Conversation 4

What would you want teachers of writing in the contexts that precede and/or follow your context to know about your teaching of writing (goals, challenges, affordances)?

8 thoughts on “Conversation 4

  1. Nursing assignment


    What do the instructors who assigned this value?

    -Critical thinking/analytical skills
    -Practical applications of scholarship.
    -Format/following the rules of the assignment and style guide (APA); but at the
    same time enough creativity to structure (and, therefore, own) their answer to an
    outlined, point-by-point, assignment rubric.
    -Credibility/authenticity/authority of sources and research.

    What do the students need to know?:

    -How to critically analyze popular media
    -How to format and support an argument
    -An ability to see beyond the literal content of a source, and to situate that
    source in a conversation with other thinkers/sources. (Student does a decent job
    of integrating most of these here).


    Instructor seems to have pre-conceived values and biases inherent in the assignment. The assignment almost begs the question (the question being, it seems, what’s wrong with the “nursing” stereotype in popular culture?)

    Instructor seems to value following directions.

    Assignment empowers students in the sense that it forces them to grapple with public opinion/popular stereotypes head on. Also forces them to define what a nurse is, how they relate to it. Identity-formation seems to be an outcome here (and, as such, perhaps comes across also as an exercise in advocacy.)

  2. Responses to nursing paper:
    – overall not a bad paper, but some of us were surprised that this was an “A” paper
    – didn’t exactly engage with all of the assignment: could have drawn on professional lit more thoroughly
    – might have been more focused, narrowed in to one area of nursing practice?
    – not too focused on one issue, may be the assignment’s fault: it asks students to talk about a bigger range of issues than fit well within the length (confusing, long-winded assignment)–but could this have been mitigated if the student had focused better? Worked more on flow?
    -pretty broad, and message seems to be “down with unfairness”– that is, it’s quite general, rather than addressing specific concerns
    constrained by APA e.g. paraphrase convention
    – seemed engaging, comprehensive
    – we have some disagreement about what this paper “should” have been, and that influences how we value this paper
    – one reader liked the paper’s confidence
    – the value of the assignment: is it in thinking about and define one’s identity as a nurse going into the profession? is it in engaging with professional literature, and comparing it with their experience of the world? how important is voice? performance of institutional norms?
    – this assignment is good insofar as the students have to go through a process of thinking about society versus reality so that later they’ll be empowered with the language to defend themselves as professionals, when they’re not being received as such
    – APA is clearly crucial–can you follow rules and conventions
    – writing as a “hidden agenda,”
    – assignment gets them to think about their identity, personal connections; answer the question of “what is a nurse?” Even to question their own preconceptions about their field.
    – maybe a case of “too many cooks”: the values weren’t immediately apparent–but this was an assignment by committee
    – the constraint of “easy to mark” applies to large classes such as this
    – levelling: first year students get many careful structure prompts, there are fewer such prompts in second year, and so on, until in their final year, they no longer get structure prompts at all
    – early example of how to be an advocate for the profession–nurses have to politicize, and this is reflected in the curriculum
    – it’s not necessarily an assignment that’s not (primarily) “about” writing–that may not be the priority
    – students don’t transfer knowledge between contexts well, at least early on, in university
    – English teachers are expected to bear the full responsibility for students’ writing skills, when each discipline has its own expectations and skills.

  3. Big group discussion:
    – Given context of several hundred students, it is understandable why instructor limited sources to be looked at – the team of instructors could only be familiar with so much!
    – A pre-fabricated argument like this assignment is fine if it is to teach techniques for writing better essays (how to organize, etc.). But, this essay is looking at a whole range of things that cannot help with being able to write better essays.
    – The only thing the instructor values is following directions. That is the only way this could be an A paper.
    – The student did a good job of integrating sources within a limitations. This goes beyond summarizing. In nursing this is important. And, using APA properly is also a valuable item.
    – It also teaches people who are starting profession know what is being said about nurses. That was the real agenda. The writing was secondary it seems.
    – It also helps students see one way that nurses are being viewed. And, this helps with identity formation. It might also clarify the reality for students.
    – It would have been helpful to write an essay on what the expectations for excellence are for nurses. So, this is really half-an-assignment.
    – Maybe, because there was a group of instructors, there might have been a morphing of instructions os that the assignment becomes easier to mark.
    – In nursing, first year students get a lot of structuring in assignments. By fourth year, there is very little or no structuring of assignments. This assignment fits in with this organization.
    – Nurses have to be political and this is worked into assignment. So, assignment goes beyond the writing.
    – As students enter a faculty, that is what they do and not do what other parts of the university are doing. So, nursing has to educate own students to move forward – like all the other disciplines.
    – The English teacher has writing to teach by default.

