A new Sweetland course: “Teaching Writing”

Last winter, Sweetland offered a new course directed at graduate students in the School of Education’s MAC program. This intensive degree program awards students a Master of Arts in Educational Studies along with Secondary Teacher Certification in Michigan. Writing 430, “Teaching Writing,” satisfied a cognate requirement for the dozen students who enrolled. For the duration of the course, these students were also assuming more responsibilities in the various classrooms where they were completing their student teaching assignments. Writing 430 was piloted by Anne Gere and Tim Hedges, and this team-teaching approach led to an engaging and productive classroom dynamic in which students received a great deal of attention and feedback.

Because students were involved in a variety of disciplines—biology, chemistry, history, math, and English—conversations about writing often developed in unexpected and informative ways. The class became an open forum for students (and instructors) to share the challenges they faced in their attempts to integrate writing into their curricula. Students engaged in a range of writing tasks designed to get them to think critically about audience and the various relationships they would develop as teachers. They wrote to students, parents, administrators, colleagues, and the general public. They maintained individual blogs and created an online community that allowed for the exchange of ideas beyond class time. The course also invited several area high school teachers to Skype with students as a way to share further strategies about productive pedagogical practices related to writing instruction.

After the initial pilot run, the course has been revised, and it will be offered again in Winter 2014.

Beyond Plagiarism

On U-M’s campus, according to the LSA Office of Student Academic Affairs, 112 cases of plagiarism in writing were reported from September 2009 to December 2010 (the most recent dates available), and plagiarism constituted the greatest proportion of reports of academic dishonesty (as compared to 51 reported instances of cheating on an exam during this period). Meanwhile, the Citation Project – a multi-university study of college students’ textual citation practices – reports that a majority of students avoid complex engagement with source materials in their writing, using brief quotations or paraphrases from the first page or two of a source text to “back up” an already formulated idea, rather than engaging source content as a means of deepening their own thinking about a topic or entering a scholarly conversation. Stemming from an inadequate understanding of the source materials themselves and inadequate instruction in good source selection and ways of integrating longer source excerpts into writing, in worst-case scenarios students’ lack of knowledge about the use of sources can lead them to engage in patch-writing (paraphrase that relies too closely on the source text) or even plagiarism in the form of unattributed quotations and concepts.

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For their part, faculty, too, are often unaware of their students’ lack of understanding of citation and source integration practices, as well as effective methods for teaching these strategies. As a result, faculty tend to respond primarily when things go wrong – when they suspect student plagiarism, for instance – leading to fears of unchecked academic dishonesty and a “law and order” approach to student error with sources. By focusing on catching plagiarism and enforcing penalties, as opposed to drawing on long-term pedagogical strategies to teach students how to incorporate other voices into their own writing, this approach runs counter to much current research about student writing development that understands patterns such as patch-writing to represent students’ attempts to master unfamiliar discourses and synthesize them in their own writing. This research distinguishes between deliberate and unintentional plagiarism, and proposes treating the latter as a pedagogical opportunity rather than an occasion for punishment, as in this Statement on Best Practices from the Council of Writing Program Administrators.

As a means to help address these problems on the U-M campus – and to raise awareness of patterns in student writing development – Sweetland and the University Library began a collaboration last spring to create customizable lesson plans that faculty could incorporate into their courses as well as instructional resources for teaching academic integrity and the complex, responsible use of research sources. Titled Beyond Plagiarism: Best Practices for the Responsible Use of Sources, and funded by a New Initiatives/New Infrastructures grant from LSA Instructional Support Services, this project began development in WordPress and CTools over the summer with a team of graduate students from English, American Culture, and the School of Information; technical support from MLibrary instructional technology; and faculty and librarians from Sweetland and the Library. We recently did usability testing with several undergraduate students on the first completed module and accompanying CTools practice quiz focused on working with primary and secondary sources, and we debuted some of our materials in a series of 34 workshops the LSA Student Honor Council ran in October for all students enrolled in the First-Year Writing Requirement classes English 124 and 125. The website, currently in beta form, will be ready for use in your courses soon. Stay tuned!

