This course is a newly designed version of the WR122H “Minority Rhetorics” course I devised several years ago. This section of the class will include both Honors and regular WR122 students in the same cohort. Each student in the course will choose an event that occurred from 1950s-present in the U.S. that they are interested in and that they feel is/will be significant to U.S. history.
Students will engage in an inquiry-based research process, crafting questions that focus specifically on their event to guide their research. Their goal will be to carefully examine the language used in their sources to determine which sources were written in dominant/mainstream rhetoric and which sources uses a minority rhetoric framework. They will then need to craft an argument that asserts how they feel minority rhetoric(s) were used by individuals and groups documenting the event they chose to focus on to frame the event in ways that differ from the way the event was presented in mainstream/dominant rhetoric. This argumentative piece will be written toward the end of the term, with a variety of shorter assignments along the way to scaffold the writing and research process for this larger assignment.
Students will also build an ePortfolio in this class. This ePortfolio will house their work for this course and be set up in such a way as to encourage them to keep building their ePortfolios beyond this course.
Honors students will have additional responsibilities/assignments in the course including being the leads for small group discussions, helping their classmates gain a deeper understanding of the texts at the heart of the course, and presenting their research to the entire class in an end-of-term in-class presentation.
This is the first time I’ve asked all students (instead of just Honors students) to create ePortfolios in a writing course. And I think this was the most positive and beneficial aspect of this course. Asking students to compose in these online portfolios really helped many of them to grasp the differences between online and traditional academic composing processes and helped them to more deeply and critically reflect on their own growth over the term. This requirement also greatly strengthened the metacognative skills of the entire class. While I do think the ePortfolio requirement contributed to the attrition rate in the course (which is still higher than I’d like), I think overall making this pedagogical shift really benefited the students who finished the course.
The switch to having students focus on a broader range of minority rhetorics seemed to be quite effective. It allowed students to choose any event in US history from 1950s to the present that they found interesting, which helped students focus and remain engaged. As a class they chose a wide and interesting range of events–including Woodstock, the moon landing, the Rachel Dolezal scandal, and the 1980 Miracle on Ice–that allowed the class as a whole to gain a wider sense of US history. Broadening the course also seemed to help students really grasp the idea that minority rhetorics are present in just about any major event and that they can be used by a wide range of people and groups for a variety of reasons.
The CLO Reflection assignment did not work as well as I’d hoped, and in fact I modified the assignment in the middle of the term to address my concerns with how it fit into the course. This is an important piece of the ePortfolio/course, as it helps students contextualize their work in this course within their larger experience at Lane, but I will need to revise the assignment to make it more effective before I teach the course again.
I also need to find a way to make it clearer to students that in a course like this one where the assignments build upon each other, falling behind on one assignment affects them for the entire course. Several students did not succeed in the course because they fell behind and were not able to catch back up. At the same time, many students who successfully completed the course noted that the thing they found most helpful in the course was the way in which the assignments build on each other during the course of the term. So I don’t want to change this aspect of the course, but I do need to find a way to help students more fully understand how essential it is in such a course to meet deadlines.