Category Archives: Seminars

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!

ePortfolios and Accessibility

This week, Lane’s ePortfolio Theory Reading Group met to discuss “E-Portfolios and Inclusive Learning,” a chapter from The Educational Potential of e-Portfolios, a book by Lorainne Sefani, Robin Mason, and Chris Pegler.

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There were also several supplemental sources that addressed accessibility in ePortfolios, websites, blogs, etc.

I appreciate that the group’s creator and leader, Sarah Lushia, was able to switch the planned reading so that we could focus on the topic of accessibility. It is a topic I wanted us to discuss. I want to think more about making accessibility a foundational part of my pedagogy and not just something I consider when addressing individual student needs.

This term, I’ll raise the topic of accessibility with the Capstone Seminar students, exploring some of the issues involving design and some of the tools that are currently available. Since accessibility is also something I want to consider in terms of my own ePortfolio, the students and I can participate in this work together.

From an administrative perspective, I’d like the Lane Honors Program to think about accessibility in light of our requirement that students build and maintain ePortfolios in the Lane Honors Program. As a relatively new program, we have a chance to make accessibility a central part of how we think about ePortfolios.

Sarah provides a detailed summary of the meeting on the ePortfolio Theory Reading Group blog.

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.

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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.

Collaboratively-Created, Task-Specific Rubrics

This week, the latest issue of JNCHC arrived in the mail. It included my essay, “Collaborative Design: Building Task-Specific Rubrics in the Honors Classroom,” which is part of the issue’s forum, “Rubrics, Templates, and Outcomes Assessment.” In the essay, I focus on how students in the honors seminars help create the task-specific rubrics we use for different assignments and argue that this activity enhances learning and empowers students.

I did not come to this approach in isolation. Sarah Ulerick and I engaged students in creating rubrics during the first Invitation to Inquiry Seminar in the spring of 2012. My participation in a Faculty Interest Group on critical thinking, led by Siskanna Naynaha and Kate Sullivan, introduced me to an invaluable resource that I used to further develop this approach: Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom, by John C. Bean.

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My co-instructor in the honors seminars, Katie Morrison-Graham, and I continue to refine our approach to developing rubrics with our students. We are planning to work with Lane’s Assessment Team this year to develop more ways to incorporate Lane’s Core Learning Outcomes into our collaboratively-produced, task-specific rubrics.

 

 

Student Voices

I am often asked what distinguishes an honors class from a non-honors class. There are many ways to answer this question, but one characteristic we have emphasized in our program is the degree to which students have ownership over what happens in class.

In the Invitation to Inquiry and Capstone seminars, students are responsible for much of what takes place each term. For instance, they choose their individual research questions in Inquiry and their group research questions in Capstone. This year’s Capstone students created idea maps when narrowing down their topics.

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In Inquiry, students participate in a two-hour, student-driven round table discussion. In Capstone, they decide on their group dynamics and group member responsibilities, and they determine the entire structure of the symposium at which they share their research findings:

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Capstone students Maria Sullivan, Mike Dann, Dakota MacColl, and Brandi Tekell in an early group-work session.

In both seminars, students discuss how their learning should be assessed and the rubrics we use are created based on their decisions. Also, each year we revise the seminars based on student feedback and suggestions.

Another way in which students impact honors courses is through the ePortfolio requirement. One of our ePortfolio leads, Sarah Lushia, teaches the honors section of WR 122, and she built a substantial ePortfolio component into her class. Last term, she invited several former students to coffee. For three hours they discussed the ePortfolio assignment and general guidelines, determining how these could be improved. She then made the changes they had discussed, which impacts how students in her class will increase their learning through the ePortfolio assignment and how all students in the program will benefit from this requirement through changes to the general guidelines.

We have extended the student ownership and input that takes place in the classroom to the administrative level, as well. As noted in a previous entry, the Honors Leadership Team included in its charter the requirement to have a student member, and our first student member, Cheyne Dandurand joined the team. Cheyne is currently creating a document outlining the specific responsibilities for this position.

Honors students are also contributing to the ways in which faculty think about Lane’s new Core Learning Outcomes:

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I’ve mentioned these CLOs in other blog entries, but here I want to discuss the honors students participation in a CLO workshop held last month. Tricia Lytton organized a panel of students who could share with faculty the ways in which they have engaged the CLOs and the impact this engagement has had on their learning experience. Cheyne, Mike, and Dakota each presented on the panel and then answered questions. Tricia had a scheduling conflict, so I moderated the panel but after all of the preparation Tricia and the students had done, little moderation was needed.

Mike recently started a blog as part of his ePortfolio, and he discusses the panel in his first post. I’ll end this entry to my own blog with Mike’s voice about his panel experience.

