New WID Teaching Portfolios – Fall 2014


New to the lineup of WID Teaching Portfolios are entries by Nejla El Solh (Français), Lyane Henrichon (Français) and Mark Beauchamp (History), and Diana Tremblay (Student AccessAbility).  Nejla offers an overview of key WID concepts distilled from John Bean’s Engaging Ideas, followed by a set of detailed writing activities for the 102 and BXJ courses.  Lyane’s portfolio contains three areas of interest: the advantages of a student writing portfolio; the problematic relation of error correction to language mastery; and the use of multimedia sources as springboards for writing and oral presentations.  Mark focuses on the development of peer review activities for Social Science research methods courses, activities that he thinks are transferable to other disciplines. And finally Diana Trembaly offers the unique perspective of an eduational therapist in Student Services, working with students with learning disabilities.

Insightful and practical, these new portfolios also feature downloadable attachments that other teachers can draw on for their own adaptations.  You can view the work of Nejla, Lyane, Mark and Diana via the WID Teaching Porfolio page.

WID Spring Institute 2014

The third annual WID Spring Institute will take place on Wednesday, June 3 & Thursday, June 4, from 9.30am to 4pm.

What’s the WID Spring Institute all about?

The idea is to give teachers a quick opportunity to rethink the way they approach writing in their courses. So much of what we do is communication-intensive — and yet we don’t always have the time or support to develop intentional approaches to how we deploy writing in our courses. So, from assignment design through informal writing activities to evaluation practices, we’ll look at a spectrum of writing-related topics. A two-day workshop is intensive, but the collaborative format, which brings together diverse faculty and some previous WID Writing fellows, will provide plenty of structure. We guarantee it will be stimulating and fun! There is an emphasis on tangible, practical outcomes, so that along with each bit of theory, we’ll have a specific activity that leads to a useful take-away for teachers.

Who should sign up?

Both new and experienced faculty are welcome, as well as groups from departments/programs interested in working on broader objectives that touch on writing and critical thinking. Teachers do not need a full course load to do the SI, which makes it a good option for recent day-time hires and Cont-Ed teachers.

What about the timing — aren’t you concerned that people might be tired and ready to jump-start their summer?

Of course, we’re primed for summer. But we also believe that a two-day crack at some fresh ideas, collegialty, and good food and drink is an attractive way of ending the semester on an up note. For those who want a chance to think about changes for upcoming Fall courses without the pressure to make decisions and start course planning right away, the Spring Institute fits the bill.


What did 2013 Spring Institute participants say about their experience?

“Very inspiring and much needed at a time when I am reflecting on the past semester and evaluating how I can improve my practice.”

“…immensely positive for me.  I leave here with loads of extra material – and stimulating ideas, fresh insight – and having met new people from many disciplines.”

“Very good experience.  I have many ideas or “pistes de solution” that I will try in class.  Very useful to exchange with teachers from different departments.”

“Incredibly positive…  I enjoyed the setting, our colleagues across the college, the amenities and user-friendly materials…Would do it again in a heartbeat.”


To register, just send a brief message to Ian MacKenzie. The deadline to register is Monday, May 25.

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Five Steps to Better Student Writing?

I met Roger Graves a few years ago at a conference, and he is an entirely sensible individual.  So when I happened upon a recent short piece by Roger in University Affairs, “Five strategies to improve writing in your courses,” I paid attention.  As the director of a university-wide writing program at the University of Alberta, he frequently fields questions from colleagues on the magic “fix” for student writing.  There isn’t one.  But there may be five.  Borrowing liberally from the work of John Bean, Graves lists four critical elements that teachers can build into their assignments to help students – and adds one 911 number to call for support.frustrated_writer_no_text

1. Identify and help your students to understand the genre of your assignment.  Students need explicit instruction in genre conventions, and they need models to understand concretely what kind of writing and thinking is called for by the genre.

2. From the beginning, students need to know what is under evaluation.  A rubric or evaluation checklist helps them as they write and revise, and cuts down on your time spent answering the “but what do you want, Miss/Sir?” question.

3. And they need both time and directions to revise.  Build in time for peer feedback or teacher-guided discussion of drafts; then your students may take more seriously your exhortations to revise, revise and revise.

4.  Assign short, informal writing tasks that permit students to generate and explore ideas for formal assignments.  More preliminary writing; less night-before data-dumping and plagiarism.

5. And the 911 number belongs to the Academic Skills Centre.  If we can’t seem to make progress on sentence-level problems in individual conferencing with students, let’s not neglect to refer them directly to the expertise that might make the difference.

Graves explores in more depth the reasons why students often struggle with university-level writing in this piece from 2013.


Image Credit: AUCEgypt