In response to a Call for Proposals in October 2014, WID received four applications for departmental WID projects. Across the board, the project applications were carefully conceived and elaborated. Resources permitted the selection of two projects: one in Nursing, and the other in Social Science. Each project is proceeding in W2015 under the leadership of WID Writing Fellows from the respective departments.
The Nursing WID project, led by Robin Simmons and Michelle Maguigad, focuses on the design of writing and critical thinking learning activities that will better prepare Nursing students for the provincial professional examination, which is overseen by the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec (OIIQ). A topic of interest for the WID-Nursing team is how the OIIQ’s inventory of competencies, called “the Mosaic,” can be transformed into a student-friendly heuristic, and used more intentionally in learning activities leading up to the exam.
In the past, the exam consisted of both a written component and a clinical component (the infamous OSCE, or objectively structured clinical examination). However, the OIIQ revised the format in 2014 to eliminate the clinical component and expand the written examination. Now, the written exam is a sequence of complex scenarios and questions that test not only foundational nursing knowledge, but also the decision-making skills of candidates. The 40 scenario, 130 question format presents a formidable challenge on many levels: reading comprehension; analysis and synthesis of data; identification and explication of procedures; prioritization of actions; and not least of all, the composition of concise and accurate written answers that satisfy the stringent requirements for accuracy and clarity established by the OIIQ. In view of the disappointing performance this past fall of candidates from across the anglophone network of college and university nursing programs, this project is, without question, a timely and important undertaking.
The second project addresses the Social Science Integrative Seminar, which is that program’s Comprehensive Examination. Davina Mill (Psychology) and Lisa Steffen (History) are examining broadly the design of research writing tasks in the course, and instructional approaches supporting the writing process. IS is a “capstone” research course, integrating knowledge and skills acquired in at least three social science disciplines, and in the required Research Methods and Quantitative Methods courses that come earlier in the methods sequence. A central concern in this project is how the effective design and delivery of IS can enhance the “integrative” in Integrative Seminar. Of particular interest are methods of teaching the effective use of sources; options for problem-based research questions that would pre-empt plagiarism and “data dump” papers; collaborative activities that support revision and editing; rhetorically-situated problems as the focus of inquiry; and the use of a range of social science genres that address specific audiences with specific purposes. One WID concept that is already proving helpful in this project is Anne Beaufort’s framework for understanding disciplinary discourse communities (Beaufort 2007). Beaufort argues that as students develop toward competency in any specific field, their writerly judgement must evolve in four particular domains: in the subject matter of the discipline, evidently; in the genres or conventionalized forms of writing used by experts as they develop and communicate ideas; in the rhetorical strategies that the disciplinary community recognizes as valid forms of argumentation; and not least of all, in the writing processes that are most effective in moving thinking-writing tasks towards completion.
This framework permits us to identify where teachers are currently placing their instructional emphases, and where approaches might be adapted to foster learning that is truly integrative, in the sense of acculturating students to the discourse communities of the social sciences.
If you have any questions about these projects, and/or about how to prepare a proposal in response to the next CFP for departmental projects in Fall 2015, don’t hesitate to contact Anne Thorpe or Ian MacKenzie.
Beaufort, Anne. (2007). College Writing and Beyond: A Framework for University Writing Instruction. USU Press; Logan, UT.
Lessard, Louise-Marie, and Chantal Lemay. (2014) Guide de préparation à l’examen professionnel de l’Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec, 3e édition. OIIQ; Montreal QC.