11:15 am-12:15 pm EST: Concurrent Session One
Individual Paper Panel 1: Training Instructors for Online Teaching
“Training Teaching Assistants for the Online Learning Environment Improves Pedagogy for All”
--Miranda L. Egger, Univ. of Colorado Denver (faculty) and Old Dominion Univ. (PhD student)
Training for brand new teaching assistants via traditional practicum protocol is designed to serve graduate students who are new to teaching. However, what it means to “teach” often presumes the face-to-face class that meets synchronously for a fairly predictable demographic of student. At a large Western university, we’ve piloted a Teaching Assistantship program that trains new teachers specifically for an equally important learning environment: the asynchronous online classroom, hosted by a major learning management system (Canvas).
Since training for new online teachers is non-existent at many institutions (Mechenbier, 2015), this effort has meant designing TA materials, a 3-day intensive preparation workshop, readings for the practicum, and a manual specific to online learning (a call made by Baran et al., 2014)—all tailored specifically to online learning. The materials developed for this pilot practicum have sought to support new faculty as they solve the “theoretical, pedagogical, and technological puzzles of…online courses” (Cook, 2005), present best practices, and provide the tools to make pedagogical choices of rhetorical awareness, writing, reading, access and equity in digital learning spaces.
As Hewett & Warnock (2015) argue, our greatest deficit when it comes to OWI is a reliance on lore at the expense of professional development that is theory-based and replicable. This warning especially applies to teacher preparation. That’s why training materials have been informed by research in OWI that encourages programs to move beyond the technical how-to of the LMS (Taylor & McQuiggan, 2008) and focus on teaching a rhetorical awareness of online pedagogy, such as choosing the technologies with the most relevant affordances.
Ultimately, this pilot online TA program has taught us the same lesson we’ve learned from expanding into myriad threads of scholarship—disabilities studies, queer studies, multimodal studies, etc…: when we seek to learn about a new and seemingly different way to teach, we are all empowered to expand our tools for inclusivity. Now, with a TA program that includes online learning pedagogies and support, we can prepare teachers for the rigor of teaching via digital media, merged with the practical instantiation of the theories and best practices presented in the growing body of research. That focus on OWI specifically improves teaching for us all, in every learning environment.
“Professionalizing Part-time Contingent Faculty: Examining WPA Approaches”
--Melvin E. Beavers, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Writing program administrators secure employment of part-time faculty to support and teach both face-to-face and online first-year writing courses. This presentation is an attempt to further examine the administrator’s role in helping to prepare or train part-time contingent faculty. As administrators of writing programs, these faculty members play a vital role in the professional development of their online and face-to-face faculty. Far too little research examines how, or in what ways, part-time contingent faculty are trained and prepared to teach first-year writing online (Mechenbier, 2015). Some may question how does the training and professional development of part-time workers fall within the purview of the WPA? This research extends that conversation and argues the importance of professional development opportunities for part-time contingent faculty. As the demand for more online courses increases across various institutional types, WPAs will need to make stronger arguments about the need to offer online writing instructional training for part-time faculty.
“Visions for Giving Feedback in Online Writing Courses”
--Sara Doan, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
At the post-secondary level, literacy education often involves asking students to write, then giving students feedback on their writing. Current feedback studies focus mainly on how students understand and engage with instructor comments (Still & Koerber, 2010; Taylor, 2011), how the medium of feedback-giving affects students’ engagement (Anson, et al., 2016; Borup, et al., 2015), and how instructors often expect students to parse terms with which they are unfamiliar (Boud & Molloy, 2013). Giving more attention to instructors visualize and give students feedback on their writing in online post-secondary courses has great implications for literacy education.
In this presentation, I highlight results from a study of 10 instructors: five who taught online and five who taught face-to-face. My results show that while all instructors cared about how their students perceived their feedback, online instructors were more likely to articulate ways in which feedback could connect with or motivate students’ learning. However, these online instructors sometimes missed opportunities to praise what students did well or point out places for improvement on students’ resumes and cover letters. Furthermore, instructors with high course loads or little training in giving feedback had a more difficult time articulating their over-arching goals—especially important as four of these five instructors taught summer courses online with compressed timelines.
Ultimately, this presentation argues for greater opportunities for formative feedback in the online writing classroom, contrasting comments from instructors who gave comments, then asked students to revise the assignment. I show examples from these instructor interviews and instructors’ feedback comments to explain how online teaching can enable instructors to create meaningful opportunities for helping students improve their writing by giving students time for revision. I also show how one instructor created comments that point out what the student can improve, explain why it matters, and direct the student to a better way of communicating. Participants will learn specific strategies for giving feedback online so they can carry out their visions for their students' learning.
