• Excerpts from video interviews with Anne Gere and Naomi Silver about key findings and takeaways for instructors

Transcript

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    So I'm Ann Ruggles Gere and I am Director
    of the Sweetland Center for Writing.

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    I have been Director since 2008 and

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    I bring a background of
    a career in writing studies.

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    I've been a professor for around 40 years.

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    And all of that has been in the area of

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    rhetoric and composition more commonly
    now called Writing Studies.

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    And I'm Naomi Silver.

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    I'm the associate director of
    the Sweetland Center for Writing and

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    I've been in that role since 2007.

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    And I bring a background in teaching for
    a while now.

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    Well, I think among
    the surprising things for me were,

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    first of all,
    how important students desires are.

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    That they come to the university with
    things that they want to accomplish and

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    I'm not sure that as professors
    we're as aware of that.

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    And it's very clear that in many cases,
    students have really

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    intentional agendas that they
    are following and they are making choices

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    about their development as writers
    based on what they want to accomplish,

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    and I don't think I had given students
    enough credit, if you will, for

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    that kind of thinking,
    careful thinking about

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    who they wanted to become as writers and
    that's perhaps the biggest surprise.

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    I think that was another thing that I
    didn't give students full credit for,

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    that they are also thinking about genres.

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    They don't necessarily have the language
    that we, in the profession, would use.

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    But they have very clear notions
    of what a piece of writing

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    is and how it differs from another
    piece of writing, and how these factors

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    of audience and purpose and so forth, play
    into the way that they're going to write.

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    And I think this is a major
    finding of the book as a whole,

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    is the unevenness of student writing and
    development.

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    And I think that was something that,

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    that we found in pretty much every
    aspect of student writing development,

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    that students who might
    do school really well,

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    in certain ways,
    are not necessarily very deeply or

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    extensively developed
    writers in other ways.

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    And that's when students are able
    to have a more critical relation,

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    and not necessarily love
    what they're doing or

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    accept everything they're being
    offered by instructors or by peers, or

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    whatever, but make choices and be conscious
    about the choices that they're making.

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    That that seems to be when more
    robust development is demonstrated.

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    And so that was, I don't know if that's
    surprising now that we've seen that

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    play out in so many ways but I think it
    was not necessarily an expected outcome.

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    In terms of newish things,
    I think that what we've learned about,

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    what Naomi was talking about,

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    critical engagement with feedback is
    a step forward because I think many of us,

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    as teachers, have always thought,
    if I give really good feedback, and

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    students do exactly what I've been
    suggesting them to do, it's all good.

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    And actually,
    we've learned that that isn't always true.

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    Students can go through and

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    do exactly what we've told them to
    do because we've told them to do it,

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    not because they are really engaged with
    that critique, and so that's a subtle

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    shift and certainly something that
    I'm taking away in my own teaching.

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    I would say one of them is
    the importance of the social

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    dimension of writing that we saw again and
    again.

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    Certainly, the whole notion
    of interaction with peers,

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    with instructors,
    makes an enormous difference.

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    This was something that we saw over and
    over again that students talked,

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    in some cases, quite explicitly
    about how writing enables them

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    to work through non academic issues,
    as well as academic ones.

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    One certainly has to do with assignments,
    the kinds of assignments.

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    There has been a fair amount of work
    recently on assignments, that's an area

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    where instructors really need to be
    paying attention because we saw so

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    many instances where the curriculum and
    instruction were pushing students in

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    particular ways and that was not
    always productive for student writers.

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    The notion that writing development

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    equates with writing in
    a particular discipline,

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    that to be a really good
    writer is to develop this

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    rather narrow expertise
    within a given field and

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    most of the literature
    takes that position and

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    that's a place I think we need to
    take a second look, as instructors,

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    because that isn't necessarily
    what we're seeing students do nor

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    does it seem the best thing for students
    to do, so that's another big area.

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    Students benefit from being given
    ample opportunities to reflect

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    on what they have done,
    and what they're learning.

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    In regard to feedback,
    how they are choosing to use feedback.

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    So the more that instructors can help
    students to think of themselves as

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    being empowered to make choices,
    both in their topics, in their genres, and

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    in the ways that they make use of what's
    being offered to them in the classroom,

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    the more that the students will be able
    to find paths for their own development.

Key findings and takeaways of the study for instructors

From Developing Writers in Higher Education: A Longitudinal Study by Anne Ruggles Gere, Editor

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