Currents In Teaching And Learning

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Currents In Teaching And Learning

Transcript Of Currents In Teaching And Learning

VOL. 3 NO. 2, SPRING 2011

EDITORIAL Learning How to Learn


Josna Rege

ESSAYS Teaching Intellectual Teamwork in WAC Courses through Peer Review


Jim Henry and Lehua Ledbetter

Metacognition: Information Literacy and Web 2.0

as an Instructional Tool


Reabeka King

TEACHING REPORTS Students in the Archives: A Short Report on a Significant

Learning Experience


Sarah Berry


Using Online Formative Assessments for Improved Learning


Barbara F. Cherem

Creating Connection: Composition Theory and Creative

Writing Craft in the First-Year Writing Classroom


Carey E. Smitherman and Amanda K. Girard

CURRENT CLIPS & LINKS Websites Related to Teaching and Learning


Elizabeth Kappos

REVIEWS From the Book Review Editors


Sean C. Goodlett and Matthew Johnsen

Principles to Teach By

Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro,

Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman’s How Learning Works:

Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching


Jennifer Berg

Brain-Friendly Education

Eric Jensen’s Brain-Based Learning: The New Paradigm of Teaching


Matthew Johnsen

THE BACK PAGE About Us, Subscriptions, Submissions, Inquiries


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Learning How to Learn


Josna Rege

A recurrent concept in this issue is that of metacognition: reflecting upon one’s mental processes or, literally, thinking about thinking. It is immaterial how rich our teaching content is, if our students are unable to absorb it. We must pay as much attention to how we teach as to what we teach and as much attention to how students learn as to how we teach. Through metacognitive thinking about their own process of learning, students can deepen and internalize course content, gaining not only a body of knowledge, but lifelong skills in how to learn.
In their essay, “Teaching Intellectual Teamwork in WAC Courses through Peer Review,” Jim Henry and Lehua Ledbetter recommend that students engage in “metacommentary” about their own and each other’s writing. In arguing for the efficacy of peer review in improving student writing, they make the case that time spent on this process is time well spent (not time lost to the teaching of content). Metacommentary is one of three essential components of their peer-review model: students writing reflectively about their writing and sharing those reflections as part of the peer-review process. Discussing both their own classroom experience and scholarship on the role of metacommentary in student learning, Henry and Ledbetter make the case that the “intellectual teamwork” involved in the process enhances the problemsolving skills students need in order to develop their writing.
Reabeka King’s essay, “Metacognition: Information Literacy and Web 2.0 as an Instructional Tool,” similarly privileges metacognition in the learning process. Reviewing the literature and drawing upon information literacy competency standards developed by the Association of Colleges and Research Libraries, King argues that in an era when information literacy has become an essential skill, the user-centered Web 2.0 can promote not just the delivery of content but higher-level learning processes, such as metacognition, both in and outside of the classroom.
The three teaching reports in this issue also place considerable emphasis on meta-level learning. In “Students in the Archives: A Short Paper on a Significant Learning Experience,” Sarah Berry describes an archival research project in a 200-level interdisciplinary course, organized in a four-phase process, that encourages students to become “active producers. . .of knowledge”: the project includes assessment components that function similarly to the

