Moving GSI Training Online

WRITING 993, one of Sweetland’s graduate courses, presents an interesting challenge every fall and winter term. The class is a one-credit theory and practice course on teaching writing in the disciplines that supports GSIs serving in one of the university’s Upper-Level Writing Requirement courses for the first time. Since the ULWR is taught in thirty-five departments across the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, WRITING 993 is regularly populated with GSIs from over twenty different departments. How do you effectively support new teachers working with such a broad array of student writing?

To answer that question, a working group (comprised of Louis Cicciarelli, Naomi Silver, and Dana Nichols) redesigned the course to address a few key question. How do we provide writing pedagogy materials that are useful and relevant to a variety of disciplines? How can we provide that material in a timely manner, both for the GSI who begins grading at mid-term and the GSI who begins grading in week one? How can we meet those goals while constructing a learning environment that offers GSIs the opportunity to create community? And, most critically, how can we make it all happen within a one-credit short course?

Challenges are opportunities because they compel us to get creative. After some research, the group settled on a hybrid course that would combine a familiar course tool, the blog, with a new tool—online course modules. The WRITING 993 course website presents all of the class materials in the form of seven online modules which cover student writing-related topics such as responding and grading, addressing student linguistic diversity, guiding students through the writing process, and dealing with issues of academic honesty. Additionally, the course website is home to the course blog, which hosts conversations on the various issues presented in the online modules. The richness of the online content is paired with six one-hour class meetings, and an individual or small group meeting with the instructor.

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Thus far, it appears that the new course format has built on previous strengths while offering new opportunities for engagement and learning. We are looking forward to seeing how the course continues to develop in the future, and exploring how the lessons we learned while redesigning WRITING 993 can be applied to other pedagogical challenges.