 

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.

 

Honors Seminars Panel at NCHC

This morning I participated on a panel discussing honors seminars for two-year colleges. Each of us described the seminars offered by our schools and considered the pros and cons of these approaches.

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Preparing for the panel with (from left) Al Golden, Patricia Jones, and Erik Ozolins

The following are brief overviews of the presentations:

Al Golden (Joliet Junior College in Illinois) explained that their seminars are listed as forums. These optional seminars are designed to work with and around the many things two-year college students negotiate in addition to coursework (families, jobs, etc.). They range from an initial orientation in August to a wide range of field trips held at different times and days during the semester to make them accessible more students. Families are welcome and the school covers much of the cost of the trips.

Patricia Jones (Polk State College in Florida) described her program’s 1-credit seminars. They offer three different seminars each term. They run sequentially for five weeks each and are one credit. Students can take any or all of the seminars. Many students in her program join in their second year at the college, and she explained that the seminars not only provide fun, intellectual content. They also make it possible for students to earn the required 18 credits to complete the program even if they start later in their time at the school.

Erik Ozolins (Mt. San Jacinto College in California) presented information on the 3-credit seminars that are divided into three categories: science, social science, and humanities. They are interdisciplinary, once-a-week classes that are only open to students in the program. They are also the only honors-only classes at the college. Half of each session is a lecture by the instructor of record or often a lecture from another faculty member on campus. The second half of the class is small group discussion.

The panel presentations concluded with my description of Lane’s seminar sequence that I’ve discussed in an earlier post. Our sequence of two 4-credit seminars is open only to honors students and focuses on research. Invitation to Inquiry emphasizes thinking critically about the research process and involves individual research projects. Honors Capstone Seminar focuses on group research projects and culminates in a student-led symposium where the students present their research findings and invite experts in the field to participate.

Listening to the different presentations and the questions posed by audience members reinforced for me the need to tailor honors seminars to the needs of the specific college and its students. Each of my colleagues had clearly thought through what was needed at their institutions and what would best benefit their students. We were also reminded by our various challenges and successes that these classes are works in progress that benefit from continual review, and there were elements from each seminar structure – field trips, working with students who don’t have the full two years to complete the program, and guest lectures – that I think we could incorporate, or already do incorporate, into Lane’s seminars.

Honors Seminars

On Wednesday, 10/16/13, the Curriculum Committee approved the HON 202_H prefix for the Honors Capstone Seminar. Last year, they approved the HON 201_H prefix for the Invitation to Inquiry Seminar. This two-class sequence is a requirement for students in our program, and, after running variations on the seminars as IDS experimental classes for two years, I feel we’ve landed on the best approach for our college. My co-faculty coordinator Katie Morrison-Graham and I are also working on a conference presentation and contributions to a monograph chapter on two-year college honors seminars for the NCHC this fall. Honors seminars have definitely been on my mind.

The panel and chapter will include contributions from honors faculty at other schools so that we can present a wide range of options for building seminars. There are so many different approaches to seminars depending on the needs of a college or program as well as on the resources available. Schools offer seminars for varying amounts of credit. Some offer non-credit seminars. Others, like Lane, offer them for four credits. Some schools require that students be in the program to take the seminars, while others open them to students across campus. Formats differ greatly and can range from one-hour presentations/discussions by faculty from different disciplines to classes requiring extensive reading and research.

Lane’s seminar sequence is research-based. The first class, Invitation to Inquiry, takes an interdisciplinary look at the academic research process and focuses on thinking critically about this process. What assumptions do we make about scholarly research? If we test these assumptions by engaging in research, do they hold up? What assumptions might have been made in the past but are now being reexamined? This question arises when my colleague and former co-faculty coordinator, Nadia Raza, guest lectures on the implication of academic research in the history of Western Imperialism which always leads to some impressive and difficult discussion by the students. Students also participate in academic events. For instance, they attended a conference on the death penalty at the University of Oregon’s law school and UNESCO Chair at the University of Oregon, Steven Shankman (below), also guest lectured in the seminar about the conference and his work with the Inside Out Program.

Steve Shankman

Our second seminar, Honors Capstone Seminar, is a modified version of the seminar created by Dean of Science, Sarah Ulerick. It builds on the skills developed in the Inquiry seminar. The students decide on group research projects. They then conduct this research over the term and present their findings at a public symposium. As they become clearer about their audience, they also determine the best way to present these findings. They symposium has included guest panels, student paper presentations, keynote speakers, posters, and PowerPoint presentations.  Honors student, Mary Gross (below), presents findings from her group’s research and statistically significant survey on health care needs and services for two-year college students.

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