Saturday, June 25, 2016

Dynamic Transfer at #IWAC16

I spent the end of the week in Ann Arbor at the International Writing Across the Curriculum Conference.

I presented the below on day one of the conference. Aside from some AV hiccups, the session went very well.

The research is from  my dissertation and it sums up the portion I'm currently writing up for an artilce I aim to submit to the WAC Journal.

The bit of knowledge I'm trying to introduce to the discourse is the concept of "dynamic transfer." It shows up about half way through the presentation where I shared a graph and table from the Martin and Schwartz chapter that describes dynamic transfer.

The graph is an adaptation of a learning model from artificial intelligence, and I think that's fun, but I also think the graph shows a number of learning trajectories that helped me understand learning to writing in new spaces.

Those learning trajectories are influenced by how complete a learner understands the key concepts related to a new task. What dynamic transfer offers is an acknowledgement that learners often enter a problem space with only partial knowledge of those key concepts. What happens when a learner has to innovate - create new knowledge - they coordinate that partial knowledge with resources in the new environment. The process takes time, and often results in a brief dip in performance.

I know that dip well. I've experienced it and I've seen it in my students.

I like that dynamic transfer adds some important detail to the mechanics of high road transfer - it goes into what happens when students "detect, elect, and connect" with prior knowledge.

I attended three panels (on the program D3, F1, H3, I1) that I felt this idea could inform. I was able to speak with Liane Robertson about this, and the discussion did a lot to deepen my understanding of transfer as a whole.

The conference was a great experience, and I look forward to unpacking all I learned.

Friday, June 03, 2016

This Year's Projects

This year was my first in the English Department at Sacramento State, and it was a good one.

The students here are fantastic. They keep me on my toes by demanding I demonstrate the value of the learning objectives we're pursuing. I really like that attitude. And the University and Department have made me feel very welcome.

One of the ways the University has worked to bring me aboard was a Faculty Learning Community on e-portfolios, reflection, and metacognition. It's like a class for faculty, and this one focused on topics I enjoy tremendously.

As a group, we created action research projects. We introduced reflective activities into our courses and evaluated the results... as best we could in the limited time.

For my project, I made some changes to the reflection tasks I ask my composition students to perform. Previously, the reflections were all kept separate from the portfolio in a journal. Last term, I asked students to place their reflections into their electronic portfolios alongside drafts and other writing process stuff. Each assignment had its own tab, and now, as readers scroll through the tab, they move from the early stages of writing to the final draft - able to see reflections, outlines, ideas, drafts, peer feedback, and other material in a kind of timeline. The effort was to create a visual narrative of each student's writing process - one narrative for each assignment.

The results were encouraging. I had several students using the new portfolio format in cool ways. They referred to items on the page to describe their process and progress. The portfolio letters of many students were more specific. I intend to start formally collecting data and writing this project up next year. For now, there's a poster.

The poster summarizing my project

The project was informed by the book Writing across Contexts and the teaching for transfer pedagogy it presents. I've continued to tinker with my composition courses using the book as a guide. I keep up with the book's impact on the Teaching for Transfer blog. It's had a huge impact on my teaching and my research. The book guided the creation of the theoretical framework I used to design my dissertation study.

I'm looking forward to presenting some of the results of that dissertation and outlining the follow-up project at the IWAC Conference in Ann Arbor later this month. I'll be presenting on Thursday at 1pm along with several other scholars who have investigated writing in the sciences. I'll post the Prezi up here when its complete.

I'm aiming to turn that presentation into a paper I can submit before summer ends.

The other big project this summer involves getting ready for a new coordinator position here at Sacramento State. Next fall I will be coordinating the University's Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement... Yes, you read that right, I will be coordinating the GWAR.

Aside from the awesomeness of being professionally associated with Slave Pit Inc, the job is an exciting challenge. I look forward to seeing what happens to my vision of large-scale writing assessment as it is subjected to the bureaucratic and political machinery of a state university.