WRITING AND RESEARCH SKILLS (4 Credits)
Office: 113b Fine Arts Building
Office hours: 9:00-9:50 AM, MWTh, and by appointment
Phone: office: 651.554.3790
(voice mail available; leave
home: 952.892.0450 (no later than 9:00 PM, please;
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
*When on campus, I am usually in my office or in one of the computerized classrooms where my classes are conducted. This term, these classrooms are B114 and B142.
No required texts.
A good desk dictionary, such as Webster’s New Collegiate.
This course emphasizes expository and persuasive writing skills with attention to rhetorical modes, audience
awareness, logical reasoning, critical reading, and research techniques. This
course is part of the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum, and
as such it is designed to nurture your skills for future academic work at other educational institutions as well as concurrent
course work at Inver Hills.
Upon completing this course, students should have competency in the following areas:
—ability to understand / demonstrate the writing and speaking processes through invention, organization,
drafting, revision, editing, and presentation;
—ability to select appropriate communication choices for specific audiences;
—ability to construct logical and coherent arguments;
—ability to gather factual information and apply it to a given problem in a manner that is relevant, clear
and conscious of possible bias in the information selected;
—ability to imagine and seek out a variety of possible goals, assumptions, interpretations, or perspectives
which can give alternative meanings or solutions to given situations or problems;
—and the ability to analyze the logical connections among the facts, goals, and implicit assumptions relevant
to a problem or claim, as well as generate and evaluate implications that follow from them.
I hope you will enjoy our sixteen weeks together.
COURSE RATIONALE / TEACHING PHILOSOPHY
How does one begin to write about her or his teaching philosophy? I find
it difficult to articulate my teaching philosophy per se; however, there is a consistency in “themes” or perspectives
in each of the courses I teach. Let me briefly outline these themes for you here.
Intellectual polyphony. Readings, Web sites, and class discussions
are based on whatever disciplines, knowledge and experiences will best illuminate the subject we are studying. My goal is to construct a “smorgasbord” of ideas —an intellectual buffet table—
from which students can select whatever best helps them to understand the issues and subject material. So students travel through sociology, psychology, literature, ecology, cultural geography, cultural history,
anthropology, philosophy, music, dance, art history, graphic arts, film studies, economics, marketing, Internet culture and
popular culture such as advertising.
Critical thinking. A favorite word of mine is why. I encourage and nurture students
to question, search for cause-effect and relationships, and evaluate inferential reasoning. Students
learn to present their ideas (in oral and written form) and provide the rationale or evidence that underlies their propositions.
Students also use creative, imaginative discovery as well as the scientific method,
qualitative and quantitative. The social and individual impact of thinking, ideas,
and decisions is also emphasized.
Textual analysis for political and social encoding. I
suppose my training as an intellectual / cultural historian comes into play here, since I stress the importance of culture,
class, gender, and ethnicity in textual analysis, both explicitly and sub-textually. This
approach helps position students for the multi-cultural, global thinking required in the twenty-first century. Perhaps more importantly, this cultural approach prepares students for the complexity in their social, cultural
and political environments in twenty-first century America.
Lifelong learning is modeled. Every class I teach is an opportunity to
model lifelong learning, since I am learning all the time, despite my Ph.D. Furthermore,
I am always seeking new conceptual and practical ideas to apply to class material. For
this reason, there is always experimentation, improvisation, creativity, and passion in the courses I teach, and my courses
change and evolve every time I teach or “facilitate” them. Doing
so is risky, of course, because I give up the polish and security of tested material and instead venture into the unknown
with students. Venturing
into the unknown,
and having the intellectual confidence to tackle the unknown, is one life skill a rigorous liberal arts education can provide.
Indeed, a liberal arts education is not so much having the “right answers”
but assuming an intellectual, critical posture in your life that will aid you, even provide succor, in all life’s endeavors.