Sweetland Graduate Writing Groups

The Graduate Writing Groups, a Sweetland program underwritten by the Rackham Graduate School, were initiated in their current form in the 2011-2012 academic year. These groups provide support for graduate students writing their Doctoral dissertations and Master’s theses. Graduate students apply each semester to be group leaders or participants, and leaders receive training and mentorship from Sweetland faculty along with a small stipend. Internal data show that participation in the graduate writing groups leads to faster degree completion.


Photo_LouisCicciarelliLouis Cicciarelli
, a Sweetland faculty and group-leader trainer and mentor, notes that participants “bring a kind of generosity in their approach to group members’ work, a caring critical eye and a human concern for the work that can buoy writers through the often isolating writing process.”

Students, in their evaluations for the groups, confirm that the experience enhances their writing confidence and productivity. Furthermore, students say that the groups provide support, helping them to establish peer relationships that continue well beyond the time of the coordinated groups.

A central aspect of the groups is pairing people by stage of writing rather than by field of study. Participants seem to appreciate this strategy. One participant, for example, commented that “The multidisciplinary composition of the group has proven tremendously successful. We are able to comment on how someone from outside our field might respond to the work, including, for example, identifying word choices that may be ‘jargon’ or ambiguous to an outside reader. We are able to discuss intricacies of tone or meaning at the sentence level.”

The benefits for the students participating in the groups, however, are not limited to productivity and support. Participation in the groups stresses the collaborative aspect of writing and the importance of the revision process. Students’ constant engagement in peer review allows for an increased awareness of writing for an academic audience. One participant’s evaluation, for example, attests that group members “have discussed and agreed that a benefit of this writing group model is the luxury of having someone smart read a draft and help the writer fine-tune in a way our committee members, due to time constraints, cannot.” Participation also enhances self-reflection, preparing graduate students to become active contributors in their academic field.

Applications for the Graduate Writing Groups are increasing, reaching a record number of 57 in the Fall semester 2013. Students come from a very diverse pool of departments and programs. The disciplines most represented in the application pool were psychology, natural resources, political science, and anthropology, as well as several language departments. We have also seen an increase in applications from the sciences and other more quantitative fields, such as physics and economics, which were slightly underrepresented in the past.

Meet Our New Faculty

photo_jingxiaJing Xia received her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from Arizona State University in 2013 and her specialization is second language writing in academic context. Dr. Xia became interested in L2 writing during her graduate studies. At that time, she viewed L2 writing as a sub-branch of Second Language Acquisition and her M.A. thesis focused on the linguistic features of L2 texts generated with different L1 interventions.
In the subsequent years working with Professor Paul Kei Matsuda at Arizona State University, however, the limitation of resolving L2 writing issues in a purely linguistic framework became apparent to her and her dissertation examined invention, a rhetorical choice, in an applied linguistic context. Dr. Xia has extensive experiences working with different language learner populations as well as pre-service ESL teachers. Here at Sweetland she particularly enjoys helping multilingual students to realize the importance of rhetorical strategies in verbal and written communication.

photo_karenmcconnellKaren McConnell recently earned her Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan, where she taught 100- and 200-level writing courses and poetry. In addition to Writing Workshop, Karen is currently teaching EN124 and EN125 for the English Department Writing Program. Her research focuses on the persistence of radical religion in Romantic literature, particularly within Scottish poetry and novels. She is excited to join Sweetland!

photo_lorirandallLori Randall recently finished her Ph.D. in ESL (English as a Second Language) Teacher Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While at Madison, she taught professional development seminars designed to prepare preservice teacher candidates to work successfully with English Language Learners in the mainstream secondary-level English, math, science, and social studies classroom. She has also taught German at the post-secondary and continuing education levels, composition at the post-secondary level, and a range of ESL courses at the secondary and post-secondary levels.

