English: Student Interpretation and Application of Instructor Writing Comments

Title: Student Interpretation and Application of Instructor Writing Comments
Authors: Ryan Friesen, Jennifer Mohlenhoff-Baggett, and Bruce Handtke, English Department, University of Wisconsin La-Crosse
Discipline: English
Submission Date: June 16, 2014

Abstract: In 2012-2013, we undertook a lesson study to understand how student writers perceive peer comments and what value or usefulness they assign to them.  In 2013-2014, we completed the second park of our planned study, during which we performed a similar observation of how students attempt to read, understand, and apply instructor comments.

We collected evidence of how students understand instructor comments, how they translate them into a process, and how they use the comments to evaluate their revisions.  In order to make student learning visible, we observed how students read comments that we as instructors have written in the margins and at the end of a typical paper assignment, and we asked them to paraphrase our comments, to assign them a value for priority in the revision process, and to describe how they would go about revising based on the instructor critique.  We evaluated how accurately the students described the revision we had suggested, assessed how self-aware the writers were regarding the need for revision in their writing, and attempted to determine how able and willing they were to apply instructor critique to future writing scenarios.

Student Interpretation and Application of Instructor Writing Comments – Full Report and Appendices

English: Student Interpretation and Application of Peer Writing Comments

Title: Student Interpretation and Application of Peer Writing Comments
Discipline/Field: English, Composition
: Ryan Friesen, Jennifer Mohlenhoff-Baggett, and Bruce Handtke; Department of English, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
Submission Date: June 19, 2013

Abstract: In order to understand how student writers perceive peer and instructor comments and what value or usefulness they assign to them, we observed students reading, understanding, and applying given comments to the revision of a text. Through observation we collected evidence of how students understand peer comments, how they translate them into a process, and how they use the comments to evaluate their revisions. To make student learning visible, we observed how peers offered revision comments on a paper written by a member of their group. For many of us, the habits and methods undertaken by student writers when they have peer and instructor comments in front of them are a mystery. We wonder how student writers read peer comments, what they recognize within them, and how they apply their reading of these comments to the revisions they make within the paper. We wish to understand what has happened when writers do not recognize meaningful content in peer comments or do not apply them to revision, and we wish we knew how this form of communication could be improved. In our lesson study, we observed students interpreting peer comments and making decisions about their applications. As a result, we have developed strategies for refining the peer critique process to the benefit of writers, readers, instructors, and the texts that students produce.

English Lesson Study: Student Interpretation and Application of Peer Writing Comments (Full Report)

English: Framing Expectations for Literary Study

Title: Framing Expectations for Literary Study
Discipline/Field: English, Literary Study, Literature
Authors: Susan Crutchfield, Natalie Eschenbaum, Bryan Kopp, Kelly Sultzbach (alphabetical listing), Department of English, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Submission Date: December 7, 2012

Abstract: Students frequently think about general education and foundational literature courses simply as requirements to fulfill. Our broader goal was to scaffold student thinking about the purpose, value, and necessity of literary study. We focused on three more specific goals: 1) to help students understand that both a “right answer” approach to interpretation and an “anything goes” approach are problematic; 2) to help students appreciate the positive value of ambiguity as something that invites multiple persuasive interpretations; and 3) to help them recognize that literary modes of thinking can be applicable to non-literary texts as well. Our observations revealed that some teams arrived quickly at single, closed interpretations whereas others generated new, persuasive readings of the poem. During the large group conversation, individuals generally were good at providing valid textual support for their interpretations. In subsequent classes students seemed more willing to entertain multiple interpretations and to challenge one another. Students seemed to have made progress with our first and second goals. We saw evidence for our third goal when students at the end of class started asking the question, what makes a text “literature” or not?

