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Chaparral 2015-2016: 24.1 Engagement, Innovation, and Retention

Engagement, Innovation, and Retention: Writing Across the Curriculum at GCC (September 2015)

Engagement, Innovation, and Retention: Writing Across the Curriculum at GCC

By Reid Kerr and Robyn Fishman

WAC is back!

Writing Across the Curriculum was created with one key goal in mind: to collaborate across disciplines to support and enhance student writing at GCC.

Writing is a complex act. It is necessary in every aspect of our students’ careers - in and out of the classroom. The challenge we face, in any discipline, is how to acknowledge the wide-range of personal, cultural, and educational contexts each student is coming from and still make sure they can communicate the key concepts of our respective fields. In a world of full teaching-loads, busy semesters, and an ever-increasing emphasis on assessment, how do we incorporate such a core aspect of our students’ education? More specifically, how can writing assignments increase student engagement and retention in our courses?

These are all questions that we can consider together through WAC.

  • What counts as knowledge in your discipline, and what does that look like when it comes to writing?
  • What do we privilege and value in a piece of writing?
  • What kinds of outcomes do we hope students achieve as they move through a writing project?
  • What kind of preparation do students come away with when they leave GCC?

While we may want to ignore them, these kinds of questions will not go away. Instead of walking away from this discussion, we should concentrate on addressing them. In this way, we can intensify the very nature of communication students have at GCC. Writing must now be more democratized. How will we make writing effective not just for our own fields but enable students to communicate effectively in contexts beyond our college?

Traditionally, WAC has centered around professional development, supporting the pedagogy of “writing-to-learn” and fostering campus environments that see writing as an interdisciplinary foundation of students’ coursework. That means we’re all in this together!

Writing can become a source of empowerment or an important way for students to see their own connections to our subject areas made visible and concrete. It is challenging work for students and for us, but the rewards are worth it. When students write, they develop (and hopefully find) a voice that fosters ownership of learning and a set of skills that sometimes get neglected: critical thinking, adaptability, managing priorities, making decisions, problem solving, and developing ideas of value. Writing is an important access point. For students who normally find themselves outside of traditional understandings of “what education is,” writing can offer more ownership over their learning process.

This fall WAC will be sponsoring two series:

  • WAC is Back!: Low-Stakes Writing Assignments and Addressing Audience and Bridging the Gaps: Remixing the Standard Essay.
    WAC is Back!: Low-Stakes Writing Assignments and Addressing Audience
    deals with traditional questions about how to incorporate writing into in-class assignments and emphasize audience - who and what are our students writing for.

  • Bridging the Gaps: Remixing the Standard Essay will deal with remixing and repurposing a writing assignment into a different “text” or mode. We know that our students are coming to us unprepared. This is not a secret. The traditional writing format can be exclusive and elusive. To this end we say, not necessarily. Smaller bite-sized projects or re-imagined reframing of an original writing assignment can go a long way towards teaching students how to develop analysis, frame an argument, or present an idea. These projects empower students and provide an alternate way to be successful in your classes.

Please mark your calendars for either:

WAC is Back!: Low-Stakes Writing Assignments and Addressing Audience:
October 19 and October 26


Bridging the Gaps: Remixing the Standard Essay:
November 2, November 9, November 16

Not ready to come to a workshop? Come tell us what you do need. We want to find out and make this part of the WAC programming for the spring. We are having sounding board sessions on Monday, October 12 and Thursday, October 15 in SG 139. Come and bring your thoughts, ideas, and challenges.

Let’s open up some important and necessary cross-disciplinary conversations. We’ll collaborate together, talk out our challenges, share what we know, and develop innovations.

We look forward to working with you all.

- Reid and Robyn

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