Praxis Blog 12.1.14

The writing across the curriculum readings were interesting to me, since one of the courses I’m planning is about writing about science and medicine. Although the name of the course sounds very much like a WAC course, it’s still set up very much as a traditional FYC course, though one that asks students to engage with contexts outside the classroom. These readings pushed me to think more about how the class could actually involve writing in contexts across the disciplines more fully. Which leads me to my concrete proposal for this week’s praxis blog:

Mid-semester, I’d like to ask my students to bring in writing projects from other classes–hopefully one in a science or health based course. I’ll ask students to engage in drafting, outlining, or revising their projects, depending on what stage of the process they’re in at that time of the semester. I’ll also ask for a brief reflective essay or blog post on how they were able to rethink projects in other disciplines by using class principles. By dedicating a couple of class periods to applying FYC practices to concrete projects in other classes, I hope to encourage the type of big-picture engagement of students that Sommers and Saltz set forth as the most integral piece of a college writer’s development through their degree program. By writing for a specific end, and for engaging in thoughtful writing, and reflection on that writing, for an assignment (like a lab report, short essay exam, or so on) that is not typically thought of as writing-intensive in the same way as a “traditional” English essay, having a brief transfer unit will help my students see beyond my classroom.

Praxis Blog 11.17.14

Community-Engaged Pedagogy

This week’s readings pushed me to think more concretely about how I will work with my students to engage with contexts outside the classroom. I had already planned to have my 101: Writing About Science and Medicine students produce a final project that would be shared beyond the classroom–something that would be targeted to a specific community for a specific purpose, not simply me and my grade book. Reading articles that gave a wide range of possibilities for what community engagement actually looks like in the classroom led me to realize that, if I want my students to successfully engage with communities, I need to build in that sort of experience in throughout the semester. So, I’ve come up with a new course requirement in order to develop these skills.

Each student will need to identify a community organization or volunteer opportunity that they can engage with, and spend a certain amount of time with the organization–say, 5 “sessions” or 20 hours, or something like that (I need to spend more time thinking through that piece). They can choose their service by going through Volunteer Emory, which offers a lot of opportunities for weekly engagement, service trips over fall and spring breaks, social justice conversations, and so on. They’re also welcome to pursue something else if they clear it with me first. I’ll ask that they choose something coherent with the aims of the class–so, something related to health or medicine, or, broadly, “science”–so sustainability, food issues, or anything else they can make a case for. I’ll ask them to participate in these service communities and to write a series of response papers asking them to apply their work to course themes, analyze the social context and power dynamics of their work, and propose concrete ways that they could use writing to aid or enhance the mission of their community partners. I may also ask them to produce these helpful documents, promotional materials, blog posts, what have you. My hope is that their research papers and final projects will grow out of this engagement, though I won’t require it.

By integrating involvement beyond the classroom community, I’m hoping students will get practice in a variety of genres by imagining real audiences and purposes, not just ones that I’ve fabricated. I’m hoping that they’ll begin to see how research and academic work can be activism, and can be used to concrete ends in the community. Considering that my students will be first year college students, many far from home, I also hope that this requirement will help them make the transition to a new community and to build confidence in their skills.

Draft CFDE Mini-Grant Proposal

I propose to use $300 from a Center for Faculty Development and Excellence Classroom Mini-Grant to fund a local expert to come talk to my English 101: Writing About Science and Medicine class. One of the main goals of my class is to help students understand how to put their own research and ideas into conversation with a broader audience. Our culminating project, for instance, involves “translating” a more traditional research paper into a creative, potentially multi-modal final project that will be targeted to an audience beyond the class–whether the student population of Emory, an Atlanta agency, or a particular set of internet users–and then actually distributed or proposed to that audience. So, it would be of immense value for my students to engage with a voice beyond the classroom. I would love to bring in someone like Atlanta-based scholar Margaret Price, who works on access and disability (both of which are course topics) in digital contexts (which would engage our Domain of One’s Own goals). Alternatively, bringing in someone working for an Atlanta-based publication or science outreach program would also help broaden students’ contexts to think a about communicating science and medicine.

Praxis Blog 10.20.14

Reading about writing center consultations and in-progress drafts this week led me to to think about how different relationships in the classroom–student-teacher, peer-peer–could tap into the benefits of writing center practice. My initial thought for my “artifact” would be something like one-on-one draft conferences with students based explicitly on the student-led writing center model. I think it could potentially help the student feel like their teacher is a resource, not an authority–but I also think that it could feel false, as though I’m trying to pretend that I don’t have the authority over their paper that I will later claim when grading. And besides, we have a writing center for that kind of conversation. So I threw that out. Instead, I’m thinking about how peer interactions could benefit from the common writing center practice of modeling resource gathering. Very often, in appointments, the tutor and student will navigate writing resources together in order to come up with a suggestion for revision or editing. I’ve always thought this was really helpful–it shows that the tutor doesn’t simply hold all the knowledge, and that rather they’ve learned how to navigate a set of tools that are available to all students. So, my plan now is to have part of peer-response workshops revolve around directing peers to resources. For instance, if a student marks a sentence fragment/bad citation/non-argumentative thesis/so on, they could link to an OWL at Purdue writing page, or the page number of a style guide, or some other resource. I think this could A) help students feel confident in their recommendations to peers, B) give students the actual tools to revise or to compose differently in the future, rather than a simple “correction,” and C) help all students learn to navigate the resources that they’ll need throughout their writing lives.

