Jeanne Law Bohannon is a newly-minted Associate Professor of English in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Kennesaw State University. She believes in creating democratic learning spaces, where students become stakeholders in their own rhetorical growth though authentic engagement in class communities. Her research interests include evaluating digital literacies and critical engagement pedagogies; performing feminist rhetorical recoveries; and growing informed and empowered student scholars. Reach Jeanne at: firstname.lastname@example.org and www.rhetoricmatters.org
Metacognition, reflection, self-understanding, even self-monitored learning. As compositionists, we’ve all noted and looked up these terms as we participate in pedagogy workshops and professional development. In today’s post, I want to talk not about the “what” but about the “how”—not the term but the application—because I believe that reflection (my preferred term but maybe not yours) is a viable tool for every writer’s toolbox. As our students enter our classrooms as writers already and as they emerge from our courses having grown in those roles, we as instructors may want to focus our end-of-class activities on this application of metacognition.
I offer a self-reflection assignment this week as one means of attaining a sense of writerly self-awareness. This assignment also doubles as an assessment vehicle for our English Department’s writing-intensive (WI) courses at Kennesaw State. Although developed for a writing-intensive course, this self-reflection assignment can work across learning levels and environments. Today’s templates come courtesy of our Director of the B.A. degree, Dr. Chris Palmer, who coordinated our WI initiative this year and the Kennesaw State University English Department Writing Intensive Program.
In our writing intensive courses, students develop their skills in a diversity of ways, culminating in a research paper, where they use a memo template to reflect on their work, providing us with information on how we’re doing in teaching these elements:
- A 10-12 page research-based essay
- The final reflective piece (see Guidelines document: KSU 2018 Reflective memo assignment)
- At least one other reflective activity
- Frequent low-stakes writing throughout the semester
- An assignment that requires students to evaluate sources (Examples: an annotated bibliography, a review of a critical essay, a research proposal that involves evaluation of sources, etc.)
- Regular writing instruction that focuses on the writing process
- Sequenced assignments (proposals, discovery drafts, I-search essays, annotated bibliographies, or progress reports) that build towards the final essay
- At least two peer reviews
- Writing Center Outreach (either the general outreach visit or one of the specific workshops)
Students are asked to write a memo to the English Department assessment committee, reflecting on what they have learned through writing their documented research essay, which is the culminating assignment for the course. We think about this assignment in terms of multimodality, because it asks students to re-mix their work in a different genre with a specific visuality.
Format (also available as a Word Doc) for memos include the following three subheadings (sections):
1. Context and Goals
Write a paragraph that provides context for your argument (thesis) and reflects on its effectiveness: What were your goals for the essay? To what extent did you accomplish them?
2. First Paragraph Containing Argument (Thesis)
Copy, paste, and block indent the paragraph that first presents your argument (thesis). Underline the sentence(s) that state(s) your argument (thesis). Then restate the argument in one or two sentences.
3. Second Paragraph Illustrating Use of Sources
a. Copy, paste, and block indent a paragraph that contains a strong supporting claim or topic sentence, and showcases your use of sources.
b. Next, explain how the supporting claim or topic sentence develops your argument (thesis) and why it is a good representation of your ability to:
Remember to use appropriate sources purposefully to support your argument (thesis) and incorporate sources into your own text
Length should be at least 500 and up to 750 words, not including the paragraphs you quote from your essay, single-spacing with double spacing between paragraphs, 12-point Times New Roman font.
Hand in one hard copy for grading and submit one electronic document, without identifying marks, such as your name or your professor’s, for the purposes of anonymous program
Background Reading for Students and Instructors
- The St. Martin’s Handbook: 4m, “Reflecting on Your Writing,” 12e “Reading and Interpreting Sources,” 12f “Synthesizing Sources”
- The Everyday Writer (also available with Exercises): 11b “Reflect,” 14a “Understand the Purpose of Sources,” 14d “Read Critically and Interpret Sources,” 14e “Synthesize Sources”
- EasyWriter (also available with Exercises): 5b, “Reflecting on Your Own Work,” 14b “Reading and Interpreting Sources,” 14c” Synthesizing Sources”
Assignment Learning Objectives
- Students will be able to remix their work into a different genre
- Students will be able to explain how supporting claims or topic sentences develop an argument
- Students will be able to evaluate their own effectiveness in source use for academic writing
Reflection and Templates for Your Use
We believe that the reflective memo counts as multimodal communication, because it re-mixes the genre for students to assess their own work and adds a template-based visual component that requires students to synthesize assignment parameters and create their reflection based on them. We use a rubric (KSU 2018 Reflective Memo Rubric) to help us with a more consistent assessment of the writing intensive courses; you may have a more holistic approach, so feel free to download and edit ours. We would also like to hear your feedback on how this assignment, or a similar one, works for your students, as they emerge from our classes as writers with a more diverse multimodal toolbox.