Programmatic assessment can be useful at many stages of developing a place-conscious writing program. It can be useful for generating buy-in at early stages to provide data which might convince necessary stakeholders. It can also be useful throughout the implementation process to assess what is working and what needs more consideration. Assessment investigating the benefits of place-conscious approaches can also help advocate for the continued use of such models.
Implications for Transfer
One area for assessment of place-conscious initiatives which might be especially useful for WPAs is transfer. Many place-conscious educators (see Henry et al., 2016; Conz and Diana, 2014; Sobel, 2004; Brooke, 2003) argue that this approach promises to increase student enthusiasm for course material or to otherwise help students place more value on the concepts, skills, and idea they encounter in a place-conscious classroom.
An area of research with a longstanding role in both broader education research and composition research specifically is that of the question of the transfer of knowledge from classroom contexts to other courses and extracurricular contexts (see Anson & Moore, 2017). Though transfer is a complicated process, which some argue cannot even be taught for explicitly, the promises of place-conscious education to increase student enthusiasm for course material could have generative impacts on transfer, however and to whatever extent it can occur or be taught for.
An area of transfer which has recently received more attention in composition studies is that of student dispositions, or how students generally feel about themselves as learners, about their own abilities to complete coursework, and about the value coursework will have in their own lives and goals. Driscoll and Wells (2012) identify a variety of dispositions guiding students’ responses to coursework. One especially prominent disposition, and the one on which place-conscious education may have the greatest impact, is “value disposition,” or “how much positive or negative meaning is attributed to specific learning experiences or activities” (Driscoll et al., 2017).
If the application of FYC material to students’ daily lives and communities is made apparent and central to the construction of the course, perhaps students will begin to place more value on the learning they do in FYC and, therefore, be more likely to transfer their learning to future contexts, both in the academy and beyond.
Questions for Assessment
An assessment project measuring overall student enthusiasm for course material or projects investigating increases in generative value dispositions toward FYC courses may help protect, and even expand, the use of place-conscious approaches in writing program, and perhaps across campus. Some questions you might consider building on as you develop assessment of new place-conscious approaches include:
- Are students more enthusiastic about course material after encountering a place-conscious approach?
- Over time, do students seem to take their FYC learning with them for longer after encountering a place-conscious approach?
- How do students report valuing their time in FYC courses?
Works Cited and Other Useful Resources
Anson, C., & Moore, J. (2017). Introduction. In C. Anson & J. Moore (Eds.), Critical transition: Writing and the question of transfer (pp. 3–16). University Press of Colorado.
Brooke, R. (2003). Rural voices: Place-conscious education and teaching of writing. Teachers College Press.
Conz, B. W., & Diana, V. H. (2015). Keeping it real and getting muddy: First-year composition meets physical geography in Stanley Park. Double Helix, 3, 1–15.
Driscoll, D., Gorzelsky, G., Wells, J., Hayes, C., Jones, E., & Salchak, S. (2016). Down the rabbit hole: Challenges and methodological recommendations in researching writing-related student dispositions. Composition Forum, 35.
Driscoll, D., & Wells, J. (2012). Beyond knowledge and skills: Writing transfer and the role of student dispositions. Composition Forum, 26.
Elon Statement on Writing Transfer. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.elon.edu/docs/e-web/academics/teaching/ers/writing_transfer/Elon-Statement-Writing-Transfer.pdf
Henry, J., Ka’alele, S., Shoea, L, & Wiggins, C. (2016). “Teaching the liberal arts across the disciplines through place-conscious writing.” Currents, 18–31.
Moore, J., & Anson, C. (2017). Afterward. In C. Anson & J. Moore (Eds.), Critical transition: Writing and the question of transfer (pp. 331–340). UP of Colorado.
Perkins, D., & Salomon, G. (1989). Rocky roads to transfer: Rethinking the mechanisms of a neglected phenomenon. Educational Psychologist, 24(2), 113–142.
Perkins, D., & Salomon, G. (1992). Transfer of learning. In International Encyclopedia of Education, Second Edition. Pergamon Press.
Sobel, D. (2004). Place-conscious education: Connecting classrooms and communities. The Orion Society.
Yancey, K., Robertson, L., & Taczak, K. (2013). Writing across contexts: Transfer, composition, and sites of writing. Utah State University Press.