Category Archives: Research

Undergraduate Research Materials

As a follow-up to my recent post on the Honors Spring Symposium, I’m sharing photos of the research poster and pamphlets created by the Capstone Seminar students as ways to share some of their research findings:

Morality Legislation Research Poster

Research Pamphlet Containing Information on Alcohol Education and Sexual Assault

Spring 2017 Symposium

What an event! The students presented their research findings in two sessions separated by a short break. The first group — Sam, Hayden, Holly, Emma, and Paige — addressed morality legislation in a panel discussion. They described their methodology, used women’s reproductive rights as their primary case study, and then elaborated on how the methodology could be applied to thinking critically about other moral issues that have been, or continue to be, legislated.

Morality Legislation Discussion Panel

The second group, Jack and Gus, opened with a cover of Lady Gaga’s song, “Til It Happens to You,” performed by Jack.

Jack just after finishing his song.

This performance was followed by Gus reading his paper and sharing slides describing many facts and statistics on alcohol education at universities and its potential impact on reducing sexual assaults.

Gus presenting his paper.

This segment concluded with Jack describing the shortcomings of colleges and universities in addressing the realities of alcohol consumption by student and performing a demonstration measuring the recommended amount of alcohol safely consumed per hour vs the actual yet often unrecognized amount of alcohol contained in a typical solo cup of Jungle Juice.

The students also created a research poster, brochure, and website. I will post links to them once their are available.

I have no doubt that these students will continue to pursue research interests during their time at Lane and at their transfer institutions. I hope they will also decide to pursue graduate degrees given their intellects, research skills, and passion for learning.

 

Undergraduate Research Field Trips

In my last posts, I noted the college’s plans to eliminate the Honors Program. Although the Board of Education has not officially voted on the final budget, it will do so at tomorrow’s Board meeting. When I know what next year’s version of honors will look like as students complete the program, I will add a post with that information. In the meantime, I want to focus on what the Honors Program has been about for seven years: building scholars and providing opportunities for undergraduate research.

In the Invitation to Inquiry Seminar held each winter, the students visit the University of Oregon’s Special Collections Library. There are previous posts describing this event and sharing photos on this blog.

In the Capstone Seminar held each spring, the students visit the University of Oregon’s (UO) Undergraduate Research Symposium, the Lane Community College Poster Day, and Oregon State University’s (OSU) Honors Thesis Fair. They also put on their own Honors Spring Symposium (I’ll blog about this soon as the symposium is tomorrow!).

There are several benefits to attending the UO’s Undergraduate Research Symposium. These benefits include becoming more familiar with, and comfortable on, the UO campus; seeing examples of research posters; reading a range of abstracts in the symposium program; and attending panel presentations. All of these benefits allow the students to see their research in context of other student research, to build confidence, and to take what they learn from the symposium and apply it to their own projects and assignments in the seminar. In short, this field trip supports the college’s Core Learning Outcome: Apply Learning.

Visiting the college’s own poster day builds on the UO visit by showing students the research projects other students at our college are engaged in and the quality of their posters. This event is organized by honors science faculty, Stacey Kiser, who also team-teaches the two honors seminars with me. Viewing the posters and talking with fellow students helps the seminar students see their work in the context of fellow Lane students.

Lane Poster Day

Another example of a Lane science poster.

Finally, the trip to the OSU provides examples of the research and educational experiences of other honors students. We have an information session at the OSU Honors College where the students learn about the requirements for transfer students and see the honors lounge, workroom, and classrooms. 

OSU Honors College Info Session

We also review the abstracts for the honors posters, walk through the poster session, and talk with students about their work.

Students viewing OSU research posters.

This trip provides a context for honors research, presents sample abstracts and posters that the students can consider when creating their own, and helps make them more comfortable on the OSU campus. It was gratifying to hear students talking about applying to the OSU Honors College after our visit!

Having seen the presentations, poster, and pamphlet the students will share at the Honors Spring Symposium tomorrow, I know the value of these field trips and the impact they have on the students’ own research and on their sense of themselves as scholars moving forward into their academic careers.

 

Undergraduate Research in the 2016 Capstone Seminar

Each spring, students in the Honors Capstone Seminar conduct group research projects and share their findings with the appropriate audience. They choose the topic/s, conduct the research, and determine the best means of presenting their findings.

In the past, topics have ranged from the Take Back the Tap movement to gender inequality in higher education to rainwater harvesting to housing stability for the chronically homeless.

Poster for the Honors Research Symposium

Poster for the Honors Research Symposium

This year, the students explored Oregon’s success at reducing recidivism. They examined the economic impact of recidivism, recidivism for adults and juveniles, and the success of specific programs in Oregon. They ultimately argued that the most successful means of preventing recidivism is through programs that focus on altering the behavior of ex-inmates and on providing support for ex-inmates, as well as using a cooperative approach to offering these services.

