November 5, 2015 Meeting Minutes

GCEC Professional Development Committee Meeting

November 5, 2:00-3:00, Student Union #224


Kimberly Barchard 

Jessica Word,

Gina Sully

Peter Gray

Carolyn Sabo

Eduardo Robleto

PG Schrader

Absences noted ahead of the meeting: Melissa Bowles-Terry, Mary-Ann Winkelmes, Ariel Rosen, Ashley Weckesser.

Absences: Mary Riddel.

The focus of today’s meeting was graduate writing. The primary question addressed was: Does the committee recommend creation of a new Graduate Writing Certificate?

The meeting began with guest Ed Nagelhout giving a 5-minute presentation that summarized the results of the spring 2015 UNLV graduate writing report. The evidence from this UNLV writing report and the research Gina Sully did on over 100 top-tier university’s graduate writing support do not support the idea of establishing a new graduate writing certificate program. As Gina notes, graduate writing certificates, if anything, seem to be going away rather than being added. Accordingly, the committee does not recommend creation of a new UNLV Graduate Writing Certificate.

The remainder of the meeting was devoted to ideas for enhancing UNLV graduate writing. What follows are the key points emerging from that discussion. To summarize what follows, the committee endorses the Graduate College and other stakeholders exploring graduate writing as a concerted effort. That might entail considering options such as support for a Teaching Fellow, for establishment of an ad hoc graduate writing committee, for organizing and centralizing online graduate writing resources to make these accessible, etc. The report contains many such creative ideas. Moreover, there are pockets of interesting graduate teaching-related activities happening across campus, but an integrated overview of these campus activities is lacking. Inevitably, graduate writing will have both generalizable processes and discipline-specific needs.

·        Gina’s experience suggests: students seem to want thesis and dissertation writing support. They want scaffolded support from the prospectus stage to the last stages of dissertation process. They want support with writing activities like a statement of teaching philosophy, CV, academic cover letter, etc.

·        Grad students don’t write as well as they think they do; faculty may have more accurate assessments of grad student writing than students themselves. This observation could align the discrepant assessments of grad student writing quality by faculty and students in the writing report.

·        The writing center can provide some training and staffing but has a minimalist budget. There is a lack of funds for, say, writing bootcamps.

·        Writing programming must be provided for long-term and with resources. The Graduate College must help muster the resources.

·        Example of Carolyn in Nursing doing a 3-hour writing training which included examples of writing and references using MLA formatting.

·        Are also some paid services for helping with writing such as “grammarly.” Would students be willing to pay a small amount for writing resources? This could be a financially self-sustaining model if students paid for these services. What do students do with comments on their writing they received online?

·        One of the less-discussed issues is how graduate faculty are supported to use writing in the classroom. Faculty might be given more effective or efficient training for using writing in class. Maybe campus-wide discussions can facilitate a common language, plus how do we model what expectations have of students?

·        Idea of a writing fellow. This was a featured suggestion in the writing support. Maybe an ad hoc committee on writing could be established (also suggested in the report) so that writing can be supported, in which a fellow comes in and out, but with 5-year plan.

·        Definitely do the things that are almost free. Online resources can be inexpensive; do comprehensive online things, with links, etc.

·        A lot of boot camps can be supported with a modest fee—maybe charge students $50 or so.

·        Also need to archive resources. Workshops could be recorded and be made online.

·        Writing center one resource. But must also connect with other stakeholders. College of Engineering has a technical writer who works with grad students. They and library and academic success produces writing workshops, but lacks integration. See what’s happening on campus. How discipline-specific are the workshops? Do they work broadly for students vs. specific to disciplines?

·        Writing workshops may not solve issues of needing specific skills. We want to help students move forward with their programs and meeting their writing needs. One individual? Resource center only works if students want to do use the resources.

·        TIME is a key challenge. Whatever is created must be part of a normal workload. Maybe part of a class.

·        Honor’s College courses at the undergrad level can be taught by faculty from various departments. Nothing comparable exists at the grad level. What about creating a structure that allows switching teaching load to allow for something like this at the grad level? This could allow teaching a writing grad class, for example. So this makes teaching such a class part of a regular teaching load rather than on top of existing work.

·        Also some places have existing writing classes (e.g., writing in the sciences). Writing-intensive electives as another model. Idea of a 3-credit class focused on writing journal articles with this class targeted toward students nearing completion. An issue is class size, maybe 8-12 students. Lots of pockets on campus where people are doing interesting things like this.

·        Faculty must model the behavior; could build into grading of a term paper that must use appropriate reference formatting. Faculty must be willing to acknowledge and apply consequences to writing quality/standards. For grad writing in classes, must look at process at multiple stages in the term—not just assignment given and collected at end; learn how to plan, draft, peer review, feedback, edit, final revisions.

·        See faculty member actually editing a sentence or paragraph in one-on-one. That takes time. Many faculty will feel they don’t have time. Maybe grad class on Friday, when can carve out chunk of time for writing and getting feedback and editing and peer feedback. Maybe give examples of before and after; ask students to edit one’s own work or already-published work. Strategies may be generalizable in some ways but also discipline-specific. Grad work in social work has 2 grad students who become writing consultants. Social work is on differential tuition, which pays for that support.

·        One person could begin to gather the info that’s out there across campus that think about writing. But not a lot of discussion about how to be successful. How to develop writing activities, workshops, lots of other strategies out there. Grad students want different support at different times.

·        If we want students to write well, they must also be given that time. Maybe a paper is two semesters—faculty coordinate between those.

·        An intro course at PhD level in Teaching and Learning with general content with approach as lit review. Maybe at university level have more discussions with departments about possibilities—what about a writing expert doing some co-teaching or sequenced support throughout the class which could make more targeted? Each field has different conventions (APA, MLA, style, qualitative vs. quantitative).

·        Every grad faculty member could share in responsibility…If faculty members share a teaching load for a specific class, could be good, but point made that rotating faculty might not allow standardizing so well.

·        A specialist could work with instructors to help synergize with existing resources.

End: 3:00 PM.