• Excerpts from video interviews with all authors of the book Developing Writers

Transcript

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    In a larger sense we had
    John Sweetland to thank because his

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    endowment made it possible to have
    a research team attached to our project.

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    So I guess in part,
    it was a combination of ideas and

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    resources that made this project possible.

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    Yeah, and I think when we developed
    the minor in writing we had the idea,

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    really from the outset of that,
    that we would study it and

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    we would use it as a context for
    studying student writing development.

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    It was actually a lot of fun and

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    I think the fun was that it was so
    collaborative.

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    There was no way that any small
    group of people could do this.

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    I was adding up the numbers of people and
    it's an impressively

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    long list if you put together all
    the people who were involved.

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    There's research associates, people who
    did interviews, people who did coding.

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    It just was a pretty amazing project.

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    And as Naomi was saying earlier, the
    process of writing about what we found and

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    putting together these chapters,
    that were really collaboratively

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    produced with lots of
    feedback from all of us.

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    And that I think was the great
    pleasure of this book.

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    Yeah, and so, we talked about the
    collaborative nature of the writing of it,

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    but I think what was also really
    interesting about this kind of work

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    was the ways that we had to collaborate
    with so many different units on campus.

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    As well as the multiple people involved
    in helping us do the work that in order

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    to kind of do a project of this scope
    it required a much bigger collaboration

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    in a much kind of wider view than I've
    had the opportunity to be involved

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    with other studies which maybe have been
    collaborative but in a smaller sense.

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    So the breadth of it was really fun and
    also kind of mind boggling.

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    Yeah, I think also just the ways that
    our sense of the data shifted over time.

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    Was really interesting that because,
    I mean, I think that always happens

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    in a research project to some extent,
    but because it was over so many years.

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    That I think by the end we really were
    seeing very different things than we had

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    seen initially.

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    And especially once we were
    finally able to get the end point,

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    because it took a while for
    students to graduate.

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    [LAUGH]
    And so, to really be able to see where

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    they had come, yeah,
    was fascinating and exciting.

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    I'd like to say this has been a really
    fascinating project to work on because

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    both Lizzie and I were in,
    this of course was a long running study..

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    But Lizzie and I both had an opportunity
    to do some of the initial interviews

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    as well as to develop some
    of the initial codes.

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    And so then to have the opportunity
    a few years later to circle back and

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    more closely examine what that
    early data collection revealed

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    was a really interesting and
    unique opportunity here.

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    It really was a collaborative process
    and it was really cool to watch.

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    So we came into the project saying
    well I'm kind of interested in this,

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    every researcher brought
    a set of interest to the table.

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    And some of those interests had
    been percolating for a long time.

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    In the process of collecting data,
    students uploaded

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    writing samples across
    their college time here.

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    And they were tagged with metadata and
    they were collected on to one site.

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    When we went to begin actually doing
    the analysis to write the book, we had

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    to migrate all of those files,
    and de-identify them,

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    and just tag them for the kinds of
    writing that they were things like that.

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    I was the first one to kind of dig in and
    literally lay eyes on pretty much

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    every piece of data, and to tag and label
    them so that we could sort them later.

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    So that gave me a first sense of what
    it was students were putting in there

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    in writing and that was where
    some of first cases came from.

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    I was on the research team that was
    analyzing all of this data from our

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    longitudinal study.

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    And what was really interesting was
    that we had a whole bunch of data

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    in the surveys, as well as in
    the interviews about feedback.

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    Where students were talking about feedback
    and the role it played in their writing.

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    And what was especially interesting to me
    was that there were no direct questions

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    about feedback in the interviews,
    and yet it came up all the time.

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    So we had this huge set of data that
    was really interesting because it was

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    entirely from the students.

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    And I thought it would be an interesting
    path to take the chapter.

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    And so I picked up all of the codes
    that had to do with feedback and

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    started the process of pulling together.
    Our chapter draws from interviews,

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    from surveys, from e-portfolios, and
    from samples of student writing.

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    So we looked across the whole
    data set to investigate

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    what students said about feedback.

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    My interest in peer review grew out of
    a larger interest in critical pedagogy and

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    questions of diversity in
    the writing classroom.

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    And I first came to peer
    review because I think it

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    is a space where conflict
    over language and

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    identity is visible in ways it's not
    visible otherwise in the classroom.

