Revolution Lullabye

October 14, 2013

McLaughlin and Moore, Integrating Critical Thinking into the Assessment of College Writing

McLaughlin, Frost and Miriam Moore. “Integrating Critical Thinking into the Assessment of College Writing.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College 40.2 (December 2012): 145-162.

McLaughlin and Moore explain their study of how to assess critical thinking in college student essays. They developed a writing rubric intended to assess student writing across the disciplines, and then asked participants at the March 2011 Symposium on Thinking and Writing at the College Level to use the rubric to evaluate two student papers (both essays were written in response to a prompt that asked the student to define a term.) The results of the assessment surprised McLaughlin and Moore, as they assumed that one of the student essays was markedly stronger than the other. What they found was that the evaluators (80% of whom taught first-year writing in a variety of contexts) valued different attributes in student writing. McLaughlin and Moore argue that it is simpler to assess student writing based on attributes like “correctness” or “voice” instead of characteristics that point to critical thinking, like thoughtfulness, logical development, and consideration of alternative perspectives. They contend that the writing tasks students are given in K-12, which emphasize creative writing and the development of a strong, emotive voice, are distinctly different from the careful, reasoned academic writing (a very specific voice) that is hallmark of “college-level writing” and which is expected in first-year composition writing tasks.

Notable Notes

based the construction of their critical thinking in writing rubric (CTWR) on other rubrics designed by other institutions (Washington State University) and Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy (147)

categories of the CTWR: Focus, Logic (both of these first two categories contain language that incorporates elements of critical thinking), Content, Style, Correctness, Research (150).

keywords that point to critical thinking in these first two rubric categories: thoughtful, interpret evidence, draws warranted conclusions, analyzes alternative perspectives, evaluates when appropriate (150).

overemphasis on the construction of voice (155) – emotional voice (pathos) can mislead a reader where there is no logical, critical thought

college-level writing is mostly expository – requires a “drier” academic voice (156).

personal narrative v. critical analysis – writing tasks students are given in high school, college

the difficulty of capturing elements of critical thinking in a rubric – rubrics simplify writing, often assess what’s easy to assess instead of what’s the most important element (146-147).

Quotable Quotes

“College-level writing, it seems, values the well-reasoned point over its dramatic rendering. Perhaps reasoning, then, is a salient feature of college-level writing. Whether it is as important in high school writing is certainly worth examining in greater detail in the future” (157).

“In conclusion, the assessment of critical thinking takes time and often complicates the act of writing assessment.  Sometimes the most highly detalied and interesting student writing is not the product of complicated thinking but rather of strong feeling. Yet voice is not a substitute for thinking, though it can certainly enhance the expression of thought” (157).

“Without open-minded thinking as a basis of approaching the writing task – the thinking that prompts the writer to consider alternative approaches and possible outcomes – the writer may not achieve the level of reasoning that we expect in freshman writing. This thoughtful, fair-minded approach with its resulting careful reasoning, often expressed in a clear but neutral tone, may well be one of the distinguishing features of ‘college-level’ thinking and writing” (158).

 

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July 6, 2009

Gilmore, Plagiarism

Gilmore, Barry. Plagiarism: Why It Happens, How to Prevent It. Portsmouth, Heinemann, 2008.

Gilmore, a high school English and social studies teacher writing to other high school and middle school teachers, argues that plagiarism is best prevented by turning to education and prevention: teaching students how to avoid plagiarism and changing school culture to dissuade students from plagiarizing. His book contains many “Top 10” charts for teachers to turn to, such as a top 10 signs a student text is plagiarized, reasons why students plagiarize, and reasons why teachers don’t address plagiarism. Gimore argues that the tools teachers need to teach students in order to prevent plagiarism from happening include teaching them how and why to cite, how to take notes, and how to search on the internet. He does not advocate making every assignment a highly personal “plagiarism-proof assignment,” arguing that those types of assignments don’t always address a teacher’s pedagogical goals. Instead, he suggests spending a large amount of time on the writing process. He also believes that schools should model behavior that prevents plagiarism: having known, followed honor codes, encouraging intellectual risk taking and revision, and expecting good things out fo boys, athletes, and traditionally underachiveing students.

