"Good learners, like everyone else, are living, squirming, questioning, perceiving, fearing, loving, and languaging nervous systems, but they are good learners precisely because they believe and do certain things that less effective learners do not believe and do." -Postman and Weingartner (31)
Research on Reflective Writing:
Beginning in Winter 2014, I worked on a research project with Thomas Trimble analyzing assessment data from Fall 2013 ENG 1020 courses to understand how students inscribe reflective process and metacognition. Our article is forthcoming in Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture (2019).
In my dissertation (“Responsive Classroom Ecologies: Supporting Student Inquiry and Rhetorical Awareness in College Writing Courses”), I recommended the development of a reflective exercise students can work through in the early stages of a writing project to understand what rhetorical, genre, and writing process questions they need to ask. I describe these “rhetorical reflections” and the ways two students in my Fall 2016 class used them in a forthcoming article in Composition Forum (2019).
Research on Collaboration:
In the Winter and Fall 2014 semesters, Amy Latawiec and I collected data to research the impact of cross-sequence collaboration and service learning on learning in ENG 1010 and 1020. The study examines community and collaborative practices in one section of Basic Writing (ENG 1010) and one section of Introductory College Writing (ENG 1020). The study draws on research in reflection, community literacy, and collaborative learning to assess student collaboration methods and practices in both the ENG 1010 and ENG 1020 courses. It utilizes teaching strategies developed from literature on reflection (Yancey 1999), collaborative learning (Peck, Flower, and Higgins 1995; Bruffee 1999; Harris 1989) and communities of practice (Wenger 1998). In particular, the study examines whether and how these teaching strategies assist students in developing evaluation and proposal arguments to change and improve their immediate learning spaces (the two composition computer lab classrooms in which these course sections are held). For both ENG 1010 and ENG 1020 students, collaboration of this kind provides students with opportunities to be “agents of their own learning” (Yancey) and to practice the careful negotiation that writers work through during collaboration. Specifically, this course engaged ENG 1010 and ENG 1020 students in researching writing and learning spaces (defined here as any physical space students use to engage in the work that surrounds the writing process: brainstorming, drafting, revision, editing, sharing, etc.) in order to make decisions about redesigning two Wayne State University Composition computer classrooms, State Hall 335 and 337. As students worked to create an improved learning space in these classrooms, they engaged in both service learning and collaborative learning in a context that would impact their future work in these classrooms as well as the work of composition students across the university. In particular, we hoped to engage students in researching and writing about the following questions: What is a positive, rich learning environment? How does environment impact learning? What can we do to enhance our writing/learning environment? While the study presents three research questions, the question that has shifted to the forefront of our writing work is the third one: How do reflective writing assignments designed to make students think about course learning objectives help them understand the ways in which they find collaboration to be an integral part of achieving the course learning objectives?
Research on Inquiry-Based Learning:
In the Fall 2012 semester I collected data for my dissertation, “Responsive Classroom Ecologies: Supporting Student Inquiry and Rhetorical Awareness in College Writing Courses” which I completed in Winter 2014. Here is a description of the study:
This dissertation describes and analyzes the work of a semester-long teacher research study of inquiry-based and reflective teaching and learning strategies and their impact on students’ preparation for future learning. I explore relevant scholarship on knowledge transfer, classroom ecologies, and student agency to set the stage for a discussion of several pedagogical strategies implemented to support students’ development of inquiry and responsible rhetorical agency. Data analysis highlights three major arguments: first, that alternative pedagogical approaches like an inquiry approach take careful classroom construction and explicit teacher feedback, though it may seem counterintuitive to the politics behind these progressive approaches, which often de-center teacher authority and privilege student choice; second, that revisions to the first-year composition curriculum at Urban University can better support students’ development of rhetorical identities and responsible agency; and third, that attention to the physical spaces of the classroom is integral to both our studies of transfer and our work with students on the development of rhetorical awareness.
Data collection for the project included field notes, students’ formal and informal writing, and audio tapes of class sessions.