Graduate Writing Fellow Projects
Managing A Committee: Strategies on Effective Negotiation and Communication with Multiple Committee Members
Working with multiple advisors or committee members can be stressful, as inter-personal relationships become complicated, and implicit and even conflicting expectations occur. At this workshop, participants will learn about the strategies to organize and manage a committee effectively. In this workshop, you will learn the skills to set goals and expectations with multiple faculty members via writing as well as other forms of communication, and to negotiate your progress and the evaluation process of the progress with advisors. Tips will also be offered to help you make decisions when there are disagreements among different members of the committee. For graduate students who need to assemble a committee by themselves, this workshop will help you decide whom to invite and how to convey your decisions to faculty members respectfully and gracefully.
Continuing and Expanding the Writing Partner Program
The Writing Partner Program (WPP) was started by a former WAC fellow, Daniel Moglen , who successfully maintained it for two years. Though he retired from being a fellow, there was much enthusiasm to keep the program going and growing. With the guidance of Dr. Alison Bright, I facilitated the WPP during the 2015-16 academic year. A new website was created and additional funding was accrued through a partnership with the Davis Humanities Institute. Using that funding we were able to offer food and incentives at WPP events throughout the academic year. We held writing retreats for all groups, helped individual groups book private writing time in rooms on campus, held a workshop on “Forming and Maintaining Writing Groups,” and set larger goals for next year! As I transition into a different WAC role, I am happy to announce that Julia Singleton will be facilitating the program for the 2016-17 year.
NSF Grant Writing Workshop Series
The NSF Grant Writing Workshop Series was a two-part series targeted towards graduate students applying for the NSF GRFP, a fellowship program specifically for starting graduate students. The first workshop provided students with a broad overview of NSF, the grant, and the application process. It covered the parts of the application focusing on the writing components and what reviewers look for in each application. The second workshop in this series provided hands-on learning for students to read real grants that were submitted along with their reviews in an effort to get inside the head of the reviewer and understand ways to make their own writing stronger. This workshop will likely be continued in future years with added components to help graduate students through this grant writing process.
Graduate Students’ Self-Efficacy With Respect to Academic Writing and Seeking Help
During the 2014-15 school year, Judy Wexler and I conducted a survey of 136 graduate students at UC Davis to understand their needs with respect to writing and their experiences with writing and seeking help. Two findings from the survey were particularly surprising. One was that 40% of students reported having little to no confidence in seeking help on their writing. The other was that 25% of students reported having little to no confidence in academic writing. To further explore students' self-efficacy with respect to academic writing and seeking help and ultimately develop strategies for building students' self-efficacy regarding academic writing and seeking help, I conducted interviews with 7 graduate students in Fall 2015. The interviews indicated that strategies for building students' confidence in academic writing include offering tips on how to deal with negative feedback and encouraging students to seek out models of good writing in their respective disciplines. Strategies for building students' confidence in seeking help include offering tips on how to ask for help from students' advisors as well as how to be clear about what kind of feedback students want from different people and demonstrating empathy toward students who have not shown their writing to others, and framing the writing "consultations" as conversations.
Exploring Writing Instructor Attitudes and Actions towards Disability and Accessibility
The purpose of this project was to develop further understanding about postsecondary writing instructors’ attitudes and actions concerning disability and accessibility (including universal design, or UD) with regards to college writing courses. Using an instrument developed for understanding postsecondary faculty attitudes and behaviors towards disability and accessibility—the Inclusive Teaching Strategies Inventory (ITSI; Lombardi, Murray, & Gerdes, 2011)—along with optional follow-up semi-structured interviews, this project extends prior literature by focusing on college-level writing instructors, a group not previously targeted in prior research. The ITSI was developed to assess postsecondary teaching faculty’s understandings of disability in relation to pedagogy and access (Lombardi & Murray, 2011; Lombardi et al., 2011). The ITSI contains eight subscales: accessible course materials, accommodations, course modifications, inclusive assessment, inclusive classroom, inclusive learning strategies, campus resources, and disability law. Items are asked twice with slight differences to assess both attitudes and behaviors concerning accessibility topics (Lombardi & Murray, 2011). Key preliminary findings highlight the need to adapt the ITSI to more fully consider accessibility and disability within the college-level writing classroom. Across the 41 postsecondary writing instructors surveyed, most subscales demonstrated low overall reliability, suggesting the need to consider the content within each subscale specifically related to the college-writing classroom context rather than large-lecture classroom contexts (for which the survey was originally designed). However, low reliability may also stem from the limited sample size, and follow-up research is needed to address this concern. Across items, postsecondary writing instructors demonstrated a high degree of variability, suggesting other factors may influence both the attitudes and the behaviors behind considering issues of disability and accessibility within their courses. Semi-structured follow-up interviews showed that individual differences in awareness and knowledge about disability and accessibility may help contextualize broader survey results. Results from both the survey and the interviews suggest that looking to individual factors at the instructor and department level may help understand how instructors think about (or do not think about) disability and accessibility in the college-level writing class. Future research will be looking to better contextualize the individual differences, to recruit instructors across different writing programs to better assess reliability concerns with the ITSI, and to think about what forms of professional development may best serve college-level writing instructors regarding best practices for disability and accessibility.