Quotable Quotes

“The culture of learning…is the key to combating plagiarism, whether it happens as a mistake or a crime” (138).

“What you can do to prevent plagiarism is teach the right skills, design the right assignments, and create the right atmosphere. Neglect these areas, and you resign yourself to either ignoring plagiarism or to spending your time angrily rooting out and punishing offenders” (74).

“Once a teacher is reduced to the role of source dectector, he has already lost an educational battle” (5).

Notable Notes

don’t focus on catching students and criminalizing them – but not addressing what’s really the problem with researched assignments – the work involved in using sources

June 1, 2009

DeSana, Preventing Plagiarism

DeSana, Laura Hennessey. Preventing Plagiarism: Tips and Techniques. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2007.

DeSana, a high school English teacher and part-time writing instructor at NYU, argues that students need to learn how to do original, subjective, interested research, not just retell what their sources say. She relies on an literature-based writing assignment sequence that begins with freewriting responses to a primary source, then analyzing and adding secondary sources. Her goal is for students to be the dominant voice in their thesis-driven researched arguments, controlling their source use with effective quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. She believes that this kind of assignment sequence, coupled with a range of plagiarism-proof topics that dissuade students from relying on online cheat sources and recycled papers, will teach students to respect the research process and not plagiarize. She has a two-part definition of plagiarism: source of language plagiarism and source of information plagiarism, both equally important to address and curtail through the proper use of citation systems and explicit instruction in paraphrase. She gives teachers seven tools and steps for identifying plagiarism in their students’ papers, often positioning the students as savvy, lethargic, potential cheats who try to pull one over on the teacher because of their Internet expertise.

Quotable Quotes

“For those of us who are vigilant, we will enter the library as dectectives on the trail of a more intelligent theif” (97), on the importance of checking print-based sources in libraries (like secondary sources, CliffsNotes) for student plagiarism attempts

“Individuality self-destructs in endless mirroring” (111), doesn’t see much good in imitation

“We must begin to teach them how to exert control over the chaos – how to shape and academic argument” (7).

“We have to require the higher level of thinking that is achieved through the simultaneous processes of analysis and synthesis” (6).

The retelling that happens in a book report “is useless for several reasons – foremost among them is that it is a shabby mimicking of the original. No one can write Poe’s ‘The Fall of the Usher’ as well as Poe, nor should another writer attempt to” (4).

“Reporting is a retelling of ideas found; it is not an analysis of ideas found” (1)

“As educators, we must teach students to realize that they are required to have their own insights into source materials. They must engage in a dialogue with the sources they consult. Without this dialogue their research is meaningless and becomes a mere exercise of collecting and organizing” (1)

Notable Notes

absolute binary between research and retelling

works cited only includes one thing from rhet/comp, a article from Written Communication about text/source use and ESL students

one of her plagiarism prevention techniques she dubs “non sequitor approach” – having students turn in copies of online study guides to provide them for comparison with their essays

prescriptive writing process and sequence = freewriting, notetaking, outlining, writing

retelling (summaries) are not, in DeSana’s opinion, objective pieces of writing, not subjective researched positions

focus is on how to teach students to write thesis-driven, argumentative, taking-a-stand research essays

May 12, 2009

Whiteman and Gordon, The Price of an ‘A’

Whiteman, Sherri A. and Jay L. Gordon. “The Price of an ‘A’: An Educator’s Responsibility to Academic Honesty.” The English Journal. 91.2 (November 2001), 25-30.