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metacommentary exercise in Henry and Ledbetter’s essay in encouraging students to become self-directed learners. Like King, who argues that exercising their metacognitive skills can empower students to become lifelong learners and community-builders, Berry describes how the individual assessment of the project complemented the collaborative assessment by giving students the opportunity to exercise their independent thinking and analytical skills, opening up their “vision of a larger picture and encourag[ing] reflection about their own place in it.”
Barbara Cherem’s teaching report, “Using Online Formative Assessments for Improved Learning,” also places an emphasis on students’ reflection about their own learning process. In recent years most teachers will have become all too familiar with summative assessment, which evaluates students’ mastery of course content. Cherem, however, contends that formative, or process-driven, assessments—“for learning, rather than ... of learning”—enable both teachers and students to achieve higher learning outcomes with lower student anxiety, “give students an added sense of ownership in their development, and, ultimately, promote the comprehension of the course content.”
The last teaching report addresses the problem of emboldening first-year students to find their voices as writers. In “Creating Connection: Composition Theory and Creative Writing Craft in the First-Year Writing Classroom,” Carey Smitherman and Amanda Girard seek to develop metacognitive skills to prepare students for writing in the disciplines. After a review of contemporary composition theory, they conclude that even approaches that aim to give students a voice risk plunging them into discussions of composition theory where they are apt to lose confidence. Instead, Smitherman and Girard advocate classroom conversations about creative writing craft, “creating connection” by encouraging first-year students to begin reflecting upon their own writing practice and thinking

of themselves as writers, and, in the process, introducing them more gently to composition theory .
By coincidence, even the book reviews in this issue address the subject of how students learn, drawing from both research in cognitive science and experience in the classroom. Jennifer Berg reviews How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, Lovett, & Norman, 2010), and Matthew Johnsen reviews BrainBased Learning: The New Paradigm of Teaching (Jensen, 2008).
* * *
With this issue Currents in Teaching and Learning completes three years of publication. We are steadily finding our identity and gaining momentum, with a small but growing list of subscribers and submissions from an increasingly diverse group of contributors affiliated with colleges and universities, both public and private, large and small. Currents is now being indexed by EBSCO Host online databases and the MLA International Bibliography and is listed in the MLA Directory of Periodicals.
Our active Founding Advisory Board contributes materially to the production of every issue. We offer heartfelt thanks to all our board members, both current and past, without whom this journal would simply be unable to function: Daron Barnard, Sue Foo, Maria Fung, Sean Goodlett, Ruth Haber, Matthew Johnsen, Pearl Mosher-Ashley, Jeffrey Nichols, Bonnie Orcutt, Beth Russell, Daniel Shartin, Catherine Wilcox-Titus, Karen Woods Weierman, Karl Wurst, and Janice Yee. This issue we extend special thanks to retiring member Pearl Mosher-Ashley, who played an important role in developing our submissions guidelines, and a warm welcome to Sean Goodlett of Fitchburg State University, who joins the board as co-editor of the Book Review section. Thanks also to Andrea Bilics, Director of the Worcester State University’s Center for Teaching and Learning, for all her support and guidance and WSU’s

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Division of Academic Affairs, who first floated the idea of a peer-reviewed journal of teaching and learning and have fulfilled their commitment to support the journal, even through hard times.
The Currents Advisory Board worked closely together for months before we ever produced an issue, in order to define our scope and particular mission. We contine to uphold our mission as
a peer-reviewed electronic journal that fosters nonspecialist, jargon-free exchanges among reflective teacher-scholars. Published twice a year and addressed to faculty and graduate students across the disciplines, Currents seeks to improve teaching and learning in higher education with short reports on classroom practices as well as longer research, theoretical, or conceptual articles, and explorations of issues and challenges facing teachers today. We agreed from the start that, as an electronic journal, we ought not to limit ourselves geographically, and we are glad that we made that decision, delighting in the international scope of our submissions. At the same time we continue to do “inreach” to colleges and universities in New England, public colleges and universities in Massachusetts, the Colleges of Worcester Consortium in Central Massachusetts, and the faculty in our home institution. We still have work to do, particularly in attaining a greater disciplinary balance and in continuing to clarify our definition of an article that addresses an audience across the disciplines. One thing we are sure of: if an article is based in a particular academic discipline, it must explicitly consider its relevance and applicability to other disciplines and classroom settings and to Currents’ audience of teachers across the disciplines. As the number of submissions increases, we find ourselves needing more peer reviewers, since we send each submission out to at least two, sometimes three readers. Grateful thanks to our hard-working referees for Volume 3: P. Sven Arvidson, Daron Barnard,

