"Teaching Towards the Future": Composition Faculty Contributions to ITL 2020

by Emily R C Staudt

Woman sits before a video call with two other women, taking notes

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Throughout the Fall semester, Mason’s Composition faculty have been busy—not only teaching online, but also preparing for and participating in the Innovations in Teaching and Learning Conference 2020, hosted by the Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning at George Mason University.   

This year, the conference focused on a theme of “Teaching Towards the Future,” and keynote speaker Bryan Alexander spoke on digital storytelling and the future of higher education.  The conference once again offered Mason faculty a chance to connect across disciplinary boundaries and share practical teaching tips for university instruction. 

Composition faculty presented research on online teaching and writing, first generation students, feedback strategies, multimodal and forward-looking assignments, and Writing to Learn (WTL).  These presentations showcase the pedagogical expertise as well as the dedication to professionalization and growth of Mason’s Composition faculty.

A blue mug sits to the left of a laptop which shows many speakers on a conference call.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

A number of Composition faculty lead workshops at the day-long conference: Lourdes Fernandez, Jessica Matthews, Ariel Goldenthal, Kerry Folan, and Sheri Sorvillo lead a workshop titled, “Creating and Adapting Instructor Resources for Teaching Hybrid Courses.”  Leslie Goetsch attended the workshop and noted how nice it was to work out the principles of hybrid courses with new faculty in small groups:

The presenters provided useful resources, but allowed the attendees to discuss and share the resources in terms of their discipline and their classes.

Kathryn Meeks, Tom Polk, and Emily Staudt also lead a workshop, “Writing-To-Learn: Using Writing To Support Learning,” encouraging faculty to consider how they might incorporate or improve Write to Learn activities in their courses.  After a brief introduction of the assignment concept, participants broke into small groups to consider how they might adapt or create such WTL assignments.

Several other faculty teamed up to co-present on panels, including Joyce Johnston, Billy Howell, and five other instructors who sat on a panel for “Online Teaching Survival Tips,” which offered attendees a tip sheet and recommendations based on different phases of the semester.  Joan Hwang, Tom Polk, Lourdes Fernandez, Emily Staudt, and many others presented on a panel, “Engaging Students and Giving Feedback as a GTA,” offering GTAs feedback strategies in break-out rooms and by sharing their “rookie” grading mistakes. 

Courtney Adams Wooten also presented on a panel titled “First Generation Faculty Forum: Supporting First Generation Faculty and Students,” with Millie Rivera, Melissa Broeckelman-Post, Charlotte Gill, Heidi Lawrence, Shannon Davis, and Laurence Bray.  Their panel offered faculty ideas for supporting firstgeneration students, and called on faculty who were first gen students themselves to join an affinity group.

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Audrey Pettibon and Korey Singleton presented “Transforming Instruction to Prepare All Students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Expanding Programs to Support Our Diverse Student Population,” and used transformational mapping to help instructors adapt their classroom activities to prepare students for the future.  Christina Grieco gave two presentations: “Accessible Assignments Through Document Design” and “Inclusive Learning with Low-Tech Games,” the former focused on engaging students via visual document design and the latter on building community by encouraging participation. 

Billy Howell presented “Student Profiles as Process and Content,” to help students represent and recognize their digital identities.  Of the conference, Howell writes: “I appreciated the convenience and variety ITL’s online conference offered. Both the panels and the on-demand sessions made clear that we are contributing to a broader community of enthusiastic instructors.” And “Designing, Scaffolding, and Evaluating Multimodal Assignments” was the title of Tawnya Azar’s workshop, helping instructors build their own multimodal assignments by considering the pedagogy and design behind them.

Wordcloud for Multimodal Writing

Wordcloud by Tawnya Azar

Mason’s Composition program includes many talented scholars and instructors, and the wealth of their diverse presentations is inspiring!  We look forward to seeing their future endeavors.