Week 12: Monday, November 10 - Friday, November 14
Your goals for this week are to transition from Phase 2 to Phase 3 as you help students choose topics for the local inquiry assignment. Since Phase 3 branches off in new ways, it’s important to show students how it connects to Phases 1 and 2.
Phase 3 assignments give students more freedom to make their own rhetorical choices, as well as more responsibility for doing so. By the end of CO150, we want students to be able to navigate a writing situation independently. At this point some of your students will be more ready to do this than will others; keep in mind this range as you design activities.
Connection to Course Goals. The transition from library- and computer-based research to field research gives students practice with another important component of critical inquiry.
Assign a postscript for the Academic Argument
Write postscript questions that will allow students to reflect on the writing process and to explain their rhetorical choices.
Return to the writing as a conversation model
Show students that they have completed the circle—with the academic argument students added their voices to existing conversations.
Now, others can read the academic arguments as they engage in the first stage of the process. Have students reflect on the entire process by choosing from one of the following activities or designing your own:
Assign a WTL that asks students to compare their starting point with where they are now: how has their understanding of the climate change issues developed over the course of the semester? How has their understanding of writing situations developed?
Facilitate small group discussions by asking students to share what they wrote in their arguments and explain how the work on the first three assignments helped them write their argument.
Conduct a whole class discussion that will allow for reflection on how the class has gone from summarizing short essays to writing lengthy academic arguments.
Introduce the Local Inquiry project
Present the assignment sheet and point out that students will be engaging in another circle of writing, another conversation. They will find out what others know and think as they become informed about a topic, they will explain what they know, and, in the last assignment, they will add their voices to the conversation about the topic, perhaps initiating a new conversation about the topic.
Point out the ways in which the issue of climate change is highly interdisciplinary, and that this is why we are now going to look at how the university functions. Design an activity that will help students see this.
Tip. Ask students to list disciplines represented on the Works Cited page of their Arguments, or ask them to brainstorm how classes they are taking might address the issues in their Arguments.
Brainstorm topics for the Local Inquiry
After introducing the assignment, ask students for initial ideas about topics. Construct criteria for topics (occasion and exigence should be in there somewhere—the writer needs to be motivated, and the topic needs to be somewhat important and relevant to incoming students [or whatever local audience your version of the assignment asks them to write for]).
Since this is an inquiry, students need to develop questions they want to find answers to. Show students how to go from a topic to an inquiry question by modeling it a few times:
If my topic is the Psychology Department, my inquiry question might be: "For which jobs will a psychology major prepare students?" or "Why do so many students major in psychology?"
If my topic is dorm life, my inquiry question might be: "How does CSU determine which students will room together?" or "How are conflicts between roommates handled?" or "What are the pros and cons of choosing a roommate instead of having one assigned?"
Keep in mind that "how" and "why" questions provide more fruitful inquiry than "what" questions do. After all, anyone can simply go to the Psychology Department's web site if they want to know what they teach and research.
Have students practice creating questions out of topics they are interested in.
Introduce and practice field research
Topics need to be researchable. Few, if any, topics for this assignment lend themselves to database searches in the library. ("University news" searches on Lexis-Nexis, however, can be used to find out information about other higher education sites for comparison to CSU.) Therefore, students will need to conduct field research. To introduce the concept of field research, use pages 320-322 in the PHG and/or the field research handout in the appendix. You will also find helpful guides to doing various methods of field research on Writing@CSU.
Next, allow students time to practice field research. To underscore the idea of going out to find answers to questions, you might take some class time to have groups of students leave the room to go find answers to questions you design. If you are teaching in Clark, you might use the following questions:
What services does the University Counseling Center provide?
How many books does Morgan Library have?
What do students think of the Clark Building’s atmosphere?
What food options are available in the Lory Student Center?
What courses are required for anthropology majors?
All of these questions are answerable within 10 or 15 minutes. Groups of students can go out of the classroom to find answers and then come back to report on what answers they found. It’s important that students explain what kinds of texts they found, too: some groups will bring back brochures, fliers, etc.; some groups will have observed and made notes; some groups may have brought back answers to questions they asked others, etc. Explain to students that this is the kind of research they will do for the local inquiry project.
Tip. When you design your questions, be sure to keep in mind which building you’re in so that students don’t have to trek all the way across campus.
Homework for Week 12:
Read about investigating and field research on pages 312-328 of the PHG.