Writing in the Classroom, Not Lecturing

Dr. Lee Skallerup @CollegeReadyWriting discusses her approach to having the students work on their projects in class in Get Busy Doing.

As I said on the post, I’ve been doing this approach in writing for years, at least twenty-one.

In fact, I vividly remember the day twenty years ago when I was called into the dean’s office because a student (rather than coming to me or the chair) went to another professor in another department who went to the dean (rather than coming to me or the chair) to complain about my in-class work–after having first gotten the student transferred out of my “joke” of a class.

I explained the pedagogical ramifications to my dean, who let me go with commendations.

I called the professor and discussed his lack of professionalism. He said the student told him that the student had already talked to me. I told him that was between him and the lying student, but that he didn’t talk to me before he talked to the dean. I was not impressed with the professor and I let him know it. (As an aside that amazes me as confrontation is not my normal style.)

The problems associated with this style of teaching are not always as easily worked out as that experience would imply. For example:

Computer availability issues
Computer classrooms help facilitate research during class time. But what happens when only one of the three classrooms you are assigned has computers, as is true for me this semester?

Yes, many of my students have laptops (now that I am no longer at the CC and have moved to a SLAC), but not all of them do. I can’t require that they do work in class on computers if I don’t provide computers. And I can’t provide computers. If even two of my students in a given class do not have or do not bring their computers, I would have a situation that could not be worked around.

Since I am teaching three sections of the same writing-intensive course (fyc), I do not want to have one class working on their writing in class and the other two reading the book and working on discussions in groups.

Lest you think that this is a rare problem and I must teach in some backwoods shack, let me state for the record that my university was the first to have a college newspaper on the iPad and this was not an accident. We work with, and some would say for, Apple, AT&T, Google, and various other major players in the tech field. We have an entire library floor, the main floor, that is primarily devoted to computer stations, with computers. (This is usually fairly full, so I can’t just pop over and take over twenty seats with my class.)

Yet the English department has only three computer labs on campus. And there aren’t any other computer labs I can sign up for with an entire class.

At least I know that my students will have access to computers, even if it isn’t during my class.

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