The private WordPress blog serves as the out-of-class-time space for sharing and exchange, including posting of annotations and project products (after revision in response to instructor and peer comments). After the class is over, students can continue to refer back to the resources accumulated there.
Classes will generally begin with a warm-up and check-in, e.g., sharing of highlights of reflections and annotations added to the blog or a reflective activity, except weeks 1, 14, and weeks when there are presentations.
Focal Weekly Reading
The diversity of students’ inquiries on the four projects and thus range of reading is unavoidable and important. However, as a response to the need expressed by past students for some shared referents, one focal reading will be assigned each week to be discussed in various modes (to be specified), such as annotations posted online ahead of class, time-limited spoken reports on the nine categories of note-taking, guided close reading, and five-phase dialogue.
Except when there are presentations, most class sessions, after the check-in and discussion of the focal reading, take the form of a workshop, in which various activities are used to move along your inquiry for the given PBL project. Details of these activities are linked to the class session on the course website.
Presentations and Plus-Delta Feedback
When you prepare to give a well-prepared presentation, when you hear yourselves speak your presentation, and when you get feedback, it usually leads to self-clarification of the overall argument underlying your inquiry and written product. There may or may not be time for extensive discussion, but your revision of the draft product will be informed by everyone else in the group providing “plus-delta” feedback: plus = something appreciated; delta = something to help further development, e.g., suggestions, questions, contacts, and references. You can also learn from compare-contrast with the other students’ presentations.
Visual aids should be prepared without diverting your time away from your ongoing inquiry.
Peter: “These days I use pdf’s, not Powerpoint, for all my talks, in part because of bad experiences with some images not showing up when ppt files got shown on a different operating system. But mostly because I can write and revise outlines in Microsoft Word and then, when I’m ready, I change the font size, “print” as a pdf, and I’m ready to go live. Preparation time for my talks is not diverted into making animations, backgrounds, fade-ins and other non-essential features of a talk. Even if you don’t take this tip, try to make one introductory slide that captures the overall structure and logic of your inquiry. This might be enough of a visual aid that you can talk to that slide and not have to prepare many others.”
Mary: Agreed. I would also point to Edward Tufte’s work, especially The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (and his cheap but excellent and hilarious pamphlet “The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint.”)
In order to learn from the inquiries of the other students, annotated references or resources (= person, organization…) related to the projects or common readings should be added (regularly, not all in a clump) to the evolving bibliography. (Annotations should convey the article’s key points as well as its connection to the student’s own inquiries and interests. Examples from past years will be provided. Prepare first on your computer, then copy and paste the annotated reference into blog. Specify the category Bibliography.)
Dialogue Around Written Work
The instructors try to create a dialogue with each student around written work, that is, around your writing, our responses, and your responses in turn. For each submission one of us makes comments on a cover page that aim to show you your voice has been heard and to reflect back to you where you were taking us. After the overall comments we make specific suggestions for how to clarify and extend the impact on readers of what was written. You then revise and resubmit the submission in response to our comments and peer commentary (see below). The goal is not that you make changes to please me us or to meet some unstated standard, but that you as a writer use the eye of others to develop your own thinking and make your written exposition of that thinking work better on readers.
An instructor will forward another student’s project drafts to you by email for peer review after you submit your own draft. One component of cultivating support for ongoing learning is sharing one’s work at the same time as defining the kinds of response you need at that point. Peter Elbow provides valuable perspectives and options for when you decide what approaches to commenting you ask for as a writer (which you should state at the top of your draft) and what to use as a commentator. You may be used to making lots of specific suggestions for clarification and change in the margins, but such suggestions do not often lead students to go beyond touching up into re-thinking and revising their ideas and writing. This said, all writers value comments that reassure them that they have been listened to and their voice, however uncertain, has been heard.
Elbow, Peter. Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process. Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780195120189.
Elbow, Peter, and Pat Belanoff. “Summary of Kinds of Responses.” In Sharing and Responding. Random House, 1989. ISBN: 9780394386225.
Private Learning Journal
Reflection on your experience of the course process, especially in relation to the two desired outcomes, namely: you will have charted a path into an ever-growing body of work on the interpretation of sciences in contexts, to which feminist, anti-racist, and other critical analysts and activists have made significant contributions; and you will have formulated a personal plan for ongoing inquiry that troubles the boundaries of knowledge production in the academy and sciences. Students need only share enough of these journals with the instructors to show that they are making entries at least once per week. However, students may also share entries on the blog if they wish. Some prompts for journal entries are given in the class schedule.