As teaching is her primary passion, it is no surprise that her research interests focus on the development of a better understanding not only of effective practices in ESL teacher preparation but also of students’ learning needs. In particular, she is interested in enhancing her understanding of the literacy and language-learning needs of English Language Learners in the STEM fields at both the secondary- and post-secondary levels.

photo_angelaberkleyAngie Berkley earned her Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan in 2012. Her research investigates the relationships between literary realism and naturalism and the visual cultures of late-nineteenth century America. Since beginning her graduate studies in 2004, Angie has taught a variety of developmental, first-year and upper-level writing courses at Michigan, as well as several courses in post-1865 American literature. Currently a lecturer in the English department as well as at Sweetland, Angie is also teaching English 124 (Literature and Writing) and English 270 (Introduction to American Literature) this semester.

Faculty and Staff Awards

photo_paulbarron-u4104-frPaul Barron was awarded the LSA Excellence in Education Award. This award recognizes special efforts in the areas of classroom teaching, curricular innovation, and the supervision of student research, as well as other significant contributions to the quality of the College’s teaching-learning environment.

awards_laura-u4105-frLaura Schuyler was recognized for 20 years of service by the University of Michigan Service Awards Program. The Service Award Program honors those staff who have made a significant career commitment to the University of Michigan.

Faculty Highlights

photo_scottbealScott Beal won a 2014 Pushcart Prize for his poem “Things to Think About.” His poems appeared in Rattle, Muzzle, Union Station, and the anthology UncommonCore. His first book of poems will be published by Dzanc Books in 2014. His chapbook manuscript, The Octopus, was named a finalist for the David Blair Memorial Prize.

photo_timhedgesLast year, Tim Hedges received two Pushcart Prize nominations, one for a short story and one for an essay about teaching. He spent four weeks last spring in Wyoming at the Jentel Artist Residency Program, and he continues to spend his summers teaching at the Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts. His fiction recently appeared in Split Lip magazine.

photo_jamiejonesJamie Jones published an article called “The Moroccan Front” in The New York Times Civil War series, Disunion. The article recounts the role of US-Morocco foreign relations in the American Civil War. This fall, she also participated as a discussant at the International Institute’s Symposium on Island Studies: “What is the Future for Islands?” Last summer, she began working with a research team at the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee to develop resources for college instructors who wish to teach American literature alongside material objects and artifacts from U.S. history.

photo_brandolinoginaGina Brandolino’s essay “God’s Gluttons: Middle English Devotional Texts, Interiority, and Indulgence” was published in the Summer 2013 issue of Studies in Philology.

photo_juliebabcockJulie Babcock’s poetry appeared or is forthcoming in Plume, h_ngm_n, Gingerbread House, and the forthcoming anthology Feast from Black Lawrence Press. Her manuscript Autoplay was a finalist with BatCat Press, and her poetry reviews appeared in Rain Taxi and The Collagist. This summer she helped examine and refine the standards for Sweetland’s Minor in Writing Program.

photo_lilanaydanLila Naydan collaborated to present “Castles in the Sand: Building Communities in Times of Change” at the 2012 International Writing Centers Association Conference; two workshops at the 2012 National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing; and “What Difference Does Disciplinarity Make in First-Year Writing?” at the Fall 2013 EDWP Colloquium.

photo_simonesessoloSimone Sessolo presented his research at the symposium “The Future of Writing Centers,” at the University of Texas at Austin in February. He recently submitted an article version of his presentation, “Violence in the Writing Center,” to The Writing Center Journal.

photo_raymcdanielRaymond McDaniel presented a paper at the Associated Writing Programs Conference in Boston on the role of persona in contemporary poetry. He will also be presenting at this year’s conference in Seattle on the topic of “difficult” writing, and at the International Conference on Narrative at MIT on the topic of genre exhaustion and illustration in the work of Hiroaki Samura.

photo_paulbarronPaul Barron was awarded a 2013 LSA Excellence in Education Award. He also presented at the 2013 Conference on College Composition and Communication in Las Vegas on the Dissertation Writing Institute and serves on the Minor in Writing Committee.

photo_jingxiaJing Xia received her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics at Arizona State University, where she specialized in English as a second/foreign language writing. She joined Sweetland in 2013 fall. She presented a poster at the Technology for Second Language Learning conference in October.

photo_caroltellCarol Tell published a review article, “In Gratitude for all the Gifts: Seamus Heaney and Eastern Europe” in the Irish Studies Review (November 2013). She also had an essay, “Utopia in the New World: Paul Muldoon’s America,” reprinted in Literary Criticism.

photo_louiscicciarelli2Louis Cicciarelli presented “Dissertation Writers and the Value of ‘Not-Knowing’”at the Conference on College Composition and Communication in Las Vegas, NV on March 16, 2013 as part of the session “The Visible Dissertation: Graduate Student as Writer and Programmatic Efforts in the Dissertation Writing Institute” with Paul Barron and Konstantina Karageorgos.

