|Pedagogical Value Conclusion|
In fall 2009, I taught College Writing II –“Academic Writing and Research.” This course is not offered in the IELP. It is a first-year writing course housed in the English department, which introduces students to academic writing skills such as conducting primary and secondary research, argumentative writing, formal documentation, and multimodal compositions. As director of the IELP, I often teach a few classes each academic year for the English department. Doing so allows me to stay current in composition pedagogy and revise the ESL curriculum, so the international students are prepared when they enter their first year writing courses. Instructors, who teach College Writing II, are required to follow a set curriculum in which students write a literature review, a primary source essay, and an argumentative research paper. In addition to the these required assignments, I usually design a multimodal assignment for my students to complete.
The section I taught was originally created for international students; however, due to low enrollment, domestic students were allowed to enroll a few weeks prior to the start of the semester. Therefore, the students from Japan, Turkey, China, Sweden, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and the United States provided an international representation of ideas, beliefs, and values. As Reichelt and Silva (1995/6) have argued cross-cultural courses such as this provide English language learners opportunities to not only improve their writing but also collaborate with domestic students. Indeed, as Leki (2007) wrote, group work can be stressful for international students, especially when groups experience cross-cultural differences. Offering a cross-cultural composition course creates an atmosphere of support and guidance for both domestic and international students, so they can begin to develop their cultural awareness and work in a safe environment.
When teaching this class, I usually select a course theme, because I find it helps the students focus their research and become more engaged throughout the writing process. For this particular course, I selected the theme of internationalizing campus. While students participate in activities that promote internationalizing campus, rarely are they asked their opinions about how they would like campus to be internationalized. Because the writing classroom is a space already filled with rich dialogue as well as collaboration across cultures, it certainly offers students a platform to discuss strategies for internationalizing campus through the completion of writing assignments. I wanted students to create posters, so they could best address a larger audience and present their ideas about how UF can best internationalize campus.
With this assignment, the international students were excited to voice their opinions and share their cultures with American peers. The focus of the course was very empowering for them, and as one student stated in a reflection, he “felt valued.” In addition, the domestic students learned about other cultures and UF’s initiative to internationalize campus –something they were unaware of prior to enrolling in the course.
To begin the course, each student selected a sub-topic that focused on internationalizing campus, for example, internationalizing the library or study abroad. Once they selected their topics, I taught them how to use online library databases. Each student was asked to find ten scholarly articles. For the first assignment, they wrote literature reviews in which they were required to cite five - seven articles. This assignment aquainted students with the UF library system and better educated them about their research topics.
For the second assignment, studens conducted primary research on campus, surveying either a manageable percentage of the student population or interviewing a professor or administrator. Thus, students learned how to write proper interview and survey questions, proctor surveys, conduct a formal interview, anaylze data, and report their findings in a primary research essay. They also learned how to create charts and graphs to report their findings. For example, a student from Japan researched whether or not service learning is a viable means to internationalize campus. For her literature review, she researched how other universities comparable to UF in size and student population use service learning to internationalize their campuses. Then for her primary research, she surveyed 30 international students and 30 domestic students about their willingness to participate in co-curricular and service learning projects. She carefully crafted a different survey for each group of participants. The surveys helped her better understand if and how domestic and international students already collaborate on campus and if they are open to volunteering together. Overall, the primary research project helped the student understand how UF could further internationalize campus via service learning. You'll note there are two charts included in her poster located above. Both of these were taken from the student's primary researach essay and help document her findings from the surveys.
The students then used their secondary and primary research to write the third assignment -an argumentative research paper -in which they persuaded their audience about an effective means to internationalize the UF campus. For example, a student from Sweden suggested ways to internationalize the freshman seminar so domestic students could interact with their international peers and learn about other cultures. And a domestic student argued that study abroad should be a graduation requirement. Once students had completed drafts of their papers, they transposed their papers into posters using either Microsoft PowerPoint or Publisher.
To begin the final unit, we looked at sample posters designed by UF faculty members that were displayed around campus. Students analyzed several features of the posters: the amount of written text, color scheme, pictures, charts/graphs, headings, and fonts. As a class we discussed what constitutes an effective poster. Students then analyzed their written arguments and began to organize their posters based on the main points they presented in their papers. Like other multimodal assignments, the posters allowed students to use multiple texts (written, spoken, and visual) to best communicate with an audience.
Overall, the goal of this assignment was for students to recreate their arguments using visual images rather than depending on the written word. Because they presented their posters, students also had verbal exchanges with their audience in order to convince them about new ways to internationalize campus. Selfe (2009) has suggested aurality is a powerful multimodal tool that can help students best convey their thoughts. Thus, their conversations allowed the students to develop their critical and ethical thinking skills and participate in social and cultural action through collaboration.