This article begins with a short piece by Whiteman, a high school English teacher, where she laments students as unethical, plagiarizing cheaters and calls on teachers to rally against them and those who allow rampant Internet cheating to happen and profit. She is countered by Gordon, a college professor who argues that if students were given more specific assignments that were difficult to plagiarize, a lot of the cheating would, by necessity, disappear. Whiteman answers Gordon by saying the kinds of assignments teachers give are to prepare them for future work in the academy and, good assignment or not, students should behave ethically and not plagiarize.

Quotable Quotes

“The invaluable benefits of abundant access to the information superhighway have been outweighed by its ability to create non-thinking, non-reading patrons of plagiarism” (26).

“How do we as educators reconcile our ability to teach effectively with our students’ ability to cheat and steal without our knowledge?” (26)

“Students do not plagiarize in a vacuum” (27)

Notable Notes

Whiteman gives up, says she should only focus on the “potential of my more ambitious and honest students” (26)

high school v. college perceptions on the issue

still demonizing, infantilizing students

investigate the problem – what can teachers do to prevent plagiarism? Is changing the assignment enough? What about schools’ overreliance on papers, essays, to evaluate students? Are their too many grades? (mine) connection to what plagiarism is – is it all about students being unethical?

it’s not about baffling, bewildering, upsetting, disheartening teachers. it’s bigger than that (me)

Atkins and Nelson, Plagiarism and the Internet

Atkins, Thomas and Gene Nelson. “Plagiarism and the Internet: Turning the Tables.” The English Journal. 90.4 (March 2001), 101-104.

Atkins and Nelson, two high school teachers, teach at the high school that test piloted Turnitin.com (the creator of the program was an alma mater.) They claim that the software has cut student plagiarism to nearly zero and advocate its use to both prevent plagiarism and to make sure students are getting as good as an education as they could possibly get, one that is in jeopardy if Internet plagiarism goes uncontrolled. They argue that teachers and schools, by using a program like Turnitin, insist on high academic integrity, an expectation that is beneficial to students. Their article gives a sample paper that shows how Turnitin is able to identify passages that were lifted from internet sites and other papers.

Quotable Quotes

“The teacher is the final determiner of whether or not the paper was plagiarized. The program is a tool, albiet a powerful tool, but it is not the final determiner. The teacher, with his or her knowledge, skill, and experience, will make the final decision” (104).

“If students are allowed to use others’ words and ideas as their own, they deny themselves the opportunity to develop writing fluency and critical thinking skills” (104).

The goal of education = “The development of comprehesive skills, powerful understanding, and excellent ethics” (104).

Notable Notes

Turnitin is supposed to be preventative, not punitive

students are in awe of the power of the program, witness its capabilities and then, I suppose, cut out the plagiarism

all of plagiarism – stealing and buying papers, patchwritten text, is treated the same

February 13, 2009

Hansen, Consuming Composition

Hansen, Kristine. “Consuming Composition: Understanding and Changing the Marketplace of College Writing.” In Market Matters: Applied Rhetoric Studies and Free Market Competition. Ed. Locke Carter. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2005. 243-269.

The public school system and higher education need to establish K-U partnerships and state curriculum boards that will allow them a space in which to develop and share goals, values, and curricula, enabling them to together reframe education in terms of outcomes rather than as a commodity. Hansen shows the need for such collaboration by illustrating how the lack of communication between secondary schools and colleges (highlighting writing curricula and expectations) leads to the rise of for-profit corporations offering college credit for courses that aren’t equivalent, intellectually and developmentally, to college courses. She targets AP classes and dual enrollment classes, arguing that their popularity stems from a new consumer perspective on education: students and parents see them as economical and efficient, the chance to get three college credits for under $80. The belief that it is possible to buy an education, that courses offered at an online-only institution like University of Phoenix or by under-trained AP high school teachers offer the same educational value to students as a college course, is false and disadvantages students. Compositionists need to work to establish these K-U partnerships if they hope to compete against the attractive, if low-quality, opportunities being endorsed at the high school level.

