Tag Archives: Sarah Ulerick

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.

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.

books

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.

 

 

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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