after participating in the Summer Writing
The Rome experience has rejuvenated my
efforts to provide a quality educational experience to my students.
The experience made me view many aspects of my teaching in a
different light, especially in regard to the information gained by
the interaction with my colleagues from other departments.
As a result of the Rome experience, I
am increasing the quantity and quality of writing in two upper
level courses that I teach, Quantitative Chemical Analysis, CHE
3250 and Instrumental methods of Chemical Analysis, CHE 3300. I
[used to] rank myself as one of the least qualified persons in the
department to "teach English" to our students. In fact, I think I
once said, "that is not my job". I've changed my mind. Teaching our
students to communicate is essential if we expect our students to
be leaders. They need to be able to write (reports), present
(posters) and speak (oral presentation) about their work in a
highly competent manner.
In summary, we are always looking for
better ways to serve the students and my experience in Rome this
past summer has greatly increased this effort.
-- Neil Jespersen, Chemistry
With respect to being a spokesperson
for writing in my department, I have spoken at department meetings
and at a Writing Across the Curriculum meeting for the Staten
Island campus on the importance of student writing in classes and
some of the benefits and problems I am experiencing with student
writing. I will also be presenting at a WAC presentation on the
Summer Writing Institute on the Queens Campus on Oct. 30 and will
be presenting at the Quinnipiac Conference on Writing Across the
Curriculum on Nov. 22. I have encouraged a number of my colleagues
to attend the Summer Writing Institute in Rome and to attend the
WAC meetings on my campus.
-- Carolyn Vigorito,
I have begun to explain my expectations
for writing assignments to students much more clearly. Rather than
simply assigning a paper of a particular length, I realize that I
need to tell students why I am assigning the paper and be very
clear about what I expect. I have also learned to structure student
work on papers (even if they are relatively short) by using brief
intermediate assignments such as topic statements and annotated
bibliographies. These assignments help me identify which students
may be confused, or need extra help.
In HIS 1301 (The US from Colonial Times
through the Civil War) I have substituted journal entries for a
paper. In Rome, I realized that my objective for this class was to
get students to do the reading, and that this would be more likely
to happen if I used writing assignments to make students more
accountable. Students who are keeping with their journals are doing
a much better job participating in class and demonstrating mastery
of the material on exams. In 3731 (Women in America I) I am keeping
better track of short writing assignments by having students post
them on-line in their electronic folder on St. John's Central. This
keeps that material much more organized and provides greater
accountability. Plus, it's paperless! Students in this class are
writing a biography of an individual woman who lived during the
period we are studying. I have spent much more time in class
discussing the paper (due in a couple of weeks) and I have high
expectations for the final product. I am also trying a new strategy
suggested by a colleague in Rome: scheduling the oral presentation
BEFORE the paper is due so that students have a chance to
articulate their ideas before a live audience before committing
them to paper.
Prior to my time in Rome, I used St.
John's Central mostly for e-mail. With the encouragement of my
colleagues at the Summer Faculty Writing Institute, I am taking
much greater advantage of this tool to communicate electronically
with my students. I regularly post material on the Course News and
I use the Message Board to post reading questions in order to jump
start conversation. This has turned out to be a really effective
way to improve students' reading skills, build their writing
skills, and improve class participation. In class, I pull up the
message board and click on particularly strong responses. This
emboldens students to explain their ideas more fully and sets a
good model for other students. This strategy allows me to call on
students who might be too shy to raise their hands, but have
something important to contribute to the conversation.
-- Lara Vapnek, History
The summer institute was a very
powerful experience. I was completely unfamiliar with Blackboard
technology and would have made absolutely no effort to incorporate
it into my class. I felt we had enough to do already. But at the
end of the course, I was sold. We now use this technology as a
major tool for developing critical thinking and writing in the
class. The use of this approach has helped students in four major
ways: a) encourageing more participation by otherwise shy students,
b) forcing students to begin to articulate their ideas earlier in
the term paper writing process, c) encouraging students to take
risks to “try out” their ideas before they commit to them, and d)
developing some ability to provide constructive dialogue with their
peers. Consequently, both the process and the content of their
thinking and collaborative efforts has matured.
I think it is worth saying that the
trip to Rome was the right type of incentive to try something new.
I have also seen it generate a clear sense of loyalty to St. John’s
and to the mission.
-- Elizabeth Brondolo,
I have learned ways in which I can
incorporate writing without necessarily increasing the amount of
time in-class spent on writing or out-of-class spent on grading.
Part of this has been because of how I’ve learned to incorporate
technology in the writing process. The most important impact has
been the notion that even the little things one does can make a
large difference, and that any form of writing that is incorporated
into the classroom can be an effective means of developing better
writers – writing isn’t only the formal writing of research papers,
but can take several forms depending on what one is trying to
As an administrator, I recognize the
importance of the Summer Writing Institute in a couple of ways. I
am part of a committee that reviews our faculty research leave
applications, summer research grant applications, and research
reduction applications, and because of the SWI, I have a greater
understanding of different discipline, and this knowledge will be
helpful to me as I review those applications during this academic
year. I also observe and evaluate the teaching of our tenure-track
faculty members, and provide them with feedback on their teaching.
In completing the evaluations this semester, I noticed myself
recognizing ways in which faculty members could incorporate writing
into their classes, across the disciplines.