They shared their findings through a PowerPoint presentation and a research poster that will be displayed in the Learning Commons in the fall. Their presentation was also filmed by Dean Middleton and Randal Painter.

Completing this project supported not only the course learning outcomes but also all five of Lane’s Core Learning Outcomes:

  • Think Critically
  • Engage Diverse Values with Civic and Ethical Awareness
  • Create Ideas and Solutions
  • Communicate Effectively
  • Apply Learning

I look forward to seeing, and learning from, the research findings of next year’s seminar students!

Honors Seminars Revisited

Recently, I was a guest speaker in Joe Fracchia’s HC 431H: Bodies and Artifacts seminar at the Clark Honors College. The focus for the afternoon was, “What’s in a Word”: The Interior Structure of Semiotic Artifacts: Those “agitated layers of air” (Marx) fashioned into the “mouthy little things we call words” (Suzanne Langer).

Joe Fracchia

Joe Fracchia

I was there with Lauren Deegan to read our poetry and talk about our writing processes as well as answer questions from the students.

It was an interesting experience to be back in a CHC classroom having just the day before taught in Lane’s honors seminar, Invitation to Inquiry. I couldn’t help comparing and contrasting the two classes and the general honors experiences at the CHC and at Lane.

I admired the rigor of Joe’s course. Here is the day’s reading from the syllabus:

February 19

“What’s in a Word”: The Interior Structure of Semiotic Artifacts: Those “agitated layers of air” (Marx) fashioned into the “mouthy little things we call words” (Suzanne Langer)

Read:    Marshall Sahlins, Excerpt on the Arbitrariness of Linguistic Signs

Geoffrey Pullman, “The Great Eskimo Snow Hoax”, 159-167

Mary LeCron Foster, “Body Process in the Evolution of Language”, pp. 208-229

Lev Vygotsky, “Thought and Word” in Thought and Language, pp. 210-256

Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, “Language” in Contact, pp. 22-38

Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, “Language as Work and Trade” in Language as Work and Trade, pp. 35-        64

HC 431H is an upper division class, so I did not expect Lane’s lower division seminar to do the same type of work. What struck me was simply the thoughtfulness and intelligence that students exhibit when they have an environment in which to push their thinking and their creativity. We see this in Lane’s honors seminars, as well, but I would like to see a wider range of seminar experiences available to Lane’s students.

Mara Fields, the Grants Coordinator at Lane, occasionally sends me information about grants for “great ideas” courses, and I’ve always hoped to be able to build such a course for the Honors Program. I think the students would gain as much from that type of seminar as they do from our two interdisciplinary research seminars.

The challenge is that a “great ideas” course, like our seminars, would count as an elective and the students have limited space for electives given the constraints of financial aid and the need to complete the courses required for their majors. Still, after participating in Joe’s HC 431H history class, I plan to think more about ways to create a similar experience for the honors students at Lane.

Seminar Students Visit UO’s Special Collections Library

This week, Katie Morrison-Graham and I visited the University of Oregon’s Special Collections Library with the students currently taking the Honors Invitation to Inquiry seminar. We are always looking for ways to enhance the seminar’s focus on interdisciplinary research and on thinking critically about the research process. An introduction to archival research proved to be a great addition to the course.

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Manuscripts Librarian, Linda Long, brought out several items from the Gertrude Bass Warner Collection including Japanese lantern slides and Warner’s travel diaries.

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I’ve worked with this collection in the past and it was a nice surprise when she emailed to say these were the materials she would be using. I enjoyed the chance to see the materials again and to share them with my students.

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Linda explained the purpose of a special collections library, described some of the collections in this library’s holdings, and encouraged the students to feel welcome there and use the library as a resource. I was especially appreciative of this invitation because the campus and its libraries can seem overwhelming to someone unfamiliar with them. The honors students now know they have access to excellent scholarly resources and can feel comfortable and confident about using them.

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When we left, one student was already registering so that she could use the library in the future. Others gathered outside to talk over their experience. Linda and I decided based on the students’ response that we will make the Special Collections Library visit a regular part of the honors seminars each year.

Sharing Our Research with Students

When Sarah Ulerick and I taught the first section of what became the Honors Capstone Seminar, I found that my experience with my own academic project at that time paralleled some of the students’ experiences in the class. The seminar focused on group research projects and culminated in a student-led, public symposium featuring panels of experts. I was also organizing a panel on American haiku for the American Literature Association’s conference held in San Francisco near the end of the term.

San Francisco

As the students were preparing to present their research findings, I was preparing to present mine in a paper on the American haiku panel. When the students became stressed that not all of their invited panelists were going to be able to attend the symposium, I shared with them that one of my panelists had cancelled at the last minute. In short, they came to see that they were part of the scholarly community and their experiences were consistent with what often happens to all scholars involved in research and in professional activities.