Andrea Bilics, Andrew Bourelle, Timothy Dale, Eric

Nathan Dickman, Sue Foo, M. Thomas Gammarino,

Sean C. Goodlett, Ruth Haber, Michael Hachey, Jim

Henry, Kim Hicks, Li-Shih Huang, Matthew Johnsen,

Amanda Katz, Jesse Kavadlo, Justin Koenitzer, Randy

Laist, Holly Larson, Ana Perez-Manrique, David

Marlow, Patricia Marshall, Joyce McNickles, Pearl

Mosher-Ashley, Jeffry Nichols, Mathew Ouellett,

Bonnie Orcutt, John Pruitt, Dan Shartin, Rashna

Singh, Seth Surgan, Pennie Ticen, Don Vescio, and

Karen Woods Weierman. If you are a new subscriber or

contributor, we invite you to join the team.

Finally, we thank Brian Burgess, our outgoing

Graduate Assistant, who took an active role as our

Editorial Assistant for a year and a half; we miss him

and wish him the very best. And we welcome Elizabeth

Kappos, our capable new Editorial Assistant, who

–– jumped in with a







The title of this editorial is taken from a book by the Sufi teacher Idries Shah (1981). In it, Shah discussed habits of mind, both individual and collective, that create obstacles to higher learning; he recognized that individual differences among people require many different approaches to teaching that canot be reduced to a standardized formula; and his practical approach to learning focused on what works. It serves to remind me, in all the discussion about new discoveries in the cognitive sciences, that there are highly sophisticated sciences that are hundreds, even thousands, of years old. We have a great deal to learn, but first we must learn to acknowledge our preconceptions and open our minds.

Shah, Idries. (1981). Learning how to learn: Psychology and spirituality in the Sufi way. Introduction by Doris Lessing. First U.S. Edition. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.

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Teaching Intellectual Teamwork in WAC Courses through Peer Review
Jim Henry and Lehua Ledbetter

Abstract Now that the writing-across-the-curriculum (WAC) movement is firmly in place on hundreds of college campuses, courses that leverage writing to enhance the learning of disciplinary content and conventions are quite common. Perhaps less common among instructional practices is peer review, a technique often used in introductory composition courses. Because faculty outside of Composition Studies may be less familiar with teaching techniques for peer review, this teaching report provides an introduction to the literature on peer review and a review of WAC sources supporting its use. Against the backdrop of this introduction, we offer a case study of our own approach when teaching introductory composition, with excerpts from students’ written performances to illustrate the processes and to support our claims about its efficacy. An appended table offers our step-by-step process for positioning students to review their peers’ writing; this process can be adapted to other disciplines and other goals.
Keywords peer review, collaborative learning, response to writing, modeling, metacognition

As director of the Manoa Writing Program, Jim Henry oversees more than 500 writing-intensive courses per semester. He has published extensively on the teaching of writing, and in 2009 he was awarded the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching.
Lehua Ledbetter taught first-year writing and worked as a writing mentor at the University of Hawai‘i before pursuing her Ph.D. at Michigan State. She currently serves as a research assistant in MSU’s Writing in Digital Environments research center.

Introduction: Defining Terms and Clearing Misconceptions
A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (Anderson, 2010), “Peer Editing Could Use Some Revision,” offers a snapshot of (mis)understandings of the practice of peer review. The article offers some guidelines for “peerediting” sessions, yet as readers’ comments reveal, the term itself is ill-chosen. Most scholars in Composition Studies reserve the term “peer editing” for only the last stage in the writing process, after higher order issues of purpose, audience considerations, and disciplinary conventions have been addressed (Cahill, 2002; Grimm, 1986; Holt, 1992). “Peer review” or “peer response” refers to this practice of positioning students more broadly to respond to one another’s writing to enhance understandings of such “higher order concerns” (Paton, 2002; Purdue OWL, n.d.; Rose, 1985). Writing instructors across the disciplines can fruitfully position students as peer editors—and we offer a strategy for doing so as part of our case study—but it is important to distinguish this practice from those peer reviews that contribute to learning to write and learning to

