Susan Briscoe

monksFun with WID

When I started teaching at Dawson, I found myself challenged by many complex problems that I had not experienced in my previous teaching work. I was deeply discouraged by students who seemed to be unmotivated, classroom practices that were apparently ineffective, essays that were dishearteningly weak, and a grading burden that was miserably heavy. In short, teaching was not fun. When I eventually discovered WID, I found a way to solve these problems through a whole new (for me) approach to teaching.

Writing in the Disciplines, or WID, is not entirely what the name at first suggested to me. Initially, I thought it was only about formal academic writing, and since writing is my specialization, I didn’t think it would offer much that I didn’t already know. Now I understand it as a pedagogical approach promoting critical thinking, active learning, and writing — largely through writing. Most importantly, WID offers practical strategies for course and assignment design, classroom activities, and grading. While WID is about helping students to write thoughtfully and effectively in various discipline-specific forms, more broadly it is about how we think and learn.

Learning how to use WID strategies, which have been developed by diverse scholars and educators through a great deal of ongoing research and practice, has been exciting, challenging, and most rewarding. It has completely changed everything I do as a teacher, from course design to grade submission and everything in between. WID has refined many of my attitudes about students, my role as a teacher, and how we all learn. The results for me are more joy, more empathy, and more meaning in the classroom — and more free time on the weekends. The results for my students are more thinking, more writing, and more learning — and also more free time on the weekends!

I came to WID with many questions, some specific to my discipline, others more general:

  • Why is writing sometimes so painful for students – so painful that many will resort to plagiarism?
  • Why is grading their writing so often painful for me?
  • Is the analytical essay –the main product of my discipline– the best genre for learning and assessment?
  • What grading methods are actually effective in promoting student learning and critical thought?
  • How can I help my students get excited about reading, thinking, and writing?

You will find my WID-inspired answers to these questions in my blog pages here. Some of the answers were surprising to me:

  • Students actually like writing!
  • Teaching grammar can be a waste of everybody’s time.
  • Grading can actually be fun! Yes, I said that.

I hope you find some practical solutions to some of your challenges as a teacher in these pages. I also hope you find some inspiration and discover the possibility of more pleasure and purpose in your job — because that is possible!  Click here to continue on to my blog portfolio…

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