Computer-Internet literacy is developed. Computer / information literacy is defined as “a new liberal art that extends from knowing
how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the nature of information itself, its technical infrastructure,
and its social, cultural and even philosophical context and impact” - Shapiro, Jeremy J. and Shelley K. Hughes. Educom
Review. 3.2. Mar. / Apr. 1996. Class work in D2L and the Internet will
develop skills in this new liberal art.
Service learning for enrichment. By
service learning, I mean experiential learning that employs service or real life problem applications in some form to government,
community, private sector and non-profit agencies. Service learning enhances
the traditional classroom by actively engaging students in their own educations through experiential learning in course-relevant
contexts. Furthermore, service learning fosters lifelong connections between students, their communities, and the larger human
community —the world outside the classroom.
Here is a list of benefits service learning provides:
· increases retention of course material;
· increases the relevancy of education to real world applications;
· enhances personalized education
· empower students as learners and democratic citizens;
· invites students to become active
members of their own communities; and
· teaches job skills and prepares students for careers after college.
Tasks / Work
actual work will you perform in this class? To answer this question, let me first
acquaint you with Bloom’s taxonomy.* Benjamin Bloom, an American educator, created this taxonomy below for
categorizing the level of abstraction in educational settings. The taxonomy provides a useful structure in which to categorize
- observation and recall of information
- knowledge of dates, events, places
- knowledge of major ideas
- mastery of subject matter
- Question Cues:
list, define, tell, describe, identify, show, label, collect, examine,
tabulate, quote, name, who, when, where, etc.
- understanding information
- grasp meaning
- translate knowledge into new context
- interpret facts, compare, contrast
- order, group, infer causes
- predict consequences
- Question Cues:
summarize, describe, interpret, contrast, predict, associate, distinguish,
estimate, differentiate, discuss, extend
- use information
- use methods, concepts, theories in new situations
- solve problems using required skills or knowledge
- Questions Cues:
apply, demonstrate, calculate, complete, illustrate, show, solve, examine,
modify, relate, change, classify, experiment, discover
- seeing patterns
- organization of parts
- recognition of hidden meanings
- identification of components
- Question Cues:
analyze, separate, order, explain, connect, classify, arrange, divide,
compare, select, explain, infer
- use old ideas to create new ones
- generalize from given facts
- relate knowledge from several areas
- predict, draw conclusions
- Question Cues:
combine, integrate, modify, rearrange, substitute, plan, create, design,
invent, what if?, compose, formulate, prepare, generalize, rewrite
· compare and discriminate between ideas
· assess value of theories, presentations
· make choices based on reasoned argument
· verify value of evidence
· recognize subjectivity
· Question Cues
decide, rank, grade, test, measure, recommend, convince, select, judge, explain, discriminate, support, conclude, compare,
*Adapted from: Bloom, B.S. (Ed.) (1956)
Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals: Handbook I, cognitive domain. New
York; Toronto: Longmans, Green.
Accordingly, the course will entail the following tasks, mixed and
matched throughout the semester:
What does a scientific task look like? It would include: making
hypotheses based on an understanding of background information provided by on- or off-line sources; testing the hypotheses
by gathering data from pre-selected sources; and determining whether the hypotheses were supported and describing the results
and their implications in the standard form of a “scientific report.” Scientific
tasks also nurture critical / scientific thinking.
To evaluate something requires a degree of understanding of that
something as well as an understanding of some system of evaluating worth. Judgment tasks present a number of items to the
learner and ask her / him to rank or rate them, or to make an informed decision among a limited number of choices.
Analysis is the thinking process of how things connect together,
and how things within a topic relate to each other. An analytical task provides a venue for developing such knowledge. In
analytical tasks, a learner is asked to look closely at one or more things and to find similarities and differences, to figure
out the implications for those similarities and differences. He / she might look for relationships of cause and effect among
variables and be asked to discuss their meaning.
This task involves gathering facts and organizing them into an account
within the usual genres of news and feature writing. In evaluating student work here, accuracy is important as is fact selection. A secondary goal for the student is to realize there is the potential for bias in
all reporting; that all of us have filters that affect how we see things and what we choose to look at.
