I teach the RM course to social science students and find the material and scaffolding of the project already fit the WID philosophy in many ways. However, there are a few ways to add a little WID life to the curriculum. First, labs are great occasions to foster critical thinking and use more writing. I have slightly redesigned some labs to do this. Also, I have the students write more, on the computer, during labs than before as a general rule. See Genpets and Websites labs.
Second, in-class activities can accompany almost every lecture, since learning-by-doing is much more efficient in this course than other pedagogical techniques. See the Evil Questionnaire, and the Experiment Design prompts.
Finally, a word about the main research project: it is not argumentative in nature. I focus on a main project where the aim is to develop hypothesis-testing skills and the survey research method. However, it is possible to tweak this project in a WID way. In the past, I had students fill out a synthesis grid of their variables to define the project. But before this step, in the future I will ask for a short personal “think piece” to be sure they find a topic they can relate to and that they start thinking about the topic individually. This helps to identify the variables involved in the issue as well. See Week 2 Think Piece.
B. WID for the Integrative Seminar
I believe integrating WID philosophy to the course is very relevant for the first few assignments, which dictate the topic selection and the engagement level of the student. Getting students to reflect directly on problems they care about is one of the keys for them to select a research topic that they will find engaging. This should produce better papers, which are more interesting to edit and mark. I have tried to implement these changes in winter 2011, but I plan to implement this fully next year. Three Assignments The first document is the prompt for the first assignment – the Reflection Paper. It is designed to help students quickly find a topic they can start researching, and be enthused about.
The second document is the prompt for the second assignment – the Proposal. It is designed to help students write a thesis statement and an outline of their research. It is meant to produce a formal introduction to their research paper.
The third document is the prompt for the third assignment – Content Matrix. It is designed to help students organize their research according to their outline. This has gotten rave reviews from students, especially those who needed more help in organizing their ideas.
A remark on developing the assignments in class: I tried a technique suggested by Ian MacKenzie, called “live writing.” This means writing a text live, for the class, at the computer console at the front of the class, so they see the writing process as it evolves. I have done this when assigning homework, and after giving the work back. The live-editing was particularly appreciated by students. This is particularly useful for explaining how to write opening statements, introductions, segue sentences, as well as the technicalities of APA citations, pagination, and the “automatic” Table of Contents. I got a student to volunteer their text for everyone to see the editing process. That student got to keep the improved version for the next step of the project.