The Power of Collaboration: Three Faculty, Common Process

November 14, 2008

From Lydia Alvarez, Suzanne Crawford, and Lynn Serwin, “The Solution: The Power of the Pursuit”

Most instructors want to make changes to their classses in order to see their students improve, but many do not know what to do to guarantee that they succeed. We too had this dilemma. We often wondered if the changes we were making in our classes were even working. The process of inquiry and research was the solution. We began with reflection. What were we doing? What was happening? What would our classes look like if they were different? We used concepts learned through the scholarship of teaching and learning to begin an inquiry process.

We began with a reserach question. “What would happen if students recognized vivid and percise language in their writing?” “What would happen if students used a process to add more engaging details to their paragraphs?” “What would happen if I stopped writing on student papers?” We developed tools to try as interventions to see what would happen. We looked at student work, we wrote our own reflections, we analyzed results. What emerged? More intentional teaching. Our process of developing ways to address our research questions led to more questions. The process transformed our teaching. We see the power of the pursuit as the most effective way to approach any problem in any classroom setting.

Below are links to our individual projects.

Suzanne’s pursuit began with a question that considered the connection between students’ growing “awareness, understanding, and appreciation of specificity/concreteness in word choice” and their improved writing. As Suzanne’s teaching became more intentionally focused on this question, student awareness of the power of their word and language choices grew.

Lynn’s pursuit began when she observed that better student writers employed steps of a writing process, while struggling student writers did not. She wondered if requiring each step of the writing process from all of her students would lead to more improvement. Lynn’s teaching became focused on guiding students through required steps, creating repeated experiences where the process led to improvement. Would these repeated successes eventually lead to students employing the steps intentionally and using specific details intentionally?

Lydia’s pursuit began with a concern that student writers could be more active in the decisions required to improve their writing. She reconsidered her role in the classroom, and intentionally reduced her presence as the person who prescribed change. More room for students to own their writing and learning was created.

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