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think within a specific discipline. One poster’s response to Anderson’s article speaks to the importance of this distinction: identifying two proofreading errors in the article and asking how many of her students would have been capable of catching them, the poster concludes with “My guess would be none[.] … Admittedly against nearly all recent thought to the contrary, I see little value in ‘peer editing,’ for it is almost never editing at all” (profpeter, 2010, n.p.a.).
Yet students can catch errors, just as they can contribute valuable responses to one another’s evolving writing in earlier stages, as we demonstrate below. Key to enabling them to do so is to indicate precisely the kinds of response expected for each review and to frame the review sessions carefully with respect to the assignment and course expectations. Such teaching requires some extra time in preparation and classroom execution (see Spear, 1998; Woods, 2002), and we acknowledge (along with a reviewer of an earlier draft of this article) that faculty in the disciplines may be loath to dedicate time to peer review if it seems to detract from class time devoted to “content.” Yet we hope that by the end of this article, readers will agree that peer review can actively contribute to teaching content, thus justifying the time spent on it. Our approach suggests soliciting collaboration from the campus writing center, which might also help instructors enhance connections with campus support for writing.
Scholarship on Peer Review in Writing Across the Curriculum
Analyzing peer response to writing in an anthropology course in 1991, Herrington and Cadman arrived at the following conclusions:
1. Peer review can create occasions for active and reciprocal decision-making where students are their own authorities, not the teacher. Instead of following a peer’s or even a teacher’s advice uncritically, they feel more latitude to decide for

themselves how to act, specifically how they will respond to a peer’s response. Indeed, the value of peer-review exchanges can be realized as much in instances where a writer decides not to follow a peer’s advice as where she does. 2. Students can give sound advice to their peers, even on matters they are having difficulty with in their own writing. 3. Writers can profit both from the response they receive about their own drafts and from reading the drafts of others. 4. In peer-review exchanges, students focus not only on matters of organization and style, but also on substantive matters of interpretation and methods of inquiry central to learning in a given discipline. As they do so, they are working out their own understandings of methodologies, ways to interpret information, and ways to present themselves in their writing. (p. 184) Recent studies have confirmed that peer review has proven a valuable resource for instructors across the disciplines. One study of over 300 writing-intensive courses in the natural and applied sciences showed that instructors who included peer-reviewing among their practices were more successful in engaging students in writing (Chinn & Hilgers, 2000). In another study, undergraduate science students who engaged in Webmediated peer review of toxicology reports made more revisions that improved their reports than those who reviewed their own drafts (Trautmann, 2009). Cho, Shunn, and Wilson (2006) have found that students are able to provide reliable and valid “rating” of writing when using the same rubric as the instructor, and Patchan, Charney, and Schunn (2009) have found that comments from instructors and students to drafts were “relatively similar,” even though instructors were understandably more adept in providing content-specific feedback. Artemeva and Logie (2002) examined the role of peer feedback (referred to as “intellectual team-

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work”) in aiding written and oral communication in engineering students. Having elicited suggestions from students, they developed a peer feedback strategy that increased the amount of feedback addressing higherorder concerns—issues of “organization and evaluation”—from the first to the final drafts of a writing assignment.
In sum, the literature demonstrates that students can provide valid responses to their peers and can even collaborate with instructors to develop strategies for addressing higher order concerns. When peer review is practiced, students engage more with their own writing and produce more substantive revision. Based on such scholarship, writing-across-the-curriculum practitioners have established a number of guidelines to help instructors provide skillful and attentive guidance to peer review. The online WAC Clearinghouse at Colorado State University, noted in the references, includes pages devoted exclusively to such guidelines. The case study that follows offers an application of tenets found there for our specific course and discipline yet adaptable to other disciplines while maintaining core features.
Applying the 3 M’s—Multiple Technologies, MetaCommentary, and Modeling—in a Composition Course Focused on Sustainability
Jim Henry, the instructor for the course, was assisted by Lehua Ledbetter, who was then a master’s student in English and working as a writing mentor to students in the class by attending all classes with them and conducting regular out-of-class conferences, a valuable part of our learning strategy that employed a process approach to writing. Her role was important in enabling this successful staging of peer review, and we suggest that instructors across the disciplines contact their campus writing centers to request a tutor who can similarly help set up the peer review. Most centers will be familiar with the recent trend toward “on-location

