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WRT faculty awarded Research Fellowships for Summer 2013

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
WRT faculty awarded Research Fellowships for Summer 2013

Research News

Two faculty members in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric were recently awarded OU Faculty Research Fellowship Awards for Summer 2013.


Transfer of Writing

Assistant Professor Dana Driscoll was awarded a fellowship for her project, “A Mixed-Method, Multi-Institutional Analysis of Student Values and Beliefs in Transfer of Writing Knowledge across the Disciplines.” Within writing studies, researchers have striven to develop more effective pedagogies to promote transfer of learning from first year writing at colleges and universities to the writing tasks demanded of students in upper level courses and in their careers. One promising approach is what Downs and Wardle (2007) describe as "Writing about Writing." This approach asks students to examine how writing genres vary from one context to another, and invites learners to analyze these phenomena across contexts and to develop “mindful abstractions” about learning to write, as transfer scholarship advises (Salomon and Perkins, 1989). When such courses include reflective writing, they ask learners to undertake metacognition (a critical awareness of learning), including monitoring the outcomes of their efforts, applying procedures and concepts learned in future contexts, and modifying this knowledge as new contexts demand. Early studies suggest that pedagogy better promotes writing transfer from first-year writing (Dew 2003; Wardle, 2007).

This research project, funded by a summer faculty fellowship,is part of a larger, multi-institutional project called "The Writing Transfer Project." As part of the Seminar on Writing Transfer, sponsored by Elon University and the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the Writing Transfer Project sought to develop a means through which to examine the long-term impacts of “writing about writing” and reflective writing on the transfer of writing knowledge in higher education. Dana Driscoll and researchers from four other intuitions—Dr. Edmund Jones from Seton Hall University (NJ), Dr. Gwen Gorzelsky from Wayne State University (MI), Dr. Jennifer Wells from Florida State University (FL), Dr. Carol Hayes from George Washington University (Washington D. C.)—developed a cross-institutional research project and created an extensive dataset for the study of transfer. 

Dr. Driscoll will investigate the dataset to examine the relationship between student value systems and beliefs, including the occurrence of transfer-focused thinking, on writing quality and outcomes for writing transfer, specifically focusing on the following research questions:
  1. What kinds of (and what quality of) transfer-focused thinking do students report engaging in during their initial course and follow-up interviews? 
  2. How do students’ beliefs and values towards learning and transfer change across the course of the semester and beyond? 
  3. How do students’ beliefs and values concerning transfer and learning impact their ability to write quality academic texts both in and beyond their original course? 
  4. Are any changes found in response to questions 2, 3, and 4 consistent across the diverse educational contexts represented in this study dataset? 
While prior studies have suggested values and beliefs towards writing, learning, and transfer are crucial to understanding and promoting transfer, they haven’t directly examined their relationship in a broad, multi-institutional way. This research will help teachers and scholars of writing to better understand the relationship of values and beliefs about transfer to actual writing outcomes, 

For more information about this project, contact Dana Driscoll at driscoll@oakland.edu.


Formative Assessment in Technical Communication

Assistant Professor Josie Walwema was awarded a fellowship for her project, “The Epistemic Value of Formative Assessment in the Scholarship of Technical Communication.” Exploring the connection between student learning and effective feedback is a focus of numerous studies. Because Technical Communication is as much about objective reality as it is about individual judgment, a fundamental aspect of being a technical communicator is not limiting oneself to acquiring technical skills but in being conceptually adept at making good choices. Instructors can redirect learners by challenging their thinking process and by getting them to discover, search, and think through ideas in constructing technical documents. Whereas formative assessment has become an integral part of teaching and learning, its value within the broader theories of pedagogy as epistemic has not been emphasized. 

This research project examines literature on the epistemic value of formative assessment and promotes its practice within the discipline of technical communication. The analysis links formative assessment to other instructive initiatives, notably targeted feedback and engaging students in their own learning as a means of bringing out desirable changes in the classroom. It further draws on existing literature on assessment while examining the tension between individual judgment and objectivity. This research into the potentialities of assessment, student engagement, and conceptions in the rhetorical tradition (as a means of generating and disseminating knowledge) offers new ways of helping instructors to implement formative practices more effectively and has potential for further inquiry. Dr. Walwema specifically aims to add to the discourse on the epistemic value of assessment. She sees assessment less in terms of passing summary judgment on a piece of work, or even in helping learners measure their skills from a preordained checklist and more in ways that frees up a mode of thinking that allows them to exercise judgment without being confined by the constraints of the genre. The resulting epistemic value promotes mastery and leads to an increasing sense of competency in the discipline.

For more information about this project, contact Josie Walwema at walwema@oakland.edu.