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Connectivity—Conveying Connections Between Writing Assignments and Course Goals A gtPathways Writing Workshop Nina Ehrlich, History Sue Doe, English.

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Presentation on theme: "Connectivity—Conveying Connections Between Writing Assignments and Course Goals A gtPathways Writing Workshop Nina Ehrlich, History Sue Doe, English."— Presentation transcript:

1 Connectivity—Conveying Connections Between Writing Assignments and Course Goals A gtPathways Writing Workshop Nina Ehrlich, History Sue Doe, English

2 Kate Chanock*—Sample Assignment “Discuss the emergence of urban centers in West Africa and the challenge they pose to conventional accounts of the dynamics underlying the rise of complex societies.” What are the challenges of this question? How would you expect a student to proceed with this question? *Chanock, Kate. “A Shared Focus for WAC, Writing Tutors and EAP: Identifying the Academic Purposes in Writing Across the Curriculum. “ The WAC Journal. Viewable at wac.colostate.edu/journal/vol15/chanock.pdf

3 Chanock’s Observation “The question is linguistically complex, with a number of embedded ideas to be teased out and, importantly, they must be teased out in the opposite order to that in which they appear.”

4 Excerpt from Chanock’s “A Shared Focus”*

5 How would a student “attack” this question? In his recent works, Norman Yoffee has highlighted the limitations of neoevolutionary theory, with particular emphasis on the ‘chiefdom’ concept. Do you agree with Yoffee’s criticism? Are there any problems with the alternative model he proposes?

6 Drawing Connections This can be broken down by means of questions that call on the student’s overall grasp of the course, alternating with questions that lead the student back to the course materials to search for relevant clues and resources. What is neoevolutionary theory? What are the questions in archeology that it tries to answer? Does it challenge or replace an earlier theory? Has it been challenged by later theory? Taking the student back to his or her materials, ask, “’Where has this theory been dealt with in the course? What did the professor tell you about it and what have you read?”

7 Review the Syllabus/Course Description What central course goals are described by the syllabus? Are these goals descriptive? Analytic? Synthetic? Historical? What will students know at the end of the course that they didn’t know at the beginning? How are the course goals distributed among the part of the course and associated assignments?

8 Review the Writing Assignment What are the goals? How do they connect to unit and or course goals? What tasks are students asked to accomplish? What strategies for developing the paper are stated, implied, or embedded in the assignment? What priorities of writing are indicated by the assignment? Are students writing a source-based paper? If so, how are sources to be used or integrated? Does the use of sources reflect course and programmatic priorities?

9 Examine the following example In general, how CLEARLY is the assignment connected to the goals of the course? Where might students run into trouble?

10 Course Description and Objectives: This course will survey the major political, cultural and social developments of European history from the dawn of civilization through the religious reformations of the sixteenth century. Major themes to be examined include the role of geography and the environment on the development of societies and cultures, the interaction of culture and politics, and the importance of religion throughout the period.

11 Paper Option 1: 100 points. There will be a choice of one of two 5-page paper topics. The first paper option examines the creation of the Roman Empire based upon Tacitus’ Agricola and Germany and primary source documents in Augustus and the Creation of the Roman Empire. The second paper examines the causes and consequences of the Black Death, as discussed in Herlihy’s The Black Death and the Making of the West, Samuel K. Cohn’s “The Black Death: End of a Paradigm” (http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/ahr/107.3/ah html), and primary source documents in The Black Death: the Great Morality of Students may also elect to write both papers; the higher of the two scores will be applied to your grade. Note: all four books are required reading for purposes of the midterm and final.http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/ahr/107.3/ah html

12 More Information on the Paper Papers will be graded on content, form, and grammar. Please make sure that your paper is well written. Your paper should have a strong argument(s) or thesis statement written in response to all parts of the questions. Your argument(s) should be well-supported with examples from the text and the primary sources published in Aberth and cited in either footnotes or endnotes. For this analysis, it will be necessary to quote the work of Herlihy or Cohn directly more than you would normally quote a secondary source for a typical research paper.

13 Develop Deepened Teaching Awareness In general, how CLEARLY is the assignment connected to the goals of the course? Where might students run into trouble? How might we anticipate this trouble and reduce its likelihood? How might we help? Perhaps through a supplemental handout that helps students learn how to make connections? See example that follows

14 Connectivity Document for HI151 Students of Western Civilization, You have read and learned about the development of civilizations, from sparse bands of Paleolithic peoples all the way to the vast Roman Empire. One of the goals of our course is to “survey major political, cultural, and social developments of European history,” and we have traced these in the broadest sense for a period of many thousands of years. It is useful in these sweeping survey classes to gain a sense not only of the breadth of civilizations that have occurred throughout history, but also to examine some of them in depth. Your task for paper one is to probe more deeply into the Roman Empire.

15 Helping Students Develop Habits of Mind A connectivity document like the example makes the connections between course and assignment explicit Such a document requires the writer to consider his/her audience. What are that audience’s needs? What are the pros and cons of providing such a document? What might be some strategies for using such a document?

16 Questions as Habits of Mind: Students Need to Learn to Ask How does the essay question relate to the overall goals of the course? What ARE the overall concerns of the course? And how can I find this out if I don’t know? Generally speaking, how might I examine the syllabus for themes, sequences, key questions within the design of the course as published?

17 Analyze a Special Sample Syllabus and a Particular Assignment What are the connections between this course syllabus and the writing assignment? What ARE the goals for this assignment? Where do you imagine a student going in the course materials to understand the connections between the assignment and the course goals? Are the connections to course goals clear enough? Are students able to make the connections by themselves?

18 Instructors: Use This Heuristic to Design Assignments that Connect to Course Goals What are the goals of this assignment? How do these assignment goals connect to learning unit and course goals? Assignment Goals: Learning Unit Goals: Course Goals: What priorities of writing are indicated by the assignment? Are these priorities an accurate reflection of course and programmatic goals? What tasks are students asked to accomplish? Are these tasks explicitly stated or implied? Are the tasks appropriate for the assignment and course goals? What kinds of thinking assumptions are embedded in this assignment? What strategies for developing the paper are stated or implied by the assignment? How do these development strategies reflect larger approaches to the use of evidence in this discipline? Are students writing a source-based paper? If so, how are sources to be used or integrated? Does the use of sources reflect course and programmatic priorities?


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