MIWE Follow-up Meeting – October 2014
General paraphrased responses from MIWE 2014 participants.
Now offers several informal writing assignments and a formal writing assignment. Her students do reading responses and free writes in class. The student reaction has been neutral; they complain about lesson plans as usual, not the extra writing. They said that they have been told for years that reflection is important, but until she made it clear, they never knew why.
The MIWE class was more impactful than she had imagined. Rather than let students go from class early like she used to, she now puts practice exam questions on the board. She provides feedback to their answers, but doesn’t grade anyone’s work. No one failed the first exam.
She also teaches a graduate class online and implemented some MIWE-like activities, including a journal and discussion board. She is a huge fan of Black Board journals. She polled her class and found that journals and discussion boards are the students’ preferences.
Although her MIWE class isn’t until the spring, she has been practicing on freshman landscape architecture students to introduce small writing tasks where there has traditionally been no writing. She asks for short one-liner written responses when they come into class, and then assembles them into groups to discuss the responses. Students pick the best response, and someone shares it with the class. Now she enjoys much better in-class discussion.
She also found a solution for students using their phones from their laps during class. She identifies web sites related to the class lecture before coming to class, and when she sees a student texting, she calls on him to come to the front of the class, google the web site, and explain it to the class.
She has always had some reading reflection assignments, and now she’s asking specific questions to direct their reflections. Like Rich used during MIWE, she’s having students identify 3 quotes from the text that speak to them and then explain why they agree, disagree, are bothered by, etc. Previously, she got written summaries of what they read, and now she’s seeing evidence of deeper thought. Plus, she’s found that the reflections make it easier to get to know her students and put personalities with the faces she sees in classes.
Amy admitted to implementing MIWE techniques in her other classes because “once you find something that works, you want to keep using it.”
When instructors talk, students look half-asleep. Now he asks students to pull out a pencil and paper and write a response, then pass the response to their neighbor. Based on the responses, he can customize the lecture to either pull back if they’re less familiar or to provide deeper lesson. Having these free writes and informal writing in the classroom helps him know what students are thinking. “You will not believe it.” He’s always offered an extra credit written assignment, and after implementing writing to learn strategies, the number of completers have increased 25% (out of 200 students or more). He likes the changes so much that he’s going to keep experimenting.
She offers two informal writing assignments, including reading reflections. She had Chelsea come in and talk about how to improve writing. She hadn’t realized how deep their thoughts were, and not always the best students were the best thinkers. Writing has helped the good ones improve their content. Fashion students tell her that they have never had to write before.
Used to have 3 exams and 2 written projects (a lesson plan and a research paper). He took out 2 exams, but kept the final. Now he has 10 writing assignments – 1 a week for the first 10 weeks. They can devote the rest of the semester to the two formal written assignments. First paper demonstrated terrible grammar, but writing has improved with more practice. He is worried that his class feels less fun and that it seems too academic. He’s not getting pushback from students though.
One of his 10 writing assignments was a mini-research paper, and he discovered that students have very little experience citing sources. Now that they’ve worked out some of those details, he’s more confident about their major research paper at the end of the semester. Although he’s still very concerned that the writing has dampened the fun-ness in the classroom, he does admit that students are learning what he wants them to know at a deeper level.
She led off by explaining that when the writing strategies don’t work, then she’s crushed. But she can tell that writing-to-learn is working really well. She is seeing big improvements in grammar and writing. Now she’s careful to always assign a role, audience, and specifics in her writing assignments. Now students see how important their professional credibility is at stake with their writing.
She has also introduced microthemes that feature the readings from the class. She asks students to pretend they are answering a column to respond to a letter from the general public. Previously, she felt that students were “intellectually deferential” to the material and everything that’s been written is the truth. The microthemes are helping students draw out the differences among the communication theories. Sadly, she feels that writing-to-learn is not helping the students who are struggling, but helping good students learn more.