tutoring” (Spigelman & Grobman, 2005) and will probably welcome the collaboration. (And though approaches to peer review can vary significantly, an instructor equipped with this article and ideas about how s/he would like to deploy peer review could very likely find a willing collaborator through the writing center, WAC offices, or writing fellows, depending upon local structures.) Below we offer specifics on the rationale and uses of each of our 3 Ms to support such collaboration.
Multiple Technologies
Our first-year composition course focused on sustainability, and Jim sought to stress this theme not only through course activities but also through course delivery. The syllabus was online, and the course also had a password-protected site on the university’s Web forum. Most readings were posted there, and students were informed at the outset that they would be using this resource heavily, posting regularly online. Because this was not a distance learning course, however, we wanted to maximize the advantages of face-to-face meetings to firmly establish the guidelines for peer review and closely monitor student application of those guidelines. We began with pen and paper in class: we wanted to dramatize this moment to assure strong engagement and to support student mastery of the practice, because the intellectual teamwork that we sought to nurture would depend very much on positioning students as valuable respondents to one another. We did not have many pen-and-paper moments in the classroom outside of peer review sessions, but for those sessions it proved key: we could circulate as students responded to one another and discern at a glance whether students were adding ample hand-written commentary on their peers’ drafts. Determining if this commentary was valuable to student writers—for us as instructors as well as for student authors—occurred in follow-up exercises that shifted back to using our online course space, as will be illustrated below. This meshing of technologies

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also enabled careful sequencing of assignments that followed up quickly on the in-class response to help us teach effective peer review.
Our introductory composition course targeted student learning outcomes that included an ability to compose texts that achieve a specific purpose and demonstrate an awareness of audience. We devised the mnemonic of “aim, audience, and authorship” to encompass these outcomes and to position students as the authors who would be writing frequent metacommentary for their writing by using this mnemonic. We explained the concept of “authorship” as encompassing the image or persona that the student writer would project of him- or herself, thus invoking considerations of tone, style, and voice, as well as of usage and grammar. This metacommentary consisted of cover memos for each draft to be reviewed, in which the author discussed his or her intentions for each of the categories and for each specific assignment. Peer reviewers could then compare their readings of drafts with authors’ stated intentions to provide feedback. We elaborate on this practice and its grounding below with a particular eye to aim, audience, and authorship, as these concepts can be taught across disciplines.
The use of metacommentary as part of peer review is grounded in research on metacognition, a key part of cognitive processes and problem solving as demonstrated by research in psychology (Efklides, 2001; Flavell, 1979). Within cognitive psychology, it is “generally accepted that metacognition is a model of cognition, which acts at a meta-level and is related to the object-world” (Efklides, 2006, p. 4). Metacommentary extends this definition: metacognitive writing is writing at the meta-level that is related to the object-world of the writer’s audience as part of a problem-solving approach to learning. Efklides (2006) supports the argument of metacognition’s potential to enhance collaborative problem solving, noting that students pick