Praxis Blog 9.22.14

This week I’ve had a difficult time coming up with an “exhibit,” a practical exercise or policy or what have you that would be informed by our readings. So much of the work seems based more on attitudes and responding to context rather than concrete practices. I think that a lot of the things that many of us plan to do already can contribute to a classroom where students feel safe expressing things in non-standard English. For example, peer workshops in which the students discuss with one another why they chose particular phrases, what those phrases communicate, and so on can contribute to the sort of negotiated texts Canagarajah discusses. Similarly, making sure that readings for class represent a range of different voices from a range of different contexts would be valuable. It seems to me that any class that worked with genres would be a case study in how we use different voices for different tasks–which seems different in scale, not kind, from the type of “codeswitching” that is frowned upon by our authors–but nonetheless would allow space for a voice that more closely approximated natural speech than academic jargon.

I think that the concrete practice that I would take out of these articles will be something like this: discuss, at the beginning of the semester, what type of writing goals each student wants to work on. I don’t mean that students will give me a list of things they’d like to learn, and I will make sure they learn them, but rather that we’ll have a joint conversation about the types of skills they’d like to have at the end of the semester–and if we have different ideas about goals, we could discuss them openly.

What I’m getting at is this: it feels unfair to me to make a value judgement about the student’s desired growth as a writer. My first impulse is to note mechanics or grammar only minimally for students writing English as a foreign language, or those using non-standard dialects, and to focus instead on structure, content, and other big picture issues. As a teacher, I’m ok with my students writing with an accent–missing articles, subject-verb agreement, or non-idiomatic language–but I know that won’t universally be the case throughout their education and career. I feel like it could be unfair to follow a philosophy of ignoring language fluency issues  that I know will not be ignored later down the road. If FYC is a service course, that service is in part to my students–to give them the skills to write at a level their disciplines expect. So, basically, my policy would be transparency through conversation. Perhaps one ESL student really wants comments on syntax and grammar, and another would rather not get bogged down in mechanics. I prefer not to choose for them, but rather to have an open conversation about the politics of standard English–a conversation that I think would be just as helpful to native speakers as to those who grew up speaking other languages.

Praxis Blog 9.15.14

My “exhibit” this week is actually drawn more from last week than this week, but it was inspired by the Deletiner piece on negotiated curriculum. I was not particularly sold on her pedagogical approach, and don’t know that I would leave such a large piece of the curriculum up for joint-creation (though perhaps it would be interesting to leave a week or two, which I hadn’t considered), or give quite so much of the work of evaluation to fellow students, but her essay reminded me of an idea I really liked from last week–Miller’s group conference idea from Strategies For Teaching First Year Composition. The plan is basically this:

Students in groups of three or four will distribute drafts of a project to one another, and then we will all meet as a group to discuss them together, making sure that everyone at least makes one positive and one constructive comment on each. At the end, everyone shares their plan for revision.

What I really like about this idea is that it helps pull together the different types of feedback a student receives, and hopefully can keep them from privileging only the teacher’s feedback. As Miller points out, this could improve how students see their ability to comment on the writing of others, and encourage them to listen to one another. For a large class, too, or for someone teaching a lot of sections of comp, I feel like it could be logistically really useful as well.


Praxis Blog, 9.9.2014


For use in 101/181.

I’m thinking about establishing a practice at the beginning of every class to begin with a free write responding to a question or quote that I’ve chosen. From a practical standpoint, perhaps I’ll have students have a course journal that I’ll evaluate solely on completion–I’ll think about other ways I would get them to use the journal somewhere down the line. Perhaps they can draw from these brief writings to develop revised and peer-workshopped blog posts.


I’m hoping that this daily writing will accomplish several things:

a) gather focus onto the material at the beginning of class

b) help students that may have a harder time speaking up with figuring out how to contribute

c) get the students comfortable with writing as a discipline–something that must be done regularly and methodically

d) develop ideas and even paragraphs that can be developed into graded essays

e) introduce whatever my goals for the class period are–so if we are talking about invention one day, they could have a brainstorming exercise, or if we’re focusing on revision, they could review one of their previous free writes and suggest revisions.

I’m hoping that using a specific prompt will be helpful for me, too, as it will force me to articulate my daily objectives.

I’m drawing directly from a couple of our readings here, without much revision–both Lyday and Jolliffe suggest this method as a way to structure class time. I think that these writings, as well as discussions about them with the whole class and in small groups could be a helpful exercise in invention.

I’m also hoping that these free writes will help students engage with topics and figure out where their own interests lie. I’m thinking of Stancliff, who, channeling Ramage, Bean, and Friere, writes that they “see writing largely as an act of posing questions, of ‘problematizing.’ They stress that successful writing projects begin with a question that comes from the writer’s life experience, one in which she or he has a personal stake as an individual and/or a member of a community” (267). By using the daily journal as a place for individual engagement with course topics, I’m hoping to help get students involved.

About Me


Lindsey Grubbs is a doctoral student and Woodruff fellow in the English department at Emory University, where she is also obtaining a certificate in bioethics. Her work investigates representations of psychiatric disability and medical authority in American literature from the nineteenth century until today. She is particularly interested in the moments when literature and culture intersect with questions of biomedical ethics and social policy. She holds a master’s degree in English and women’s studies from the University of Wyoming, and a bachelor’s degree, also from the University of Wyoming, in English with minors in Russian and creative writing.