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May Program Focuses on Benefits of Teaching ‘Writing Across the Curriculum’

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Leslie Bruce, Cal State Fullerton’s Faculty Fellow for Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) in Academic Programs, is a firm believer in supporting faculty members’ efforts to use many forms of writing in their classes, throughout their students’ university experience.

Throughout the academic year, Bruce leads WAC workshops at the Faculty Development Center and at department meetings, with topics such as Writing-to-Learn strategies, rubric design and peer reviewing.

On Friday, May 3, WAC, FDC, Academic Programs and the Pollak Library are partnering to offer a “Threshold Concepts” workshop, “From Wells to Wormholes: Writing Within and Across Disciplines.”

Threshold concepts shape a discipline’s ways of knowing, doing, thinking and problem solving,” explains Bruce. “They have been called ‘gateways’ to further disciplinary knowledge, and once learned, they transform a student’s ways of learning and even being. Every discipline has them.  

“In biological studies, for instance, scientists Lena A. E. Tibell and Ute Harms  proposed “randomness” and “probability” as two threshold concepts that ‘must be understood in order to understand evolution generally and natural selection specifically.’  

“On the other hand, ‘History is a constructed narrative’ — the idea that every history derives from multiple texts written from diverse authors’ perspectives — is a threshold concept of history theorized by UC Santa Barbara faculty members  Linda Adler-Kassner and John Majewski,” she added. “Once students internalize these concepts, learning more about evolution and history, respectively, becomes easier.”

The 9 a.m. to noon May 3 program will be led by Adler-Kassner, faculty director of the Center for Innovative Teaching, Research and Learning, professor of writing studies, and associate dean of undergraduate education at UC Santa Barbara.

“On a typical day, undergraduate students cover a lot of ground … moving from one discipline to another, chemistry to history, sociology to philosophy, and everything in between,” says Adler-Kassner, author of “Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies.”

In these classes, students will “encounter forms of writing that may seem wholly unfamiliar … making them feel that they are under equipped, writing novices …,” Adler-Kassner adds. However, “when faculty name their threshold concepts, concepts that undergird ways of thinking and practicing within disciplines, they can start to address this challenge productively.”

In this presentation, Adler-Kassner says she will help faculty explore how they can identify and use threshold concepts to “think about writing and learning within and across disciplines,” and help students gain the writing flexibility required for moving successfully “between and beyond disciplines.”  

Registration for the program, offered in Room 130 of the Pollak Library, is requested and can be made online. For additional information, email Leslie Bruce