Quotable Quotes

“With more diverse offerings and better articulated purposes and outcomes for writing instruction, it would be easy to persuade (or require) students to get more education in writing at college regardless of the kind of instruction they had in high school or how good it was” (267).

“[Parents and students] take the credit hours the student has earned as a token of preparation, rather than asking for other evidence of the students’ readiness to write successfully in college” (259).

“When the private good of selective higher education bumps up against the quasi-public good of nearly universal secondary education, the latter is seen as outdated, inefficient, and weak” (255).

“Universities are construed as sites of production, professors as laborers, courses as products, and students as consumers of those products” (246).

“Education is increasingly viewed as tantamount to a product to be purchased, rather than as a long-term process that promotes the development of individuals’ intellectual, social, and personal abilities, preparing them for the demands of participation in a democratic society” (243).

Consumer culture: it is possible to buy an education – not go through a “laborious process of maturing and developing under the guidance of mentors” (248).

Notable Notes

public good v. private good

the actual economic value (not even counting educational value) of selective higher education institutions is much, much higher than less selective higher education institutions (more scholarships, resources, etc.) High school merit is crucial for success in higher education in this way

capitalist economic marketplace goals and pressures have been folded into education

commodification, consumer culture

the junior year of high school is the last one that counts for college entrance; the senior year is largely wasted – final stage of secondary school is mismanaged and allows for AP and dual enrollment programs to enter the high schools, offering credit hours to be used to exchange.

issues with AP and dual enrollment: teacher training, inconsistent curriculum, supervision, no screening of students, some students taking it for high school credit and some for college, the money made in the system

need to understand developmental needs of students K-U – create appropriate outcomes for writing at all levels. Expand writing courses at the higher education level.

January 29, 2009

Newkirk, To Compose

Newkirk, Thomas. To Compose: Teaching Writing in High School and College. 2nd ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1990.

This, an expanded edition, contains essays by both compositionists and teacher-practicioners (high school and college) about teaching the writing process. It focuses on seeing students as writers and working as teachers to give them latitude to work as writers do, experimenting with style, finding entry points for starting to write, using journals to practice and learn knowledge, and developing their own critical lens through which they can revisit and revise their own writing.

Here’s an overview of the sections and the notable (to me) essays in each one:

1. Prologue: Arthur Daigon, comparing the writing process to current-traditionalist model of writing instruction (product-based)

2. Getting Started
2 essays about writers and their own individual writing process, emphasizing trusting your own instincts (Stafford and Cormier)
Donald Murray – the forces that help a writer get started: finding more information, caring more about the subject, having a audience waiting, and having a deadline
Sondra Perl – the recursive nature of writing, how writers negotiate through the forces of retrospection and projection, moving by felt-sense between the two

3. Responding
Donald Murray – the teacher’s job is to help students devleop the “other self,” teaching them how to critically analyze and understand their writing from outside themselves. We model this through our own writing and by responding to students in conferences, in class, and in discussions.
Linda Flower – the importance of writer-based prose at the beginning of the writing process, allowing an intimate personal connection to the writing and opportunities for invention and conscious thinking about writing. The shift then must happen to reader-based prose, as writers must concern themselves with how their writing is received and understood by the audience.

4. Writing and Literature – four essays about using writing as a driving force in teaching literature, making the learning of literature not just about reading texts.

5. WAC
Bryant Fillion – Canadian school survey that showed skills like reading and listening are emphasized over productive activities like speaking and writing in classrooms, the need for a shift to using language for productive ends – learning through writing across the curriculum
Toby Fulwiler – how student journals can be used across the curriculum as a commonplace notebook for students to gather and mine ideas for both personal and academic growth.

6. Style and Grammar
Tom Romano – a unit about teaching students to explictily break “Grammar A” (referencing Winston Weathers) rules and encourage the conscious development of style through innovation and experimentation.

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