up and learn from each other’s meta-experience (ME) cues:
…collaborating peers in problem solving coregulate their learning on cues from ME of their partner. Salonen, Vauras, and Efklides (2005) further showed this effect of ME that reveals the social aspect of metacognition. Thus, ME are [sic] an essential component of the self-regulation process as well as of the co-regulation or sharedregulation of cognition. (p. 9) To achieve the positioning of students as successful collaborating peers, we knew that we would need to guide their uses of metacommentary very carefully. To do so, we first explained the concept; then we showed some examples of metacommentary written for drafts by students in previous sections of the course. We stressed that students should write at least one good paragraph each on their intended aim(s), authorship, and audience, pointing to specific places in their drafts, if possible. The paragraphs could designate both successful performances and those needing further attention to enlist respondents as co-problem solvers. Students were to arrive in class with their printed-out drafts and metacommentary ready for peer review.
“Modeling” is a valued pedagogical technique, as evidenced by the use of modeling in a range of disciplines: for example, structural models enhance learning in engineering classes, while real-world models assist the application of formulas in mathematics. In writing instruction, modeling refers to a practice in which students are encouraged to interact with more experienced writers and their texts. In doing so, students might refine their own composing practices. In addition to an instructor’s models, a peer can offer models that other students observe and from which they learn. In social-cognitive theory, Bandura (1997) established the value of social interaction to enhance learning, insisting that peer models “can operate as a potent force in

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the development and social validation of intellectual self-efficacy” (p. 234). As a force central to authorship, self-efficacy contributes to students’ learning of writing skills.
To set up our modeling of peer review for the class, we each composed a two-page draft for the first assignment complete with metacommentary, exchanged our drafts, and composed copious commentary in longhand, filling the margins with comments and writing a paragraph of summary response at the end. The assignment was called a “geo-biography,” defined on the online syllabus as “an autobiography that includes reflections on the way your life to date has been shaped by the geographies you have lived in or visited” and that could include places “as intimate as your desk at home, your kitchen table, or your favorite place to meditate. ” It was conceptualized to achieve specific goals: familiarizing students with one another to begin building a classroom learning community; tapping the research and teaching in the subfield of eco-composition to stress “place” as it shapes human subjectivity; and establishing this grounding in “place” as a cornerstone for later assignments. The first draft was to be two pages maximum, single-spaced, with a space between paragraphs. Once we had composed longhand responses to each other’s drafts, we scanned these responses into a PDF to be deployed during class.
Students had been required to post their drafts complete with metacommentary to the passwordprotected class Web site the day before the session devoted to peer review. Reviewing these drafts quickly, Jim had placed students in groups of three, using topics, approaches, or other identifiable features to determine these groups. In class, he stressed that this procedure would recur throughout the semester and that the rationale for grouping would shift with assignments and with individual performances that demonstrated authors’ specific strengths and challenges. Then he projected Lehua’s response to his draft onto a screen

so that students could view the comments and so that he and Lehua could talk about them. (See Figures 1 and 2.) We deliberately set up this session as highly performative—revealing the responses and discussing them rather than distributing them on paper—because we did not want students to emulate the form so much as the collaborative task of problem solving, the “intellectual teamwork.” The “problem” that they would be helping each other solve was then revealed: help your authors expand from two pages to four.
Students then set about reviewing each other’s work. As they responded using pen or pencil, we each circulated to answer questions and guide the activity. At the end of a class period of 50 minutes, every student had a completed a handwritten review for a peer. They then had three homework assignments: (1) scan these drafts filled with handwritten response and upload them to the class Web site; (2) compare their own performance as a respondent with those of Jim or Lehua (which were being uploaded to the class website as they worked) and at least one other student; and (3) write a paragraph or two about how they planned to expand their drafts to reach four pages.
The initially uploaded drafts with metacommentary showed that the large majority of students understood the logic underpinning metacommentary and performed within this genre quite adeptly. In discussing his intentions for eliciting a specific response from his audience, for example, one student wrote:
I hope to elicit at least a little amusement in my writings. I understand that I am a rather dull individual, so feelings of excitement and humor are often void in my writings. The account did indeed include amusing anecdotes, and his respondent countered his assertion that he was “dull,” concluding his summary comments with “btw, it’s not boring!” In addition, the peer reviewer pointed out how the author could enhance the draft by re-orga-

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StudentsTeachingPeer ReviewMetacommentaryDrafts