During class, when I would normally
have students break into groups or just volunteer their responses
to my questions, I instead have them do a form of free-writing. For
example, when discussing a unit on “listening,” I have students
write down why they believe we’re talking about listening in a
public speaking course. In discussing visual aids, I had students
make a written list of what they believe would be effective in
preparing and presenting visual aids, and then we discuss their
lists in comparison to what I have to say about the topic.
I have started to use Blackboard
regularly for the first time because of attending this workshop
(and attending a CTE workshop on BB prior to the SWI), and have
found it extremely helpful in getting assignments posted for
students, allowing them to post their thoughts and assignments and
comments on others’ work online (peer-review). Since we only meet
weekly, online communication is vital, and BB provides a more
comprehensive way of communicating with students than e-mail. More
assignments are given online than in-class. One example of how I’ve
used BB is that I asked students to write out an introduction to a
speech on one of a few selected topics, and to post it online. They
were to write this introduction after we discussed the elements of
an introduction in class, and then they posted replies to one
another’s introductions. I’ve also used this for an audience
analysis assignment. In class, we discuss how to analyze and adapt
to any audience in public speaking. Then, students are given some
demo- and psychographics of an audience and must state ways in
which they would adapt to that particular audience; they again post
comments on one another’s work. A third example of the use of BB in
my course this semester is with their persuasive speech outlines.
We ran out of time in covering the elements of a persuasive speech
outline during the regular class time, and since we only meet once
per week, I gave them an assignment online that went over what we
didn’t get to cover in class, and I then posted my own comments on
their assignments to be sure they were on the right track. These
are some small examples that I feel have made a large difference in
incorporating writing in the public speaking classroom by utilizing
-- Kelly Rocca, Assoc. Dean, Staten
There is no question my use of
Blackboard has improved since the Rome workshop---which was my
introduction to the tool. It has really transformed the “homework”
side of my courses into more interactive environments. In my
African American literature course, for example, my students’
discussion of controversial passages and issues is generally a
better discussion that what they have been submitting to me
privately in their individual papers and I am requiring students to
bring those discussions into their individual papers for the
Since Rome, I have participated in two
“follow-ups,” one led by Anne Geller, and another led by Writing
tutors in preparation for a conference presentation on the topic of
faculty expectations for writing. In both of these workshops, I had
the opportunity to continue discussions with other faculty and to
explore our differences about the role writing plays in our
pedagogy. Both in Rome and here I felt that for the first time the
university faculty were getting to speak to each other outside of
the context their own departments' narrow writing “missions” and
think more broadly about our different expectations for students.
These experiences have been crucial moments in my professional
development and pedagogical thinking.
-- G. Ganter, English
The 2008 Faulty Summer Writing
Institute was formative in my efforts to incorporate writing
assignments in my large introductory psychology core course (Psy.
1000c) as well as my use of Blackboard to facilitate communication
and provide greater opportunities for student engagement. As a
result of my experience at the Institute, I have for the first time
incorporated a writing assignment in Psy 1000c in the form of a
“writing to learn” assignment in which students post journal
entries in a filing cabinet on the Blackboard page based on their
reflections on concepts discussed in the textbook. One of the
challenges we face in the classroom is engaging students in
critical thinking about material they read in their texts. With
this writing assignment, students are required to think more deeply
about psychological concepts and reflect on how the concepts
discussed in the text relate to real life examples from their own
experiences. Thank you St. John’s and thank you Writing Institute
for providing such a valuable faculty development experience!
-- Jeffrey Nevid, Psychology
I am more sensitive to the importance of having students write
in each and every class. Although I have not reached this level
yet, I have included in my courses short writing assignments at
least once a week, including: 1) open thought questions to help
develop open discussions; 2) specific textual questions, which
require students to write on a specific reading from a text. By
discussing these textual questions, the students end up teaching a
portion of the class lesson.
For the term papers, I am asking the students to write an
Outline/Summary of their papers a week before it is due and, when
the paper is handed in, to write a summary of the paper again. In
the second summary they should articulate what changed from their
first summary and why such changes took place. The point of this
assignment is to have students realize how the process of writing
is inseparable from the process of thinking; that critical thinking
is not a separate activity from writing.
-- Paul Gyllenhammer,
Since my participation in the Writing Institute in Rome I have
been much more conscious of including writing into my assignments.
Some of the assignments I had, in previous semesters, used as
discussion points. I now use them, in addition to discussion, as
writing opportunities for the class.
One example is in The Survey of Human Services (HSC-1020). There
is a lesson on the stages of change as it relates to clients. I had
the class, after we discussed the topic, write about a change that
they had experienced in their lives or witnessed in someone close
to them, applying the steps involved. The papers had no specific
page minimum. What I received was wonderful, disclosing interesting
information about themselves or someone close to them. I believe
this assignment gave new relevance to what clients’ experience when
attempting to make changes in their lives as well as giving the
students an enhanced level of self awareness.
In the Child Advocacy (HSC-1072) the class was assigned to
choose a Supreme Court case involving parents and children and
write about how the decision affected the rights and
responsibilities of parents and society and the rights of children.
Our newest endeavor is having the students select a country and
compare certain child welfare topics with how they are addressed in
the U.S.A. This is a work in progress with an option of a final
In both instances we would have covered the material, however I
would not have necessarily have asked for a written assignment.
Since my experience in Rome I am more aware of connections that can
be made with the class work and writing.
-- Joan Tropnas, Social