  4. Nursing paper – Entire group discussion:

    What do the instructors who assigned this assignment value?
    – When you have several hundred students, it makes sense to give this much detail.
    – The instructor might just be interested in his or her own opinion, it seems like a biased assignment – all of the examples look at nurses in a negative way – there are other more positive sources that were not addressed
    – An examination of stereotypes is valuable, and should be addressed in more faculties – stereotype of well behaved children on tv etc – sometimes we forget about the importance of addressing professional stereotypes
    – This essay has a pre-fabricated argument, which is fine if the intention is to teach structure and technique. However, this essay does not teach students how to take materials and deal with them meaningfully and creatively – if we were to take this outline and replace Nursing with Marijuana, then we’d have another paper like the sample
    – The marker seems to only value the student’s ability to follow instructions – did they or did they not follow the instructions – the ‘A’ sample paper was based on checklist marking
    – Maybe what was being valued was the ability to synthesize source material – so supplying the sources makes sense because it removes the distraction of needing to search – so the sample paper shows the ability to work with sources well (as well as follow citation styles) – a focus on analysis
    – From a nursing perspective, the above is really important
    – The essay question is beneficial because it is empowering for the student – it gives them the power to dismantle media representations of the career they will be adopting
    – In this assignment, teaching writing is a hidden agenda – the biggest concern of the essay is to get students to engage with the question ‘what is a nurse?’ – why are they in the department, and have they emotionally connected with nursing through tv representations? They are being asked to question their possibly loaded assumptions about the discipline. Identity formation.
    – It would have been nice to have the assignment also address the positive – how does the nursing literature expect professionals to really act – rather than just knocking down the media
    – The assignment structure makes it easy to mark – important when dealing with large numbers
    – The assignment guidelines seem to change – possibly because it is written by more than one instructor – it seems to imply different things – own opinions vs credible sources, Canadian vs American tv shows, etc
    – The student will likely skip to the end of the assignment sheet and look at just the final questions
    – Leveling – the first years will be given the structure, by fourth year they won’t – kind of like a training wheels exercise – this is a genre that it is important for students to know – ‘reflective scholarly essay’ – reflecting on key ideas in light of scholarly evidence and importance of critique
    – Geared towards being an advocate for your profession, waving the flag
    – In Alberta, nurses have to be politically active – it is a professional value
    – Similar to diploma exam at the end of 30-1, more about critical analysis than writing, ‘just because it takes the form of a written essay doesn’t mean that it isn’t about more than writing’ – this assignment is very context-dependent
    – As students are streamed into different departments, they learn to perform different styles
    – When people complain that students at university cannot write, they should be targeting all professors (not just the English department)

  5. What do the instructors who assigned this assignment value?
    What did the students need to know or be able to do in order to write a good response to this assignment?
    What does the sample essay tell you about what the instructors value?

  6. Nursing paper
    The assignment sheet reads like a preset outline.
    The sample paper is not specific. Generalizations are made and not made more specific. The instructor seems to want an opinion paper with only generalizations. Vocabulary is ambiguous, ideas unclear. The use of references is not very deep, very little interaction with the texts, leaving them just standing there without explanation.

    The instructor values more general ideas than innovative or original ones.

    The assignment could be made better if there was a more specific topic. Rather than attacking “the media” a student could choose one stereotype and find media examples of its perpetuation, or one episode of a hospital drama and its representation of nurses, etc. Something more concrete.

  7. Nursing Paper

    The assignment sheet is very ‘heavy to get through,’ there is a lot being asked of the student. The instructions are complicated, but we understand why instructors do that – it’s usually an effort to improve clarity and specificity.

    The paper is very effective, it has a strong and well-defended call to action. At the same time, there are some left-over high school writing tactics that could be improved – including grandiose statements, unsupported claims, etc…

    There are some redundancies.

    This is a pretty good paper for first year. The instructor’s purpose seems to be to invite a critical view – it also encourages a focus on professionalism.

    The writer has good energy and their voice is very clear. Additionally, their evidence is much stronger than Marijuana’s.

    Exam/assignment banks are useful.

    There is less risk-taking as a student because I’m paying for my education – too much time, money, and life is invested. Students will spend a lot of time trying to figure out what instructors expect. The stakes are higher. Students have huge penalties for lateness (ten percent off a day etc) and this may also have a negative effect – “I think that doing something well is a learned behavior” – what do deadlines accomplish? As a teacher, though, it’s hard to escape them without running into trouble from administrators and parents.
    This is especially applicable in a first year course when the field is new to the student – producing good work is going to take longer. Deadlines are not conducive to quality and learning, they create a ‘good enough’ mentality.
    Do you evaluate a first year student’s paper by the same standards as a fourth year’s? One would think that the criteria is applied universally – or that a prof in a large class won’t take the time to find out.

    We wonder if in five or ten years ‘prevailing winds’ will change – and deadlines will come back to secondary education in full force. There seem to be trends in education. “Some people need ten percent off a day, pain and fear can be motivating factors” – occasionally we need to call an eighteen year old’s parents.

    How does the group of students change the way the course is taught? IB vs 30-1, etc. Assessment becomes a challenge.

  8. What do instructors value?

    – The instructor values what their own opinion is and do not value independent thinking by the student. The instructor does not list shows to watch that portray nurses positively and wants students to follow his/her instructions.
    – It would be more valuable to see how to dispel myths of the media – but the instructor does not do this.

    What do students need to know?

    – They are to do what instructor wants and not explore alternative views on their own.
    – They might be penalized if they take another viewpoint.

    What does the essay tell you what the instructor values?

    – Following what the instructor wants and the student does this by only looking at the shows the teacher wants.
    – The student agrees with the professor wants so that the professor can go to the department chair and say the students agree with him.

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