English Lesson Study: Framing Expectations for Literary Study (Final Report)

Women’s Studies: Civic Engagement and Exploring Gendered Ideas about Leadership

Title: Teaching Civic Engagement: Exploring Gendered Ideas about Leadership in Women’s Studies
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, Business, Education, History, Political Science, English
Authors: Lauren Smith, Ellie Schemenauer, Rebecca Schrum, Zohreh Ghavamshahidi, Mary Emery, University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
Submission Date: October 29, 2009

Executive Summary: With this lesson study, we wanted to foster critical thinking about male-centered ideas of leadership and challenge students to imagine leadership and leadership styles in more inclusive ways. In addition, we wanted to explore ways of empowering students to move from understanding social issues to understanding their own responsibility and capacity for civic engagement, particularly by addressing the difficulties women students have in imagining themselves in leadership roles.

The group invited three women leaders, two in politics and one in education, to speak to a total of five different Introduction to Women’s Studies classes.  We helped the students come up with a series of questions to address to their visiting speaker, and members of the group were available to observe each class.  In addition, we asked students to respond to a series of pre-lecture and post-lecture questions.  The group met several times before and after each lesson to discuss plans and observations.  The most useful data we found, however, came from the pre- and post-lesson discussion boards.

Our findings were sometimes surprising and multi-faceted.  For example, when asked to cite examples of good leaders in the pre-speaker discussion board, these women’s studies students named mostly men.  This dynamic was especially pronounced for male students, the large majority of whom didn’t list any female leaders at all.  We also analyzed the pre-lesson discussion board for the masculine and feminine qualities associated with leadership.  We found that students were slightly more likely to associate leadership with qualities we identified as masculine than with qualities we identified as feminine.  Men were less likely than women to describe leadership in feminine terms and more likely than women to have a hierarchical vision of leadership. Pre-lesson questions about the students’ own capacity for leadership also yielded interesting gendered results.  While both male and female students were relatively positive about their own leadership capacity, women were most likely to qualify and contextualize their positive responses and men were most likely to reply with definite positive or negative responses.

The post-lesson discussion board also yielded interesting results.  When we asked students whether their ideas had changed as a result of the lesson, relatively few students were willing to say that the lesson had changed their perspective.  Many students responded with what we classified a “no, but . . .” response.  These students would qualify their negative response with details about how their thinking had in some way been affected, enhanced or modified.  Self-reported changes were once again gendered.  Both in relation to their thinking about leadership qualities generally and their thinking about their own leadership capacity, women were much more likely than men to report some change in their thinking as a result of the lesson.

When the group analyzed the discussion board for evidence of change beyond self-reports, the results were complicated.  The shifts we saw in the student discussion did not necessarily go in the directions that we had predicted or planned for, nor were student changes in thinking necessarily more feminist.  In addition, the qualitative changes in thinking were different depending on which speaker the students had seen.  Three promising threads emerged in the conversation, however:  speakers’ strength and ability to endure adversity, explicit conversation about gender, and the “down-to-earth” qualities of the speakers.  Each of these suggested to us the emergence of a more complicated and more feminized vision of leadership.

Students’ changes in attitude about their own leadership capacity were especially unpredictable.  We had assumed that women students would see themselves as more capable of leadership after the lesson.  Instead, all the students tended towards more specificity when they described their own abilities as leaders.  At first glance, this would suggest that students were less likely, rather than more likely, to see themselves as leaders.  After analyzing and discussing student responses, however, the group felt that student post-lesson responses showed greater sophistication, a more realistic idea about what leadership might involve, and a more thoughtful consideration of the questions than had been shown in the pre-lesson discussion board.

Overall, the lesson study was extremely useful in providing information both about student attitudes and about student learning processes.  The students clearly benefitted from the guest speakers we brought in.  They expressed enthusiasm about and engagement in the lesson.  Though the learning evidenced in the discussion board was often unpredictable, it was also profound.  Student thinking showed greater complexity and sophistication, as well as more depth and awareness around gender issues—even when the students did not arrive at conclusions we might have predicted or desired.  We also gained valuable insights about students’ gendered ideas about leadership and differing attitudes of male and female students on this topic.

