It just so happened that the day I had planned for the first-year students to do an activity called, “My Day in a Sentence,” was the day of a bomb scare. Following my own logic concerning parallel processes between the juniors and first-year writing students, I had asked the first-years to

1) blog about their day and eventually boil their experience down to one sentence

2) post a “Reply” to one of my blogposts about “learning that lasts,” in which they were to include their sentence, discuss what they have learned/are learning from ENG112 that they believe will stick – as in persevere into their future – and post a link to their original commentary in which they worked out how to express their “day” in a single statement.

The first-year students’ actual comments do not seem “to follow” from the content of what I posted in “learning that lasts,” which was geared toward the junior writing class in which I document evidence of a crucial leap in their learning curve and admit that a particular lesson plan asked too much in one day. However, if one reads the entire discourse (all the links), I think some themes come into view that show the underlying pedagogical logic.

The communication department’s curriculum for the junior writing course privileges the semiotic method of analysis. This method came into renown during the 1980s and is regarded by many as past its prime. Nonetheless, semiotics is an excellent framework for developing genuine critical thinking (as opposed to simple regurgitation). The core transferable skill is the asking of questions. Recognizing when and where questions need to be asked, and figuring out how to aim questions so as to generate the information one needs in order to comprehend the contours of a conversation – and thus be able to say something that indeed adds to the conversation – is one of the most basic skills of academic writing.

The first-year students are learning how to ask questions of their own writing. While some are more specific than others in terms of what they are actually learning, almost all of the first-year students are able to articulate something fairly concrete. Of course this is exciting pedagogical evidence. 🙂 Meanwhile, the coincidental timing of the assignment with the unpredictable event of “a device in Herter Hall” allows a window onto some student reactions to this event on our campus. I collected the excerpts from each student post that mentioned the bomb scare onto one of the juniors’ CourseWiki pages. I placed this information there (instead of in the first-year CourseWiki) because I might come up with an assignment for the juniors – although I have not decided what that might be and/or how it could fit in with their curriculum.

If you want to read the original post and its entire chain of comments (about what ENG112 students are learning), go here: learning that lasts.

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