Congratulations to a New Class of Faculty Writing Fellows

Every semester, the Howe Writing Across the Curriculum (HWAC) initiative hosts a new cohort of Faculty Writing Fellows. The program is designed to help Miami faculty in their efforts to teach students to write more effectively in their disciplines and to use writing in ways that support deep learning.

This Fall, we welcomed a team from the Havighurst Center for Russian & Post-Soviet Studies, including: Steve Norris, Zara Torlone, Scott Kenworthy, Neringa Klumbyte, and Hannah Chapman. Also in the cohort were Justice and Community Studies faculty John Forren, Theresa Conover, and Jessica Warner. The group met on Monday afternoons with HCWE Director Elizabeth Wardle, Associate Director Ann Updike, and Graduate Assistant Directors Mandy Olejnik and Caitlin Martin to discuss research on learning and apply insights from the research with group activities. To complete the program, each team undertook a project aimed at improving teaching and learning with writing in their programs.

For their culminating project, the Havighurst group considered the threshold concept of interdisciplinarity, a relevant concept for the team because together they represent five different disciplines within the Havighurst Center (history, political science, comparative religion, anthropology, and Classics). They reflected especially on the cross-listed introductory course HST/ATH/CLS/ITS/POL/REL/RUS 254, which any of them might be asked to teach. Each team member identified threshold concepts unique to their discipline. Then they worked together to find a common ground of learning based on the center’s broad focus on Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies. All agreed that most students come to the intro course with misconceptions about Russia. The goal is to, using writing, help students challenge those misconceptions and understand the range of history, culture, and experiences within the region. So, the team drafted a teacher’s guide for 254 instructors that embraces the interdisciplinary nature of the course and offers specific readings and assignments from each discipline.

Rather than focus on a specific course, the Justice and Community Studies team used their project to take a comprehensive inventory of the writing happening across their major curriculum. They audited ten core courses and discovered that students were writing more overall, and in more varied ways (i.e. field observations, hypotheticals, and reflections), than they realized. Writing assignments given within the major, too, they found, showed a scaffold of increasing volume and intensity. Looking ahead from the audit, the team intends to further strengthen scaffolding and infuse writing more intentionally in the curriculum. They’ll be particularly interested in clarifying department writing goals and helping students gain the communication skills they need to succeed professionally.

Congratulations to the Fellows cohort of Fall 2020. We look forward to seeing the curricular change you enact going forward!

Screen capture of Zoom meeting with 2020 Faculty Fellows cohort.

Fall 2020 Fellows cohort at the program-capping project showcase (held over Zoom).

Interested in assembling a team for the Faculty Writing Fellows Program? We’d be glad to host you for a full semester of studying the theory and practice behind disciplinary writing instruction. Learn more about the program, and how to join, on our Howe Writing Across the Curriculum (HWAC) website.