English: Using sample papers effectively

Title: Using sample papers effectively in the classroom
Discipline(s) or Field(s): College Writing, Research, Freshmen Seminar
Authors: Kyla Moore and Debra Siebert, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Submission Date: March 2, 2009

Executive Summary:  The purpose of this study is structure an activity that effectively helps students to see multiple uses for sample writing that is shared in the classroom. Students are asked to participate in two sets of small groups to discuss a sample paper, and the ways it could be read and used effectively. Each small group meets for 15-20 minutes. The first group brainstorms how to read the sample paper through a particular pedagogical lens, while the second group focuses on synthesizing the lenses represented. The group summaries demonstrate that when students are given a carefully constructed lesson, they are able to recognize and discuss multiple perspectives of a text and then synthesize them collaboratively. Additionally, a pattern emerged from our reading of student self-reflections: students overwhelmingly claimed that the lesson will both help them consider and analyze their audiences and consider multiple viewpoints when reading and writing.

English Lesson Study: Using samples papers effectively (Final Report)
Link to material used to teach the lesson:

English: Teaching Logical Fallacies

Title: Teaching Logical Fallacies in the English Composition Classroom
Discipline(s) or Field(s): English
Authors: Mialisa Moline, Elizabeth Schneider-Rebozo, Robyne Tiedeman, University of Wisconsin – River Falls
Submission Date: June 8, 2008

Executive Summary:  Sound argumentation is the foundation of rigorous critical thinking and ethical writing. This lesson study analyzes ways to improve student awareness and understanding of logical fallacies, and makes explicit the connection between logic and argumentation. Our lesson study team had two main goals in mind: first, to provide students with the critical thinking tools to support them in identifying logical fallacies when they encounter them and, second, to foster student sensitivity in their own rhetoric and writing to the distinction between sound logic and fallacious logic, valid arguments and invalid arguments. The final lesson design incorporated team findings to make substantive changes to virtually every aspect of the lesson. The lesson in its final version includes four parts: a brief introduction including a two-minute comic video clip of the Monty Python skit known as “The Argument Clinic,” a small-group analysis of a short student-authored argumentative reading containing multiple fallacies (the “Death” essay, which discusses the death penalty), an interactive PowerPoint to alternate between small- and large-group discussion of five common logical fallacies, and a final individual or small-group worksheet that asks students to label examples of logical fallacies. Our team felt that the logical fallacies lesson study was enormously successful; by the end of the second iteration of the lesson, we all felt that student learning was significantly improved. While students of the first iteration responded courteously and expressed positive feelings about the lesson in post-lesson free-write responses, they also revealed a notable amount of confusion about lesson content and purpose. In the second iteration, students demonstrated greater clarity about the underlying purpose of the lesson, and exhibited greater engagement and a higher rate of success in identifying the commonalities and articulating the logical disjunctions in the examples included in the lesson. Overall, students responded much more positively to the second iteration of the lesson, and we attribute this change to improved content, formatting, and delivery.

Below are links to the materials used to teach it.

English: Revision and Peer Review

Title: How many peer reviewers does it take to revise a thesis?
Discipline(s) or Field(s):
Authors: Terry Beck, Susan Crutchfield, Bryan Kopp, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Submission Date:
April 2, 2004

Our goals:

  • Help students revise their essays—particularly their thesis statements—through critical thinking and rhetorical understanding
  • Encourage critical conversations between students as writers/readers
  • Foster an awareness that writing involves the discovery and development of ideas, involving learning for writers/readers

The “Lesson”

  • “Workshop groups”—a small group of students meets with the instructor to discuss the work in progress
  • Workshop focus is finding and discussing main idea of the draft.
  • Given the recursiveness of writing and individual differences among students, it is challenging to design a lesson about a discrete writing issue.
  • Qualitative research (no lab coats)

Preliminary Findings

  • The students with the highest abilities seemed to benefit most from the process.
  • “Average” students were not engaging in critical conversations and revising their papers to the extent we had hoped.
  • Students were struggling with the subject matter itself as well as how to write about it.