“Mapping the Context of Teaching Writing in International Online Spaces”
--Kirk St.Amant, Louisiana Tech University and University of Limerick
As international access to online environments grows, the globally dispersed students in online writing classes is poised to increase. This situation has important benefits to offer all involved, but only if writing educators understand the cultural and technical variables that can affect interactions in international online spaces. Doing so involves understanding the cognitive factor participants from different cultures employ to recognize and use technologies to engage in online interactions.
Two overarching areas are central to addressing such environments. The first is culture – or how the culture of participants affects expectations of how to perceive materials and behaviors in and interact within online spaces. The second is usability, which examines how to design materials to meet individuals’ expectations of what something should look like and how it should be used in order to engage with it effectively. These two areas are closely interconnected, and developing and delivering online writing instruction to globally dispersed students requires instructors to understand and address the overlap between these two areas. Frameworks that can help writing educators identify such aspects of design and use can be central to working effectively in such online contexts.
By understanding cognitive factors that connect cultural expectations to usability, writing instructors can develop methods for understanding and approaching international online writing contexts. This proposed presentation identifies the kinds of cognitive models that can facilitate such understanding and that can be used to guide effective (i.e., usable) designs in such environments. Specifically, the presenter will overview a cognitive-based method writing educators can use for identifying, understanding, and addressing key cultural factors affecting expectations of design and use in online spaces. In so doing, the presenter will provide examples of how to use such information to design materials and activities for culturally diverse audiences interacting in online educational spaces. The objective of the presentation is to provide attendees with the level of understanding needed to apply the related approach in planning and developing online writing courses for international contexts.
“Identities in Online Chinese Creative Writing”
--Ryan Thorpe, University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University
While looking at Rebecca Black's (2005) research on English language learners (ELLs) writing and responding to fanfiction online, I started to consider the different ways that the ELL creative writing students at a large Chinese university posted and responded to work differently in an online space rather than in tradition writing workshops that take place in person and in a classroom.
Black reported that online fanfiction writers produced far more text and were taking many linguistic risks in their writing due to the the ability of writers to create hybrid identities with their characters and to use them as avatars for their own expressive needs. I looked at a semester's worth of online and offline creative writing assignments as well as interviewed several creative writing students to reveal the uncertain nature of a hybrid online identity within a general creative writing class.
To end my discussion, I interviewed students publishing in my university's online literary journal on their motivations and reactions to publishing online. These discussions show how the complex relationship between text and identity complicates as writers are forced to take ownership of their work with their own names and abandon the avatars of famous characters that fanfiction provides.
“Teaching Interculturally- and Accessibility-minded Visual Literacy”
--Mary De Nora, Texas Tech University
Visual media are used in the majority of disciplines, via various modalities; yet, most academic programs do not sufficiently address the need for developing a culturally- and accessibly-intelligent approach to “visual rhetoric.” W.T.Mitchel describes visual rhetoric as the ability “to understand the ways that words and images function rhetorically and together in the various forms of media and literature…visual rhetoric involves more than just spatial arrangement or the effective use of page or screen space, font faces, headers, or visual evidence.” In order to cultivate a mature approach to visual rhetorics, we need to ask stop and ask, How does the visual communicate meaning, especially to diverse audience members? (Consider cultural readings of color or the ways in which assistive technologies navigate visuals). And, how do we move beyond our own interpretations of the visual world? (For example, what if we start by asking what modalities do our audience members/students utilize to navigate the visual? And, how might assistive technologies impact the way we think through pedagogy or design?)
Since visuals can bear a cultural load that may resonate with an audience or create cognitive dissonance, we need to seek a more nuanced and intelligent approach visual literacy; we must not overlook approaches to reading visuals and producing visuals that take into consideration cultural or accessibility concerns or shy away from examining our own approaches. This paper presentation seeks to advance culturally intelligent rhetorical approaches to teaching visual literacies (reading and visual production) that work to put audience at the center of those considerations. This presentation will begin by addressing cultural rhetorics and provide a few examples of ways to approach visuals ethically from the point of view of culture through integrating color theory. Next, this presentation will seek to complicate itself through on its own theory by introducing accessibility concerns that address audiences with visual impairment. Ultimately, this paper presentation seeks to challenge and inspire audience members to engage in rethinking their own approaches to teaching students about visual whether instructors teach an entire course on visual rhetoric or teach one assignment that includes visuals or want to introduce this topic so that students can think more critically about visuals used in textbook chapters or in scholarly articles.