Self-knowledge tasks will compel the learner to answer questions
about him /herself that have no short answers. Such tasks could be developed around long term goals; ethical and moral issues;
self-improvement; art appreciation; and personal responses to literature.
Persuasion tasks are often combined with consensus building tasks
(see below), although not always. The key difference is that with persuasion tasks, the student work on convincing an external
audience of a particular point of view, as opposed to the persuasion and accommodation that occurs internally in a consensus
The essence of a consensus building task is the requirement that
differing viewpoints be articulated, considered, and accommodated where
possible. Consensus-building tasks involve learners taking on different perspectives by studying different sets of resources. Such tasks should be based on authentic differences of opinion that are actually expressed
by someone somewhere outside of classroom walls. In addition, consensus-building
tasks should be based on matters of opinion and fact, not just fact.
The result should be the development of a common report that has
a specific audience (real or simulated) and is created in a format that is analogous to one used in the world outside classroom
Sometimes you will be asked to absorb some information and then demonstrate you have understood it. Reports like these are bread-and-butter activities that don't break much new ground in educational
practice, but they can provide good practice in condensing and summarizing text. You
also differentiate among summary, paraphrase, and quotation.
** Design Tasks
Design is defined in Dictionary.com as "a plan or protocol for carrying out or accomplishing
something." In this class, a design task requires learners to create a product
or plan of action that accomplishes a pre-determined goal and works within specified constraints. The key element in a design
task is to build in authentic constraints. Asking students to design an ideal X without also requiring them to work within
a budget and within a body of legal and other restrictions doesn't really teach much. In fact, an unconstrained design task
teaches an illusory "anything goes" attitude that doesn't map well onto the real world.
Creativity and resourcefulness are integral in design tasks.
**Creative Product Tasks
Creative tasks lead to
the production of something within a given format (e.g. painting, play, skit, poster, game, simulated diary or song) but they
are much more open-ended and unpredictable than design tasks. The evaluation criteria for these tasks would emphasize creativity
and self-expression, as well as criteria specific to the chosen genre. Balanced against the constraints, a task of this type
should invite creativity by being somewhat open-ended. There should be enough room in the assignment that a student or group
of students will be able to leave a unique stamp on the assignment.
A simple task for students is to take information from a number of sources
and put it into a common format. The resulting compilation might be published on the Web, or it might be some other tangible,
such as supporting figures for a research paper.
To make a compilation task qualify as a substantive task, there needs to be some transformation of the information compiled.
Simply putting a hot-list of web sites or a collection of web images together arbitrarily isn't enough.
**Discovery/ Exploration Tasks
designed discovery / exploration task requires synthesis of information
from a variety of sources. Such tasks might involve absorbing information
from multiple sources; putting information together by making inferences or generalizations across several information sources;
and eliminating false trails that might seem to be likely answers at first but which fall apart under closer examination.
Discovery tasks can seem somewhat inauthentic because of the fictionalizing they require, though the tradeoff in increased
learner interest can make it worthwhile. Discovery / exploration tasks
model the thinking of scientists, scholars, and venture capitalists.
Tasks adapted from WebQuest, San Diego State University http://webquest.sdsu.edu/
Now a little about me and where I am coming from, personally speaking.
I received my BA degree from Macalester College
in Saint Paul, where I majored in humanities and English.
I began my graduate work at Tulane University in New Orleans and then transferred
to the University of Minnesota to complete my Ph.D. in American/ cultural studies, concentrating in American intellectual
history. My first teaching job was at the University of Saint
Thomas in Saint Paul. Since 1993, I have been at the University
of Minnesota in Distance Education. I
have been teaching part time at Inver Hills
Community College since 1999. Lately,
I have been developing online courses for Inver Hills.
