26th Annual Writing and Teaching Retreat

Last week, LIS liaison librarians Brenda, Stacy and Carrie attended a 2-day writing and teaching retreat for faculty, organized by the CTLR and held at the Mountain Top Inn in Chittenden. Along with Shawna Shapiro from the Writing Program and Adela Langrock from the Office of Planning and Assessment, we led a session called “Undergraduates as Researchers,” in which we reviewed the results of our 2012 assessment of student research and technology skills and discussed best practices for helping students develop strong research skills.

We  also attended workshops on syllabus design, developing and grading writing assignments, peer feedback, and foreign language pedagogy. We each were able to spend a few hours sharing assignment ideas and suggestions in small-group syllabus workshops, and we had plenty of time to talk with faculty and colleagues individually too.

Here are just a few take-aways from the event:

  • Some faculty expressed interest in community-based, collaborative research projects. It will be interesting to look for models (a few come to mind already!) and elaborate on technology options for these faculty.
  • If piloting a new initiative, program, or pedagogical technique seems daunting, try starting with a “lite” version. If that’s successful, you can scale up the next time around.
  • When assigning small group work during class time, ask each group to report out at the end. This could be an effective way for students to share their research success stories and challenges.
  • Writing is communication. When you write, take the time to imagine, understand, and speak to your target audience; ask students to do the same.
  • Peer feedback on writing is most useful when it asks questions about sections of a text, or raises big issues such as clarity and purpose. Line-by-line editing (in effect, telling the writer, “this is exactly how I would say it”) is less effective because the writer implements the directed changes without needing to re-envision the paper from the reader’s viewpoint.
  • Be intentional and design backwards.  Think of what you want students to be able to do and then provide the steps or “scaffolding” to develop the skill by sequencing assignments and instruction to achieve the goal.  This applies to research as well as writing skills.

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