Brooklyn College Writing Across the Curriculum


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2011-2012 Writing Fellows

Back (L to R): Collette Sosnowy, Eli Karetny, Anne Donlon, Stefania Heim, Michelle Billies, Marnie Brady. Front (L to R): Brendan O’Malley (co-coordinator), Ellen Belton (co-coordinator), Tahneer Oksman (co-coordinator).

2010-2011 Writing Fellows

Back (L to R): Ellen Belton (co-coordinator), Jamie Aroosi, Jordan Pascoe, Neil Meyer, Kathleen Dunn. Front (L to R): Tahneer Oksman, Brendan O’Malley, Corey Frost (co-coordinator).

Current Writing Fellows: Log on to our password-protected area.

What We Do: Basic Facts

Writing Fellows work an average of 15 hours per week for 15 weeks each semester, with about 5 weeks off during winter break. These hours include all meetings (those on campus with each other or faculty members and those at CUNY-wide WAC professional development events). Brooklyn College is assigned six Fellows. The BC Writing Fellow Program seeks both to serve its Fellows’ professional development and to fulfill requests by various college programs and faculty for their help. Fellows have found it productive and fun to work on many projects in teams of two or three. Fellows and the two coordinators meet weekly for two hours to plan activities, report on ongoing work, develop group projects, and share ideas on each other’s projects. We also sometimes discuss issues related to the careers of advanced graduate students, e.g., strategies for the job interview. Second-year Fellows mentor the incoming Fellows.

Overview

Brooklyn College Writing Fellows are part of a Writing Across the Curriculum initiative to encourage the use of writing as a tool for learning in every discipline. A key premise of WAC is that writing will improve if students have the opportunity to write more frequently and in accordance with the conventions of particular disciplines. One of the most important concepts promoted by the WAC Program is that writing is, and should be, a mode of learning in addition to being a mode of communication. WAC proponents believe that students who write as a part of the learning process not only become better writers, but are better able to absorb, analyze, remember, and think creatively about a particular subject or study. The primary mission for Writing Fellows at Brooklyn College, as at most senior colleges, is to help faculty more effectively incorporate discipline-specific writing practices in their teaching. The aim is to embed WAC institutionally and to help faculty absorb WAC practices and culture. Fellows have worked with faculty in 28 of the 31 departments. They have been particularly active in working with writing-intensive majors (currently, Art, Classics, Political Science, Music, English, the School of Education, and Philosophy). However, Fellows serve the college community in many capacities, especially in conjunction with other Coordinated Undergraduate Education (CUE) programs, such as the freshman Learning Communities and the Core.

WORKING WITH FACULTY AND DEPARTMENTS

  • Faculty – Writing Fellows assist faculty who want help to better integrate writing into their courses. This includes: assisting with revising writing assignments, modeling the peer revision process, working with faculty to develop low stakes writing exercises, helping faculty devise more efficient protocols for responding to student writing, and creating specialized workshops to help faculty learn more about using writing effectively in the classroom. (Priority is given to faculty teaching a writing-intensive or a Core course for the first time.) Fellows are not permitted to teach (other than workshops) or to grade student papers.
  • Undergraduate departments – as word has spread about the excellent work done by previous Fellows, deans, chairs, and groups of faculty are requesting help to further embed writing in their curricula. Fellows meet with the initiating parties and plan how they might best work with the program. In 2006-7 two Fellows worked extensively in the School of Education, especially with faculty teaching its gateway course. In 2007-8 two Fellows and the coordinators met with eight members of the Speech Communications Department to discuss how Fellows might best help them improve their students’ writing, and the Fellows now work directly with some of those faculty.
  • Students – Fellows often present 20-30 minute modules on specific aspects of writing, such as various skills needed to write the research paper. The aim is for the Fellows to model these presentations in class so as to indirectly “teach” the faculty members how to present these topics themselves in the future. (We fondly refer to this practice as “stealth pedagogy.”)

PUBLICATIONS

Fellows have written or edited:

  • A series of pamphlets introducing WAC practices to the faculty: “Informal Writing,” “Responding to Student Writing,” “Effective Writing Assignments,” “Peer Review,” and “Writing in Stages.” Next on the agenda: pamphlets on the research paper and on using technology to teach writing.
  • An article entitled “Assessing Assessment: A Self-Critique,” which was written jointly by six Fellows and has been accepted for publication.
  • A faculty handbook called the WAC Survival Guide. * Resource materials for the Learning Center website regarding writing, peer editing, etc.
  • Telling Our Stories, an annual publication of personal essays submitted by freshmen after reading the same autobiography for Freshman Comp. Each fall, a first-year Fellow directs this project, working with the Director of Freshman English.
  • We are current developing materials intended to motivate students to care about good writing. FACULTY DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOPS
  • Day-long workshops: The Fellows work in pairs to develop and run four annual all-day workshops for full-time and long-term faculty. Basic = designing assignments, responding to student writing Advanced I = research papers Advanced II = writing to learn
  • Three-day seminar: Two Fellows teach a three-day faculty seminar during the first week of June that covers the above topics. Incoming Fellows are invited to take the seminar.
  • Drop-in clinic (for faculty) on student writing on Faculty Day.
  • Ad hoc workshops: These may run from one to four hours. Fellows are invited to tailor presentations for events such as New Faculty Orientation, a faculty seminar on Generation 1.5 (a variation of ESL), and group meetings of faculty teaching the same Core courses.

INDIVIDUAL PROJECTS

Projects can be tailored or created to further Fellows’ interests. Our goal is to find situations in which Fellows’ interests, experience, and talents are matched to specific programs. Some Fellows prefer to develop writing materials for their own fields; other Fellows have found it particularly fulfilling to work in fields far removed from their specialties. At the start of each semester the Fellows and the coordinators review short- and long-term requests from individuals, programs, and departments to determine which projects are viable and how many we can handle; Fellows then divide up the work among themselves. Typical projects include:

  • Working with those departments that offer or wish to offer writing-intensive majors. Priority is given to courses and majors undergoing changes so that WAC practices may be instilled within the curricula and department culture.
  • Designing and presenting student writing workshops on thesis statements, summary techniques, transitions between paragraphs, and using proper citation and appropriate diction.
  • Creating guide sheets for peer review of specific assignments.
  • Presenting a workshop for a contingent of Core teachers on how to devise assignments that minimize plagiarism.

WRITING FELLOW PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

This aspect of the program depends on what the Fellows want to do together or separately.

Mentoring: During the early part of the fall semester, the second-year Fellows and the coordinators introduce the new Fellows to WAC theory and practice and to some canonical WAC articles. First-year Fellows are paired with second-year Fellows in their first-semester dealings with faculty until they feel confident about working alone. Graduate Student Concerns: We also talk about issues of concern to advanced graduate students, such as job interviews, the dissertation defense, and teaching portfolios. Professional Skills: Because a knowledge of Outcomes Assessment is an asset on an academic resume, we provide a basic introduction to O.A. Guest Speakers: Guest speakers make presentations at Fellows’ meetings; these have included:

  • Specialists in teaching writing to ESL students.
  • A nationally known specialist in Learning Communities (specifically, to discuss how to structure peer group sessions).
  • An expert on Refworks and other software that facilitates citation of sources.

INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Fellows attend meetings with groups of faculty, department chairs, and other administrators to discuss WAC practices. Fellows help individual faculty members and departments create and revise writing-intensive courses and majors. When the writing-intensive requirement was redesigned, two interested Fellows attended meetings with the Provost, the Undergraduate Dean, WAC coordinator and certain committee members. Now Fellows meet with writing-intensive departments to insure coherence in their curriculum.

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