7300: Methods (Weeks 10-12)

So, maybe I’m finally starting to get my head around the concepts of writing research?

In the tenth week of the course the focus was around digital and new media writing research. It was my turn to lead the discussion and after reading through the articles one main concept stood out so clearly: the concept of ethics in research.  The relationship between ethics and academic research was prominent in the readings so I made it a topic of our class discussion. Also of particular interest this week was the Gries article on “Iconographic Tracking: A Digital Research Method for Visual Rhetoric and Circulation Studies”. This article also had an underlying current of ethics as well as the questions of how and why the experience of writing, specifically writing for undergraduate students, is changing.  As leaders in the field it is important we’re aware of these changes and adapt teaching strategies to meet the needs of students not only so they are successful in academic writing but also well equipped to meet the demands of jobs in a global economy.

Week 11 was also my week to lead (along with another student) and the focus for this week was on research in the classroom. The central questions were: What is classroom research and why does it matter?  The idea of learning as a connected conversation was one of my key take-aways. I find this to be consistent with rhetorical themes–everything is connected. If we can teach students to look for connections and patterns in their thoughts and in the concepts they’re learning then the process of writing becomes easier and not so overwhelming. In making connections thoughts are organized and when thoughts are in order then communication, specifically writing, becomes a less daunting process to a “non-writer.” This idea of connections and looking for relationships is a key take-away and one I hope to bring to an undergraduate classroom.

There are so many students in this class who are involved or employed at the UALR Writing Center and they bring such a wealth of experience and a richness and depth to our class discussions. Week 12 was focused on Writing Program Research. One key take-away this week was in the Douglass Hesse article “Writing Program Research: Three Analytic Axes” where he looked at writing programs comprehensively and then looked at individual results of students.  I found this an interesting approach to the research because I probably wouldn’t have thought to combine these areas. By doing so the research presented was holistic and comprehensive.  One other interesting concept was found on page 145 of the text when Hesse states his motivation for the project, “The motivation for this study was instrumental. I had no particular desire to know the number and pattern of errors among Denver students, but I was interested in shifting campus conversations about writing to more productive terms.” This statement tells me that Hesse was considering his audience as he researched. He wanted to have a productive conversation with others on his campus and knew that to do so it would involve more than reporting numbers and/or patterns. He wanted to know the why behind the how so he could engage with his contemporaries in a meaningful dialog.  This made me think again about the rhetorical connections we must make if we are to engage in meaningful dialog, change, and teaching.

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