Over the past few years of teaching Lane’s two honors seminars, both of which focus on research, I have consistently seen how beneficial it is for the students and instructors to share their work with one other. To be honest, I am sometimes surprised that sharing my work in literary studies is of interest to them since very few of our students are English majors; however, I recognize that it is simply interacting with someone who is researching in their field, whatever that field may be, that most interests them.

One benefit for the students, I think, is to recognize that what they are doing in the seminars is not a rote exercise. It is both training for the work they will do in upper division and graduate courses and an opportunity to answer real research questions and share their findings with relevant audiences. It is also consistent with what all scholars do and what they see their instructor doing outside of the classroom.

The sharing of our research-related work offers many benefits to me, but one was particularly emphasized this past weekend. Last term, I worked on a paper about Richard Wright’s haiku and American Imagism for the Modern Language Association’s convention. As we began this term and the Honors Invitation to Inquiry Seminar, I traveled to Vancouver BC to present my paper. What I discovered as I worked on the paper was that I kept running into dead ends. I knew I wasn’t getting at what I wanted to say. It was only as I finished revising the paper and presented it at the conference that I finally arrived at the question I really wanted to answer.

With Toru Kiuchi and Yoshinobu Hakutani after our panel.

With Toru Kiuchi and Yoshinobu Hakutani after our panel.

This experience was such a basic research experience that it took me by surprise. It has been a long time since I’ve done that much work only to arrive at my actual starting place in the conclusion of my paper. I was reminded that the obstacles my students face each year in the seminars are also the obstacles and the process I experience in my own work. I’ll be sharing this insight with them this week as they hone their research questions and I begin the line of inquiry my conference paper ultimately directed me to.

Rethinking Honors Research Papers

After a library workshop for the Honors Invitation to Inquiry Seminar last week, the honors librarian, Jen Klaudinyi, sent me a link to an article by Marc Bousquet in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Keep the Research, Ditch the Paper.” Jen said it resonated with the approach to research we were taking in the honors seminar. It did, and I agreed with many of Bousquet’s points. He encourages faculty to have students “address real research questions, and to compose in the same wide range of media actually used by scholars and professional writers.” He also notes that, while this doesn’t require throwing out the research paper altogether, it “might mean elbowing it to the side, and reimagining it as part of a broad band of complex, carefully composed professional communications.” This certainly is consistent with the approach we are taking in our honors seminars.

While the seminar students do pose research questions, write prospectuses, find and evaluate sources, create annotated bibliographies, and ultimately answer their research questions, they do not write a research paper. Instead, they write a thesis-driven reflective essay and participate in a two-hour round table discussion. In both of these activities, they address not only the research process but ALSO the critical thinking they engaged in while undertaking academic research.

Much of Bousquet’s article is actually his response to a piece published last December by Rebecca Schuman on Slate, “The End of the College Essay, An Essay.” Schuman (who it turns out is the daughter of my former Clark Honors College colleague, Sharon Schuman, and the niece of honors educator, Samuel Schuman, whose work informed the design of the Lane Honors Program) satirically argues that we should throw out the traditional college paper: “We don’t have to assign papers (emphasis hers), and we should stop. We need to admit that the required-course college essay is a failure.” Instead of papers, Schuman argues for a “return to old-school, hardcore exams, written and oral (emphasis hers).” She states that students plagiarize, buy their papers, or write papers with a focus on page count rather than on constructing thoughtful arguments. According to Bousquet, Schuman’s ideas so outraged academics around the country that many of them began calling for her termination from her position as an adjunct instructor.

I have to say that not every instructor or program takes the approach to writing Schuman criticizes, and Bousquet accurately points out that the fields of rhetoric and composition are ahead of many other fields in designing new approaches to the college research paper.

In terms of honors education, rethinking how to teach research without the traditional paper is an area in which honors classes can and should make a contribution. Honors classes are places where faculty can try out new pedagogical approaches and engage students in discussions about the old and new approaches. We’ve taken that step in our honors seminars by creating interdisciplinary research classes that, without the traditional paper, contribute to students’ ability to meet Lane’s five Core Learning Outcomes: Think Critically, Engage Diverse Values with Civic and Ethical Awareness, Create Ideas and Solutions, Communicate Effectively, and Apply Learning. They also engage the students in conversations exactly like the ones taking place on Slate and The Chronicle, which is why the Invitation to Inquiry students will be reading both the Schuman and the Bousquet pieces next week. If the ensuing discussion goes the way of our past discussions, I suspect they will have some pretty cogent ideas about how our future seminars might want to approach scholarly research, ways that will probably build on and diverge from what we’ve asked them to do this term.