Teaching with Writing

I enjoy using writing in my courses to encourage students to think more deeply and creatively, rather than just to perform mastery of content.  As Director of the Thompson Writing Program, I also enjoy staging opportunities for faculty to reflect on their teaching, and on the synergies between their own writing -- fiction and scholarly -- and their efforts to teach with writing. These include informal opportunities as well as the research projects described below which are designed to help hard-pressed faculty teach with writing in ways that are both more efficient and more satisfying.

Assessment: What is it Good For? (Supported by the Spencer Foundation)

As incessant testing deforms elementary and secondary education, many college faculty are rightfully wary of “assessment,” which is now required for college and university accreditation. But assessment should mean nothing more (and nothing less) than treating teaching itself as an object of inquiry. In the Thompson Writing Program at Duke, we are part of a three-university study of factors influencing the use of assessment data.  We have found that the simple act of introducing faculty to thinking about their goals for students and also thinking about teaching as an iterative process can be revolutionary. Please check back as we will soon share our preliminary results here.

The Passionate Classroom (Supported by the Teagle and Spencer Foundations)

This project arose from my own frustration: that students repeatedly sacrifice creativity in favor of compliance. At the same time, faculty (like me) defer their own intellectual passions in favor of “coverage.”  We foster students’ willingness to take intellectual risks and capture their authentic engagement with material when we foster our own excitement. This research project investigated what it takes to shift faculty to this new perspective. Not surprisingly, the answer is: with writing.