These are VERY preliminary.
Recently in Conceptualizing the Project Category
Our original proposal: ISW Gowan and Hagel Proposal 2010.doc
I was thinking about what is a practical way of going about answering our questions, because every time I talk through our project, I feel like I end up going in circles, because of the chicken-and-egg nature of student attitudes towards writing and encouraging students to write for communities.
It seems to me that the first step, other than doing a lit review (simultaneous to lit review?), is talking to students in focus groups. The goal of the focus groups would be to ascertain what they view as the purpose of their own academic writing and to find out how they think professors could support them in "real" writing. Or, if they don't buy into writing for communities, they could help us understand what might motivate them to find writing for communities a meaningful pursuit.
Obviously the next step would be to analyze the information obtained from the focus groups. Hopefully this information can translate to assignments/tools that can be used in class to encourage students to write for communities. I guess I'm not sure whether we originally intended to create tools for professors to use to assess student attitudes, to encourage writing for communities, or both. On a practical level, I think it makes more sense to develop writing tools/curriculum to encourage "writing for community." While this proposition assumes that students share this priority, I think it's important that we encourage this type of writing, whether or not it is something they value a priori. We should help them realize the importance of writing for community, even if they did not originally (as I'm sure some of the focus groups will reveal -- this will be important info for the students to give us, because hopefully they will be able to tell us how we can help them make it more of a priority for them).
Once these curriculum tools are developed, we will test them next year in courses (perhaps Consume This and/or Cities and Social Change). We can then analyze/evaluate/redevelop and share them with other professors.
Concrete (not really in order) steps that I see:
-email summer course professors
-develop recruitment materials
-make IRB changes
-email CSL folks to see what techniques they use in their courses
-talk to Katie about additional literature to explore
-develop questions for focus groups
-meet with Jake (Public Policy RA interested in focus groups) to discuss project/potential questions
These are some questions I've been considering in the last few weeks:
What literatures do we want to draw on?
1) theoretical literatures
a. sociology ("insider" vs. "outsider", "for" vs. "about")
2) instrument literatures
a. writing center literature
i. how do we learn to write "well?"
ii. how do we construct valid instruments to gauge student interest? [is this even writing center literature? if not, what body of lit is it?]
What do students want their writing to do? [This has to underlie any instrumental teaching of writing --> has to be aimed towards their motivations]
How do we integrate our belief that students should write for communities (and encourage this behavior), if this is not a student priority? Teaching students to write for communities assumes that students share this priority. If we do think that writing for communities is important, how do we convince students of this importance?
-What is our practical plan of action for figuring this out?