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    So I think peer review is a valuable
    space, a productive space

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    to pursue those questions around
    equity in the learning classroom.

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    I was looking at the interview data and

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    thinking about larger themes that emerged.

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    And I was looking for

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    themes within the non-minor group
    as well as the minor group.

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    And I wasn't trying to use
    an existing theoretical framework,

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    rather I was listening to what students
    were saying about peer review.

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    And that eventually built into
    my question around authenticity,

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    authority, and authorship in peer review.

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    So they got to use a mixed method
    approach looking at survey data and

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    using statistics to analyze that
    data as well as listening to and

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    coding student interviews
    about peer review.

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    As Lizzie mentioned, we had
    surfaced this idea that students were

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    circling around,
    they did different kinds of writing.

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    And that their own kind
    of often rather rigid

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    blocking off of what those
    kind of writings were.

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    We had a sense very early on
    there was something there and

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    the opportunity to come back and
    to look more closely

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    at the student discussion around
    that has been quite interesting.

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    We explain this is in the chapter but
    we really wanted to let

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    the concerns of our analysis emerge
    from the student's own concerns.

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    So we really wanted to listen closely to
    that and not come in with our preconceived

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    notions about the categories
    that they might be implying or

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    suggesting which is again why we were
    resisting making it about genre per se.

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    So in terms of sort of methodology,

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    we really spent a lot of time combing over
    the interview data again and again and

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    particularly the parts that we tagged
    with this code of kinds of writing

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    to see what were those patterns, how were
    they sort of falling out into pattern.

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    Students were talking about ways
    of writing, ways of thinking about

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    the activity of writing at the same time
    that they were talking about the types,

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    the objects, the writing objects that
    were produced from those activities.

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    And of course, that ties back
    to this idea of development of

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    where is evidence of development?

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    Is it in the product, or
    is it in the learning that happened, and

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    the ways that you're able to repurpose
    that learning in new situations.

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    So I think kinds was sort of
    a broad enough term that didn't

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    reduce down to just the form which,

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    although genre theorists have of course
    argued that genre is not just a form,

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    students often still understand
    it as just a form, right?

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    So we didn't want to reduce down to that,
    nor did we want to merely

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    talk about it as an activity and as
    a process, but as both of those at once.

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    In this case I think it started from a
    theme that has come up in this discussion,

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    which is how do we connect certain kinds
    of ideas about writing with how they

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    actually play out in the writing.

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    In this case I was interested
    in this notion that students

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    often make generalizations
    in their writing.

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    What features are actually

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    those things that make the writing more
    general and what are they associated with.

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    There was existing research, especially
    in applied linguistics on certainty,

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    how certainty is articulated,

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    is manifest at the level of word, phrase,
    and sentence in academic writing.

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    I was able to pose a question about
    what those features look like, and

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    to what degree the use of those features
    changed over time, student level, and

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    across genres and fields.

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    I started with a basic original
    question in which I was gonna be using

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    linguistic methods to look at students'
    writing across disciplines in

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    terms of voice to see if students who
    are majoring in particular areas,

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    if there were patterns in how
    they were constructing voices.

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    I just noticed that they were using
    these terms voice and style quite a lot.

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    So what I did was compiled all
    the interviews into a corpus,

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    there were 131 interviews I believe.

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    And I converted them to txt files so that
    I could upload them into a concordenser.

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    And start looking at linguistic patterns
    in students talk about writing.

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    That allowed me to look at whether they
    were using pronouns like my voice or

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    my style or if they were using pronouns
    like that voice or that style.

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    So just purely quantitatively,

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    I was able to see something was going
    on there with the writing minors.

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    Then I realized I needed to do qualitative
    analysis, and look at individual students

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    and how they were talking about voice
    in the context of their interview.

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    So for this project we have so
    many different types of data and

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    we have this really rich survey data,
    we have two points for all participants.

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    The entry survey, the exit survey,
    same for interviews.

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    And then we have so
    much writing from students and

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    we also have their DSP essays,
    there's just a lot.

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    So when I was sort of first wrapping
    my head around this project, I was

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    talking to other research assistants and
    we were saying this is like a giant cake.

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    And you could slice it,
    [LAUGH] in like a million different ways.

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    So you have these descriptions
    across a lot of cases.

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    And while I was starting this
    cross case comparison of

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    all the intersections of writerly
    self conception or self efficacy.

