New Beginnings

Time for Change

This blog represents the musings of five talented Ts—two TAs and three term faculty from George Mason University—who will spend the next year developing and teaching online and hybrid versions of our first-year writing course, ENGH 101, and our general education literature course, ENGH 201.

In an ideal world, we would be doing this for the pedagogical benefit we are certain it will bring, but the truth is that we are beginning this journey because the building in which we teach these courses face-to-face (f2f) is coming to an end. It will be torn down and rebuilt over a two-year period, and during that time, we will have a shortage of classroom space and will need alternatives to the traditional f2f model we have used all along. So the end of our building lies the beginning of our project.

All of us, however, did not need a building’s end to inspire us. We are intrigued by the pedagogy of teaching writing in an online and hybrid format. Convinced that there is sound pedagogy for doing so, we now have the intellectual challenge of figuring out how to do it.

That intellectual challenge also includes learning how to teach our diverse Mason students when we are not standing right in front of them. As I ponder what the next two years will bring in terms of our research and course development, I cannot help but think about the students who will be in those future courses. I remind myself that whatever we develop, it will have to be inclusive in its design and in its pedagogy.

The Mason students we teach are diverse in race and ethnicity, but we see increasingly more multilingual writers, non-traditional students, and students with learning disabilities. It is challenging to teach such a diverse group in a f2f course. How will we meet those challenges when teaching online? Where can we find resources to help us?

I ask because there is not enough research yet about how to create inclusive online writing instruction. Elizabeth A. Monske, in her excellent review of Hewett and DePew’s edited collection, Foundational Practices of Online Writing Instruction (2015) in the spring 2016 the WPA Journal, notes that the authors of the “Practicing Inclusivity in OWI” chapters (Oswald, Miller-Cochran, and Gos) all state that more scholarly research is needed to help faculty and WPAs learn how to create online and hybrid courses that “provid[ing] effective learning spaces” (Monske 155).

Perhaps our talented Ts will be contributors to that research, and if that happens, we will publish our initial findings to this blog.


Image “Time for Change” CC0 Public Domain

Monske, Elizabeth A. “Online Writing Instruction Principles and Practices: Now Is the Future.” Journal of the Council of Writing Program Administration. vol. 39, no. 2, 2016, pp. 152-159).


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