Since this profile of me so far might lead you to think I am just a bookworm, let me add that, I also have a passion for numerous “nonacademic” activities: farming; gardening; equestrian riding (dressage); cooking;
friendships with people and my “companion” animals (two dogs, one
cat, one blue and gold macaw, and one horse); community work for the city of Lakeville where I reside; and, last but not least,
family life with a husband and two young sons.
So where do you fit
in with all of this?
Essentially, for the next sixteen weeks, I shall be your intellectual coach in writing and research. My job as a professional is to nurture you: push you to be
the best that you can be in terms of the course goals, and I take my job seriously. This does not mean I am a humorless slave
driver. What is does mean, though, is that I shall encourage active, engaged
learners, and many students are uncomfortable and hostile to this endeavor, which is understandable, given most students have
not been expected to assume the stance of active intellectuals/ thinkers before. I
hope you enjoy our sixteen weeks together.
ON CLASS PROCEDURE
—Late papers: Late papers throw me and, most importantly,
you off schedule. Papers are due at the times specified, though, I am willing
to allow exceptions when illness or other class assignments intrude. It is your
responsibility, however, to contact me to rearrange work deadlines. Negotiating
work deadlines is an important work /life skill, so practice it. In this class failure to do so will result in a grade reduction
for the paper (s). Once again, I do not like to begin the term by issuing threats.
Not only do threats set a negative tone for the class but they also counteract
our relationship as colleagues. Colleagues do not threaten each other —or
at least they shouldn’t. My rules here for papers are mainly to avoid logistical nightmares (papers being turned in
at all times) and also establish rules of fairness for all class members. All
of us are busy; all of us are juggling work, family responsibilities, school, and social obligations. Meeting established deadlines is just common courtesy; however, if the deadlines can not be met, I respectfully
request you renegotiate the deadline with me.
—Word processing. All papers should be word processed, and
—Submissions. All assignments may be submitted electronically
via the D2L assignment dropbox system, or you may hand in paper submissions; the choice is yours.
work: When submitting revision work, please attach a copy of the “first
draft,” too. More about this later.
—Plagiarism: Scholastic honesty is expected. I am obliged to report academic misconduct to the Dean of Students. See the college handbook for rules and
regulations on this matter.
You are required to keep up with all the reading in the course. I shall
give ample notice of due dates. Since I do not depend much on the lecture method,
our class sessions greatly depend on your reading the course material and coming to class and discussing it.
—Discussion: Discussion sessions, online and in-class, will be
an integral part of the instruction method employed in class. “Why is discussion so important,” you ask.
Well, let me tell you:
helps students explore a diversity of perspectives.
increases students’ awareness of and tolerance for ambiguity or complexity
helps students recognize and investigate their assumptions.
encourages attentive, respectful listening.
encourages new appreciations for continuing differences.
increases intellectual agility.
helps students become connected to a topic.
shows respect for students’ voices and experiences.
helps students learn the processes and habits of democratic disclosure.
affirms students as co-creators of knowledge.
develops the capacity for the clear communication of ideas and meaning.
develops habits of collaborative learning.
increases breadth and makes students more empathic.
helps students develop skills of synthesis and integration.
leads to transformation. *
*Brookfield,. Stephen D. and
Stephen Preskill. Discussion as a Way of Teaching (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999), pp.22-23
—Respect and collegiality: Small classes at Inver Hills allow
class discussions, and class interactions that are difficult to manage in large lecture settings. I designed “Writing and Research Skills” so as to make the most of our small class setting. Accordingly, throughout the course we all shall share our ideas and perspectives
about research, writing, and critical thinking. In order for our class sessions to run smoothly, it is important to listen
to others with an attitude of respect, and open-mindedness. Polite disagreement
online with others’ ideas is permissible but contrariness or snide commentary is not.
In addition, it is impolite to play card games on the computer or surf the Internet, when class discussion is in session. Rude behavior will not be tolerated.
