Friday, January 6, 2012

Workshops: An ISU Writing Program Spring Summit Presentation

Title: "Forty-Six Students, Sixteen Weeks, and Eight-Point-Nine Billion Genre Conventions: Using the Writing Workshop to Provide Personalized Feedback for Each Student"



Recognizing the limited time we have with our students and the multiplicity of written and multimedia genres, it's essential that we find effective ways to provide helpful feedback without limiting our own comments to preconceptions of specific genre forms. The writing workshop provides an ideal forum for the instructor to foster a class-wide conversation regarding the writing process and the specific composition decisions made by our students.


It's known that a well-organized traditional workshop provides the kind of audience feedback which can help individual writers better target their work, but we can go further by encouraging the writers to discuss their individual writing practices. Through this discussion, we can help students see the relationships between the writing process, genre choices, and the resulting product. In addition, the responsive nature of workshops allows a back-and-forth conversation which is often impossible through written feedback alone.



For this presentation, we'll look at the logistics of leading effective workshops within the genre studies model. Open-ended questions can foster student discussion, and specific questions regarding specific genre choices can allow instructors to highlight the rhetorical effects of a given work without becoming "arbiters of good."



This presentation with start with a brief introduction to the workshop process, and then we'll break into small groups to workshop a series of brief meta-documents describing different aspects of the writing process. Each group will spend approximately ten minutes considering their own thoughts on each short document, and I will rotate between each group to show how a single instructor is able to provide effective guidance for a large class. The meta-documents will describe approaches to constructive workshop discourse, formulating open-ended questions, the logistics of the rotation process, and ways to assess student participation. As in any workshop, participants will have the opportunity to provide their own recommendations for each document, offering suggestions and new possibilities for each aspect of the workshop process.



As participants will see, the combination of student-led and instructor-led small groups allows for simultaneous discussions within a confined space, the flexibility to address topics of personal interest, and the opportunity for each student to bring questions and comments directly to the instructor's attention in a more relaxed environment than is possible in a full-class workshop. This arrangement is ideally suited for the genre studies model because it allows the in-depth back-and-forth discussion necessary for students to consider multiple genre approaches in their work given the context of shifting audience perspectives.




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