Eastern Michigan Writing Project Opens Disciplinary Literacies Dialogue Between Campus and Local Districts

Nov 18, 2015
Posted by: laurroop

Eastern Michigan Writing Project faculty leaders Cathy Fleischer and Ann Blakeslee, seeking university funding for disciplinary literacies work, designed their efforts so they were able to bring together secondary practitioners and faculty in various disciplines.  Their strategy funded improvement of practice on the campus and in regional secondary schools, while also creating opportunities for new parterships:

Through a CAS Dean’s office PDI grant, we were able to begin work in January with 6 EMU faculty members (from children’s literature, chemistry, political science, math, geography, and first-year writing) meeting 4 times to explore their own writing and writing pedagogy.  Loosely adapted from Pace and Middendorf’s Decoding the Disciplines work, faculty brought in samples of their writing, interviewed each other about writing and writing pedagogy, and observed the teaching of others in their disciplines.  We began to identify the similarities and differences across our disciplines as well as the bottlenecks for our students who move across disciplines especially in their gen ed courses. We also administered a campus-wide survey of faculty focused on identifying bottlenecks and strategies faculty use to address them.

 We then met for three days with 38 middle and high school teachers from Dearborn, Ypsilanti, Plymouth, Novi, Canton, Dexter, and Ann Arbor.  During those days, we introduced a number of ways of thinking about writing pedagogy, and spent a lot of time talking in disciplinary groups.  We introduced documents like the NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing and the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing, which teachers placed in conversation with the Common Core State Standards Anchor Standards for Writing.  Response to the institute was unanimously positive and a few secondary-university collaborations have resulted. (We were recently invited to share our work on an NCTE onAir session:  the youtube video recording is available at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGFb4-HvdoE.)

 Next on the agenda

  1. We are currently planning a Disciplinary Literacies Showcase to be held in the EMU Student Center on February 4, 2016.  This will be a combination of workshops for teachers and students and displays of disciplinary work by students.
  2. We are currently applying for a CCCC research grant and a CEE grant to continue this work. We would use the research grant money to research the findings of the study groups and the outcomes of the institutes, along with resulting classroom practice. The CEE money would be used to support a cohort of “Teacher Leaders” who would initiate and facilitate projects in the schools.
  3. We’ve proposed a session for CCCC this year, and we will be featuring aspects of this initiative in a poster presentation for the IWCA conference in October in Pittsburgh.
  4. As a result of discussions with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, we have been provided with funding and a site to host another institute next summer. 

This institute had the advantage of total funding from the Dean’s office. It also brought many new high school teachers to the campus, opening up exciting possibilities for collaboration.