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A Decade of War: Institutional and Civic Responsibilities to "Warrior Writers" in the College Writing Classroom Alexis Hart and Roger Thompson Virginia.

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Presentation on theme: "A Decade of War: Institutional and Civic Responsibilities to "Warrior Writers" in the College Writing Classroom Alexis Hart and Roger Thompson Virginia."— Presentation transcript:

1 A Decade of War: Institutional and Civic Responsibilities to "Warrior Writers" in the College Writing Classroom Alexis Hart and Roger Thompson Virginia Military Institute

2 Personal Context

3 Professional Context Veteran Student Demographics “‘military undergraduates’ [represent] approximately 4% of undergraduate students nationwide… a significant minority population on college and university campuses” (Bonar and Domenici 2011). Marilyn Valentino’s 2010 CCCC’s Chair’s Address “Last fall, with the post-9/11 GI Bill in effect, our institutions welcomed nearly five hundred thousand veterans, back from one or two or three tours of duty. That's an increase of 30 percent in just one year….How does this new group affect the ecology of our classes? As teachers of writing, we know we are often their first point of contact…. [therefore, we] have an ethical obligation to react responsibly.”

4 Local Context Virginia: “America’s Most Veteran Friendly State” In an address to the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations, and joined by veteran and Virginia National Guard leaders, Governor Bob McDonnell announced… legislative and administrative initiatives to continue his effort to make Virginia the most veteran-friendly state in America. Speaking about the military and veterans legislation for the 2012 General Assembly Session, Governor McDonnell said, "The one in 8 Virginians who serve or have served in the armed forces deserve our eternal thanks for putting themselves in harm's way to protect our freedom. They serve Virginia. Virginia must serve them.” https://www.governor.virginia.gov/news/viewRelease.cfm?id=1080

5 Our Research Question Given the significant number of Post-9/11 veterans enrolling in 2- and 4-year colleges and universities in the United States, and given the strong likelihood that these veteran students will be taking required writing classes (classes that tend to have low enrollment caps and high teacher-student and student-student interaction), what pedagogical approaches should Writing Program Administrators and teachers of writing consider in order to fulfill our “ethical obligation to react responsibly” to this student population?

6 Initial Survey Produced online via SurveyMonkey Sent to ~1500 personal addresses drawn from CCCC’s participant list (thanks to Carrie Leverenz) Sent via professional list-servs (e.g. WPA, tech-rhet, attw-l, NCTE two-year college interest group, etc.) Respondents were self-selected 4 sections, 30 questions total Total Started Survey: 497 Total Completed Survey: 439 (88.3%)

7 Survey Results

8 NO 401 respondents (92%) Yes 35 respondents (8%)

9 Challenges--General “--absences due to VA appointments --absences due to reservists' training --absences due to injuries resurfacing” “--absences due to VA appointments --absences due to reservists' training --absences due to injuries resurfacing” “Veterans are often uncomfortable around young, traditional college students.” “Veterans are often uncomfortable around young, traditional college students.” “Impatience with other students who come to class unprepared.” “Impatience with other students who come to class unprepared.” “Their expanded worldview is underappreciated by their traditional-aged peers. They also tend to be more jaded, but also, strangely, fragile.” “Their expanded worldview is underappreciated by their traditional-aged peers. They also tend to be more jaded, but also, strangely, fragile.” “teachers [feel] uncertain how to [create] a classroom environment that [fosters] both respect for veterans' experiences and discussion welcoming a range of viewpoints on issues related to war.” “teachers [feel] uncertain how to [create] a classroom environment that [fosters] both respect for veterans' experiences and discussion welcoming a range of viewpoints on issues related to war.”