—Small group work: Class time will consist of some lecture
(very little, actually) class discussion, small group work, and conference sessions. Working
in small groups is a rich intellectual and social experience, which I want all students to enjoy. Small group work is not the occasion, however, to discuss last week’s party, or the latest sports’
scores. Although some social interaction is only natural, the group is expected
to concentrate on the assigned task. Each student should take an active part
in group activity and work toward advancing the group’s assigned task. Active
engagement is the key phrase here and is the basis for 1/3 of your course grade.
—Course work load: Be prepared for a challenging workload.
Essentially, you hired me to be your intellectual “coach” for the
next sixteen weeks, and I am going to challenge you.
—Incompletes: This course is not set up for incompletes;
accordingly, only certified illness or emergency situations will be accommodated. Students
must initiate requests for either an incomplete grade or withdrawal from a course by filing the appropriate form
—Exams: There is no midterm exam or final exam in this course.
—Special needs: Students with special needs will be accommodated. Students should contact me or Disabled Student Services.
GRADES / EVALUATIONS
—I employ the A-F grading system, as well as +s and -s (see the college handbook for the general guidelines
—The basis of the final grade is as follows: 2/3 of grade
is paper/ research writing, and the class-designed quizzes; 1/3 of grade is on active, skilled participation, including attendance.
Note: The final grade is not based
on points and is not mathematically calculated; therefore, the above percentages are approximations to suggest emphasis, not
precise figures. Additionally, I do not grade the class on a curve, so it is
theoretically possible for the whole class to receive As or Fs. In assigning
the final grade, I shall lay out your work before me and match it as a whole against the criteria passed out in class and
using the weighting above.
—If at any time during the semester you feel unsure about your “grade,” request an assessment
—You always have the option of revising your work for a higher grade. With
this said, let me also add that revision work for a higher grade needs to be substantive, not shallow. In other words, if you do the work required, you will earn a higher grade.
Sloppy, poor quality revisions will not be rewarded.
—Instructor evaluations: At the end of the term, I shall
ask you to complete a course evaluation. Another form of feedback I would appreciate, however, is your comments/suggestions
as the course progresses. Dialogue between us is crucial, as I use your ideas
and concerns to tailor and fine-tune the course.
ASSIGNMENT SCHEDULE (SKELETAL FRAME)
* Weekly postings in D2L will flesh out assignment details
M, 23 August
W, 25 August
Th, 26 August
F, 27 August
M, 30 August
T, 31 August
W, 1 September
Th, 2 September
F, 3 September
M, 6 September
T, 7 September
W, 8 September
Th, 9 September
F, 10 September
M, 13 September
T, 14 September
W, 15 September
Th, 16 September
F, 17 September
M, 20 September
T, 21 September
W, 22 September
Th, 23 September
F, 24 September
M, 27 September
T, 28 September
W, 29 September
Th, 30 September
F, 1 October
M, 4 October
T, 5 October
W, 6 October
Th, 7 October
F, 8 October
M, 11 October
T, 12 October
W, 13 October
Th, 14 October
F, 15 October
M, 18 October
T, 19 October
W, 20 October
Th, 21 October
F, 22 October
M, 25 October
T, 26 October
W, 27 October
Th, 28 October
F, 29 October
M, 1 November
T, 2 November
W, 3 November
Th, 4 November
F, 5 November
M, 8 November
T, 9 November
W, 10 November
Th, 11 November
F, 12 November
M, 15 November
T, 16 November
W, 17 November
Th, 18 November
F, 19 November
M, 22 November
T, 23 November
W, 24 November
Th, 25 November
F, 26 November
M, 29 November
T, 30 November
W, 1 December
Th, 2 December
F, 3 December
M, 6 December
T, 7 December
W, 8 December
Th, 9 December
F, 10 December
M, 13 December
T, 14 December
W, 15 December
Th, 16 December
F, 17 December
M, 20 December—End of semester
T, 21 December
W, 22 December
Th, 23 December
F, 24 December
Image credit: David Hockney, “Nichols Canyon.” Offset Lithograph. http://www.davidhockney.com/art.shtml.