments ask students to explore questions, synthesize ideas, respond to readings and ideas, refine their thinking, or otherwise grapple with course content. One instructor in toxi- cology, for example, was drafting a WTC assignment for graduate students to learn to write reports in a genre required for their future professional lives. For instance, as mentioned above, a communication arts TA was plan- ning to have students in a digital media course compose posters but also to do reflec- tive writing on the process of creating those posters, a process that included learning to use Photoshop and other tools.

In particular, though, one group demonstrated a strong commitment to WTL—a biology TA, for example, developed an assignment in which undergraduate students must write a series of short assignments explaining course concepts to lay audiences—parents, friends, etc.

An environmental studies TA designed a series of reflection essays for students involved in a service course. A medi- cal school professor likewise asked students to reflect in writing assignments about health inequity. But it is abun- dantly clear that the participants in our study have passed through this threshold con- cept and embraced this shared responsibility.

The instructors signaled their responsibility by planning specific ways to revise and improve their assignments. When the medical school professor, for example, explained that the undergraduate students in her course on health disparities did not understand the difference between inequality and inequities, she clearly saw it as her responsibility to teach this, so she designed a writing assign- ment and planned discussions to help students understand and to think critically about these concepts.

Then she planned a reflection paper after the formal assignment to help students consolidate their learning. While some of the courses under discussion were small 10—15 students , another, a biology course, was growing from 60— students with no increase in instructional staff. So understandably—and appropriately—these instructors acknowledged the limits of what any individual instructor can do and col- laborated to look for efficiencies as they limited how many drafts and how many con- ferences they would require in such situations.

Within their workshop groups, the instructors in our study demonstrated a lim- ited understanding of this WAC threshold concept. They consistently recognized that many student writers struggle to do the intellectual tasks at the heart of various assignments and, as discussed above, they planned instruction to help students learn how to do those tasks.