10 Challenges--Writing Many veterans “have had long gaps between writing tasks, which can be both positive and negative in that they start fresh, but also a detriment in that the anxiety level can be higher.” Many veterans “have had long gaps between writing tasks, which can be both positive and negative in that they start fresh, but also a detriment in that the anxiety level can be higher.” Many veterans were “underprepared for academic learning before they entered the military (i.e., they were academically at-risk at the end of high school). They have maturity and discipline, but they often need significant support to prepare for, enroll in, and successfully complete degree-credit writing courses.” Many veterans were “underprepared for academic learning before they entered the military (i.e., they were academically at-risk at the end of high school). They have maturity and discipline, but they often need significant support to prepare for, enroll in, and successfully complete degree-credit writing courses.” “Many [veterans] are used to writing military reports and are often unwilling to write more than a few sentences on topics.” “Many [veterans] are used to writing military reports and are often unwilling to write more than a few sentences on topics.” “lack of basic research skills” “lack of basic research skills” “Some [veterans] have a problem with sharing writing with other students, others find the open atmosphere of the writing classroom challenging” “Some [veterans] have a problem with sharing writing with other students, others find the open atmosphere of the writing classroom challenging”

11 Advantages--General Veterans “bring a considerable amount of experience to classroom learning and contribute to class discussions in powerful ways.” Veterans “bring a considerable amount of experience to classroom learning and contribute to class discussions in powerful ways.” Veterans “bring discipline, strong work ethics, and respect for authority to the class.” Veterans “bring discipline, strong work ethics, and respect for authority to the class.” Veterans “understand that doing well is a result of hard work. This sets a great precedent in the classroom as far as work ethic goes. The self-motivation is contagious.” Veterans “understand that doing well is a result of hard work. This sets a great precedent in the classroom as far as work ethic goes. The self-motivation is contagious.” Veterans “are often serious students, mature, and come with a deeper and wider understand of the world and its perils than typical undergraduates. Quite often they assume leadership roles in the classroom.” Veterans “are often serious students, mature, and come with a deeper and wider understand of the world and its perils than typical undergraduates. Quite often they assume leadership roles in the classroom.” “Veteran students contribute a rich perspective to classroom discussions of all kinds of topics, not just war-related ones.” “Veteran students contribute a rich perspective to classroom discussions of all kinds of topics, not just war-related ones.”

12 Advantages--Writing “I've found [veterans’] writing to have more depth than many typical non-veteran students.” “I've found [veterans’] writing to have more depth than many typical non-veteran students.” “Having students who have experienced difficulty and potentially traumatic events brings a level of reality and weight to the work we do.” “Having students who have experienced difficulty and potentially traumatic events brings a level of reality and weight to the work we do.” Veterans “are typically more engaged and advanced critical thinkers than other students.” Veterans “are typically more engaged and advanced critical thinkers than other students.” “I find most [veterans] (men and women) to be above-average to exceptional writers.” “I find most [veterans] (men and women) to be above-average to exceptional writers.” Veterans are “able to take, and even welcome, criticism much easier than other students.” Veterans are “able to take, and even welcome, criticism much easier than other students.” Many veteran students “research things that personally affect them or their personal circle, such as discrimination despite military service, PTSD, transparent war expenditures, or policies such as the Patriot Act. Their contacts often facilitate strong interviews and surveys to include within their research papers.” Many veteran students “research things that personally affect them or their personal circle, such as discrimination despite military service, PTSD, transparent war expenditures, or policies such as the Patriot Act. Their contacts often facilitate strong interviews and surveys to include within their research papers.”

13 Follow-up Site Visits and Interviews

14 Insights and Ongoing Questions Veteran students needs and services are institutionally specific Can we generalize a set of “best practices”? Do schools in Virginia bear any special responsibilities given the Governor’s desire for our state to be the most “veteran friendly”? Many veteran students fulfill their college writing requirements online or at two-year colleges Should special practices or oversight be in place for those sites of writing instruction? The number of veteran students in upper-level undergraduate writing courses is relatively low Is this a function of veteran career tracks after service or some other feature of higher education?

15 Insights and Ongoing Questions Writing Centers do not track veteran students What could Writing Centers and veterans gain by tracking? Veterans appear to be reluctant to seek additional help How can faculty work to counterbalance the military mindset? College credits for work experiences Should colleges give veterans writing credit for military writing experiences? Faculty training is still relatively limited What explains the lack of faculty training at colleges and universities with high veteran enrollments?

16 Veterans’ Only Classes? “Many of these classes have focused on areas where students draw from their experiences for the work, such as composition or speech, but they're less common elsewhere “Many of these classes have focused on areas where students draw from their experiences for the work, such as composition or speech, but they're less common elsewhere.” -- Inside Higher Ed, January 2012 Demand—too little or too much SustainabilityBudgets Isolation or Assimilation? “Boots to Books” Transition Classes

17 Discussion

18 Thank You


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