Cory Legassic, Humanities / Sociology
I found this experience very enriching. It is quite hard to build friendships sometimes across disciplines, and WID gave me an opportunity to have meaningful conversations with colleagues whom I would normally have harder access to. I also found it humbling to witness how different faculties really engage with similar pedagogical values and principles, as well remind me of other ones that I maybe take for granted. I remember realizing, only after our first meeting, that I had been holding assumptions about what other disciplines (especially physics and physical education) held as priorities and approaches. I loved hearing what kinds of work they were doing, and how they were accessing students around similar goals in ways that my courses couldn’t. I think the CEGEP teaching culture can have us sometimes looking at the teaching in our courses in a bubble, and WID reminds us of, as well as celebrates, the ways our courses and teaching approaches really can/do complement each other. Especially as a Humanities teacher, it’s easy to take our “interdisciplinarity” for granted. I realized listening to other disciplines that my Humanities “interdisciplinarity” does still get locked down into particular genres and modes of writing that a photography instructor can challenge when she asked, “how do get students to write as a process to seeing?” I get so focused on notions of making the invisible visible, and I loved hearing from someone who is so focused (in part) on getting students to learn how to look at what’s right in front of them.
As a result of your WID experience, what has changed in the way you think about teaching in your discipline?
- Scrapping is usually way more liberating than just tweaking.
- Reading students writing can change where your course needs to go.
- You don’t need to read everything; and you don’t need to mark everything. (That’s a mantra and not something I have mastered yet)
- Simply clarifying the genre or assigning an “audience” can change a whole assignment.
- Other disciplines can help you have a quicker radical perspective on your teaching habits.
- Ongoing discussions and learning about teaching is important. I knew this, but you can really feel the difference in your teaching when actually doing it.
Do you foresee these changes having an impact on student engagement and learning in your courses?
I felt differences as I implemented some of the ideas right away in my courses during WID. Since doing WID, I want to really sit down with my course outlines and think through some changes I can build into the structure of my course.
I actually already work with many of the principles in WID, especially of scaffolding and using writing to explore themes and link personal experiences to the material we are working through. My biggest challenge is around grading. I need to do more work on this, and my brain is the most resistant to these ideas. I assign a lot of assignments that involve writing but I feel constantly buried under grading piles. I don’t have time to read around my material before classes because I am grading so much. My classes are often great, in that they are responding to the strengths and weaknesses of my students around the ideas in their writing. I really struggle with assigning writing and not reading and assigning participation mark for every assignment.
I feel like my students are quite engaged in my classes, but WID has given me tools for working through moments where I may be losing their focus. When I can assess where I might start to feel a lull in my course, I can apply some of the new suggestions I have explored in WID, and, more importantly, access a community of colleagues for support and ideas. I haven’t had enough time to really reflect and integrate WID in more profound ways. I feel like I am still in the stage of being more aware of my teaching practices and assessing them through “WID eyes.”
I don’t think WID revolutionized my pedagogy or philosophy of teaching; I went to WID because I saw a lot of my passion for teaching reflected in the program. As a new faculty member, I think I am walking away with a box of sharpened tools to keep my courses fresh as I look ahead at the career ahead of me in teaching.
Have you developed any new learning activities, assignments, units, instructional approaches, models, or evaluation tools for your courses?
You can visit my teaching portfolio, but I have played with many new ideas…
For my course Individual and Society:
MODULE TEST: These two tests assess students on comprehension of concepts and material covered in the course, including short answer questions, short and longer essay questions to assess A) Understanding of material;B) Ability to synthesize discussions and readings; and C) Apply material to social issues discussed in class.
MAJOR INTEGRATIVE ASSIGNMENT: These formative assignments help students integrate many of the learning objectives into one final paper for the course. Students interview a subject with respect to themes in the course and work throughout the semester toward synthesizing, reflecting, and applying relevant concepts to their data in a final research proposal paper.
And for my course Breaking the Guy Code:
MIDTERM EXAM: the format of some exams where I have pulled students out of the Exam booklet and got them writing out their ideas into a giant pamphlet as though they had to argue the merits of certain ideas (which requires understanding them) to a crowd of students who might have assumptions about the material we are exploring (i.e., feminism). That worked really well, and lightened the pressure often felt during an exam.
CREATIVE PROJECT: The goal in my creative project assignment is to engage with the course material outside of the classroom: They must  work on identifying, researching and documenting a form of hegemonic masculinity on campus—what we are referring to as a guy code—related to a theme that interests them (e.g., sports, media, music, technology, film, parenting, politics, love, sex, etc.),  develop a creative project that challenges that code, and then  present and analyze their project using the tools developed throughout the course.
INFORMAL WRITING THAT MATTERS: When we hit a question that had us blocked as a class, I got students online writing a post sharing their opinions/ideas on the question, and reflecting on where they go their information. The question was “Are men naturally more aggressive than women?” After they spent 20 minutes writing, I told them I had invited a biologist and a psychologist to read their posts and join us next class to address various points they had raised—either to debunk, clarify, or confirm their ideas. It was a spontaneous use of informal writing, and it was one of the most engaging moments in my course. They got to see me as the annoying philosopher/sociologist asking these other scientists my questions, and listen to our dialogue and sometimes debate.
Other changes have been cleaning up assignment guidelines, and clarifying certain elements in objectives, genre and audience, as well as assessment.
What would you suggest as next steps for the WID project?
Maybe an anthology, with different teachers writing different chapters following up on specific WID principles. We also need more resources around grading, as so many teachers struggle with this. Aside from these points, maybe hosting a conference, and maybe more institutional support for the ongoing working group. For example, we could use the Humanities conference room and start keeping a resource library. But honestly, there is already so much happening at our college, so I’d say just strengthening these efforts as more and more people go through WID, with a book club, working groups, and Ped Day workshops, for example.