Graduate Student Research Assistants

This summer, Ben Keating began work as a Graduate Student Research Assistant, joining GSRAs Lizzie Hutton and Sarah Swofford in their ongoing involvement with Sweetland’s various research projects.

photo_benkeatingBen Keating’s summer began with a course on survey data analysis and statistics at U-M’s Institute for Survey Research, which he took in order to assist in data analysis for Sweetland’s longitudinal Writing Development Study. A second year in the Joint Program in English and Education, Ben’s interests include literacy theory, discourse analysis, and issues of equity and access in college writing courses. He is currently working on a project that brings these interests to bear on high school-to-college bridge programs.

photo_lizziehuttonLizzie Hutton, in her second year as a GSRA and third year in the Joint Program in English and Education, continues to contribute to Sweetland’s investigation into undergraduate writing development, especially as pertains to the use of portfolios and reflective writing, and Sweetland’s work on the effect of writing on both confidence and skills in the undergraduate science classroom. In her own research for her doctoral program, Lizzie is focusing on the role of reading in effective writing.

photo_sarahswoffordSarah Swofford, a third year GSRA, has spent this fall collecting data for her dissertation, which focuses on the effects of language ideology on rural southern students, especially in their transition from high school to first-year writing. As a GSRA, she assists in survey design and data collection for Sweetland’s many studies, including Michigan’s ongoing program of Directed Self Placement.

photo_lauraaullStarting in August, the Sweetland GSRAs were also happy to have their work assisted by Laura Aull (PhD 2011), once herself a Sweetland GSRA and now an Assistant Professor of English at Wake Forest University. Laura was in Ann Arbor for the fall conducting research for her upcoming book on corpus linguistic and rhetorical analysis of Directed Self-Placement essays, during which time she also helped update U-M’s own Directed Self-Placement process.

A Note from Emily Caris and Josh Kim, Sweetland’s 2013 Summer Interns

img_0966The Summer Internship was a creative and stimulating experience, allowing us to directly develop Sweetland projects that we cared about. Over the course of the summer, we worked on big and small projects, including outreach to spring and summer courses and other events, tutoring session data compilation and organization, and developing writing resources.

Our two primary projects included creating a timeline of Sweetland’s history from its early days as the English Composition Board to its present life, and developing a new component of the Peer Tutor Program called Translingual Tutoring for Multilingual Writers (see related article on translingual peer tutoring).

The timeline includes visuals, images, scans of old publications and newsletter, and text to represent the history of Sweetland. It was really fun and informative to trace Sweetland’s history, learning about how it progressed to the center it is today.

The new peer tutoring initiative, Translingual Tutoring for Multilingual Writers, began as a conversation we had with a German class during a spring outreach visit about our services for students who speak languages other than English. We surveyed students and faculty, researched existing programs of this kind, and had the opportunity to speak directly with some scholars who work specifically on translingual tutorials.
We are so thankful to Naomi, Colleen, Molly, Lila, Aaron, Simone, Anne, Laura, Teri, Dave, Jing, and Lori for all their support, guidance, and feedback throughout the summer! We cannot wait to see how the programs develop over time.

Emily Caris (B.A. English Language & Literature, Minor in Urban Studies and Program in the Environment) currently lives in Seattle, Washington and is a community service site supervisor and workshop facilitator for the Seattle Community Court program.
Joshua Kim (B.A. with honors in English Language & Literature, Minor in Writing) is a MA/PhD Candidate and Graduate Teaching Assistant in English at Penn State.