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    And learning transfer and I stumbled
    across this one passage from Grace that I

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    found so troubling and so packed with

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    just contradictions, and
    I was just really drawn to her.

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    She seemed to be a really
    kinda perplexing case,

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    so I was like,
    this needs to be its own chapter.

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    I've talked a little bit
    about case study research,

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    but I think we're in a really
    interesting time in our discipline where

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    methodologies are getting really,
    really rigorous.

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    And I am a huge fan of that,
    I'm really excited about that,

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    I'm really excited about, as I mentioned,
    the rise of corpus linguistics.

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    I'm really excited about more scholars and

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    comp getting on board with
    statistical analysis.

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    I think that kind of the uptick or

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    the push toward quantitative literacy is
    really important and I know a lot about,

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    of course, this coming from the world
    of writing program administration.

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    But I think there also is a lot of
    value in looking really closely at

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    a small number of participants and
    saying because you get that rich

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    narrative of what they're experiencing,
    what's happening behind the scenes.

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    What instructors may be missing.

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    I applied that rubric to several sample
    e-portfolios to see what I learned and

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    that's one place where I really started
    to understand the uneven development

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    of writing.

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    Because in an e-portfolio you
    might have examples of really

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    excellent alphabetic artifacts.

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    But the e-portfolio as a whole might
    be kind of novicey in its look.

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    But then, on the other hand,
    looking at student interviews, and

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    how they talked about their e-portfolios,
    they might actually be saying pretty

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    sophisticated things about what they
    were trying to do in the e-portfolio,

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    even the e-portfolio itself didn't
    look really interesting or exciting.

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    When I was thinking about the study,
    I wanted to think about the students at

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    Michigan who may not have been the,
    quote, norm in terms of their background.

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    And I wanted to bring my understanding
    of that transition to college writing to

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    bear on that question, and on our
    questions about longitudinal development.

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    Institutional data is
    how I did this chapter.

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    I sort of am very excited that
    I came across this when Anne and

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    I first talked about my chapter I said,
    I really wanted to do something

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    that thought a little more carefully
    about social facts amongst the students.

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    And Anne was very excited about that I
    think, she was as unsettled as I was about

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    the idea that we sort of gloss the entire
    Michigan student body in the way that

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    I think we'll all want to do for reasons
    of practicality like I just talked about.

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    But the thing, and then I came home and
    I was like, how do I actually do that?

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    [LAUGH] Like how and

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    I realized we had those neighborhood
    clusters within our data set.

    201
    00:16:22.110 --> 00:16:25.530
    And so, okay, so that's a way,
    it's not perfect.

    202
    00:16:27.020 --> 00:16:29.910
    It's not unproblematic,
    it's not untroubled,

    203
    00:16:29.910 --> 00:16:34.810
    but that is a way in to thinking about
    these students and their experiences.

    204
    00:16:34.810 --> 00:16:38.113
    And that helped me select which
    students to look at more carefully.

    205
    00:16:43.329 --> 00:16:48.811
    This chapter was actually a very late
    thought, we had collected all the data,

    206
    00:16:48.811 --> 00:16:53.820
    we had done a lot of the analysis,
    we were writing chapters.

    207
    00:16:53.820 --> 00:16:58.420
    And I begin to think, we spent so
    much time looking at how

    208
    00:16:58.420 --> 00:17:03.530
    students develop as writers,
    but what happens afterward?

    209
    00:17:03.530 --> 00:17:08.350
    Because I think in general,
    the research that has been done

    210
    00:17:08.350 --> 00:17:13.740
    on student writing development has
    particularly for college students that is,

    211
    00:17:13.740 --> 00:17:18.560
    has focused just on
    the college period itself.

    212
    00:17:18.560 --> 00:17:22.920
    And has not really looked
    backward to what happens,

    213
    00:17:22.920 --> 00:17:28.670
    what students bring with them, or to what
    shape it takes as they move forward.

    214
    00:17:28.670 --> 00:17:33.250
    And that was what really set
    this in motion and everybody

    215
    00:17:33.250 --> 00:17:36.810
    else was busy working on chapters,
    and I thought okay I can do this.

    216
    00:17:38.010 --> 00:17:40.109
    And so
    that's what really led to this chapter.

Methods Used in the Longitudinal Study Behind Developing Writers: Interviews with All Authors

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

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  • Education:Higher Education
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