This section of WR121 is framed by challenging the notion of “The Single Story” and stereotypes. Students in the course will choose a specific group that they either identify as a part of or have a close affiliation with. They will spend the term doing research and writing projects that allow them to more deeply understand the group they chose and challenge the stereotypes those outside the group have of this group. This will allow individual students to gain a more complex understanding of the group they’re focusing on, and give all students in the class an opportunity to learn more about the groups their classmates focus on through in-class discussions, research workshops, and reading and responding to each other’s drafts. This will help to foster genuine diversity in the class and allow students to help each other see beyond the stereotypes of various groups.
Students who choose the Honors option will be asked to do additional research and prepare and deliver a 15 minute presentation to the class during a mini-symposium that will be held during class time near the end of the term. Each Honors student will need to present a well-researched, well-developed, complex vision of their group in which they directly engage the Lane Diversity Core Value and the Engage CLO. The mini-symposium will give the Honors students a chance to enhance their critical thinking and practice effective communication, connecting the project to two more of Lane’s CLOs. The presentation will also benefit the entire class by offering peer-to-peer education in Cultural Competency
I have selected a variety of texts to frame the course for students , including the Washington Post article “Refugee” by Kevin Sullivan and Linda Davidson, stories of those who’ve served in the U.S. military from StoryCorps, as well as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story,” posted below.
Anytime I teach a new iteration of a course for the first time, it makes me a bit nervous. Often that nervousness is warranted as I watch pieces of the course (and admittedly sometimes the whole course) unravel in places I hadn’t quite had enough foresight to see. But this class was one of those pleasant instances where my anxiety was unnecessary. The first iteration of the Honors section of this course, despite many bumps in the road, went smoothly overall and culminated in an engaging symposium crafted and led by my Honors student.
The course began with two students enrolled in the Honors option, one researching Mormons, the other Latino/a college students. These two students were motivated, deeply engaged in their research, and worked well together to begin brainstorming ideas for the symposium. Quite to my surprise and delight, they were really interested in the intersectionality between their two groups and wanted to highlight that connection in the symposium.
However, about half way through the course, the student researching Latino/a college students had to leave the class for personal reasons (one of those many bumps in the road I referred to earlier). The remaining student felt it was important to try to retain some of the content that would have been present in the symposium had the other student also been there to present, so we invited one of my Latina colleagues to share her story about navigating the U.S. education system. She gladly agreed and my student was able to retain the integrity of the original symposium outline, while still making the necessary changes and modifications.
We also invited Jim García from the multicultural center to open the symposium, providing context and background information that helped situate this class as well as the symposium within the larger cultural competency work happening on campus.
To see the full schedule for the symposium, see the program we provided to those who attended the symposium. About 40 people were in attendance, including the college president and our Chief Diversity Office. Not at all a bad turn out for the Tuesday afternoon of week 10.
I feel as though those who take this course for Honors credit really are challenged to grow by the curriculum and are provided with an opportunity to share their work and positively impact the larger campus and community through the symposium. This is a vital component of the course because part of the mission of the Honors Program is to ensure that the entire campus and community, not just those students taking courses for Honors credit, are positively impacted by the work of the program.
While the course did go really well overall, there are some things I will change next time I teach the class. I think my instruction leading into the Media Analysis Assignment needs more clarity and I need to spend more time explaining the differences between informative and persuasive writing in academia.
I also think that I should co-create the grading rubric for the symposium with the students enrolled for Honors credit. While the rubric I created for this term was functional and I believe led to a fair assessment of student work in line with the goals of the course, I feel like the pre-created rubric in some ways stifled the creativity of the students planning the symposium in a way that is unnecessary and not in line with my belief that education should be student-driven and focused.
I also want to consider the possibility of having the non-Honors students in the class involved in more meaningful ways with the symposium. I am considering asking them to write a short reflection piece on the experience so that the symposium becomes a more integral part of the entire class rather than just the Honors Option.