Friday, May 31, 2013

Upcoming Chicago Literary Events

Next weekend (June 8-9) marks the 29th Annual Printers Row Lit Fest. The Fest takes place on Chicago's historic Printers Row, on Dearborn from Congress to Polk. In addition to independent booksellers, second-hand book shops, and literary and cultural organizations, the Fest hosts a full slate of presentations, lectures, and panel discussions. This year's schedule includes several DePaul faculty members, including Amina Gautier, Ted Anton, Christine Sneed, and Kathleen Rooney. All events are free, though some do require reserved tickets

This year's Chicago Writers Conference will take place from September 27-29. Click here to sign up to be notified when registration goes live.

About Chicago Writer's Conference:

We bring together writers, editors, agents, publishers and social media experts at an informative annual conference, and at workshops and events throughout the year.  Enjoy personal connections with other writers, publishers and agents. Our annual conference is not genre- or niche-specific. Writers of all levels and all genres are welcome! Our goal is to provide practical advice to help writers learn how to sell and promote their work. You don’t need to have a completed manuscript to attend — just a willingness to learn, exchange ideas, and have fun!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Writing Showcase Winners 2013

SNL Writing is pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 Writing Showcase, who will be honored at the SNL Awards Banquet on June 8 at Maggiano's Little Italy. The winning submissions are available on the SNL Writing Guide. The application for the 2014 Writing Showcase has been added to the site, and we encourage you to extend the application to students who have excelled in their written work. The submission deadline for next year is April 1, 2014. Students who will graduate between now and next April are welcome to submit. 

2013 Writing Showcase Award Winners
Carol Hillman: "Eternal Silence"
Sarah Gottlieb: "Urbalism"
Helene Bryant: "Positive Psychology in Professional Development: Using Strengths-based Development"
Jillian Gryzlak: "Cultural Symbols and Textile Communication: The Documentation of a Woven Symbolic Textile"
Ruth Rose Sachs: "Privacy and Marketing Online"

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Moving from “or” to “and” in assessment: Letting go of dichotomies (again)

In preparation for an upcoming Teaching Commons workshop about ePortfolios and assessment that I’m co-facilitating at DePaul (shamelessplug), I came across an old friend:  the dichotomy. I was researching ways to talk with faculty and staff from different disciplines about how portfolios encourage a holistic assessment of learning and learner rather than an analytic assessment of skills, aptitude, standards, etc. I came across this lovely list of dichotomous assessment concepts discussed by a researcher at University of Glasgow (McAlpine, 2002):
Formative or Summative
Formal or Informal
Final or Continuous
Process or Product
Convergent or Divergent

I had a flashback to one of my undergrad philosophy classes where I remember having an overwhelmingly satisfied feeling when thinking about how nicely dichotomies organize the world and how easy it is to drop a dichotomy into a research paper to critically analyze how things “are.” Examples of dichotomies are good or evil, Democrat or Republican, city-dweller or suburbanite, etc.. According to the definition of “dichotomy,” you cannot be both at the same time (jointly exhaustive, mutually exclusive); thus, the “or” is a necessary conjunction between the two items in a dichotomy. As a young person who liked formulas and pushed for absolute truths, I was so glad to find this heuristic for organizing things in life. Easy. Just insert “or” between two things and pick a side, right? (That often seems to be the competitive American way, after all.)

And then I got older, learned more about the world (and the evils of dichotomous thinking), and began teaching writing.

I teach SNL’s Academic Writing course with a text titled They Say, I Say, yet another convenient dichotomy that introduces students to the art of argument in the academic arena. Yet I have found that students quickly realize that arguments, claims, and ownership of ideas aren’t cut and dry: “Is anything I have to say really my own? Aren’t there dozens of people who probably have the exact same ideas? Please explain. I don’t want to plagiarize!” (I usually follow this question with a discussion of intellectual property and “entering the academic conversation,” and close it with a more abstract - and fun - discussion of collective consciousness.)

When I provide feedback on students’ first drafts, I provide formative feedback so they can improve as they proceed in the course. I then provide what educators call summative feedback at certain checkpoints, such as the end of the course, so students know at a higher level (and usually for the purposes of program assessment and meeting standards), how well they did at accomplishing the course's learning outcomes. However, I have always had a hard time with the summative-or-formative dichotomy: isn’t summative feedback also formative since it has the potential for forming student’s future plans, decisions, and directions based on the outcomes we set? Why do we have to pick sides with our terminology? Who are McAlpine’s dichotomies actually serving? For whom are they doing a disservice?

When talking through this research with my co-facilitator, Michael Moore, and the workshop organizer, Joe Olivier, yesterday in one of the buildings I used to frequent as an undergrad, I shared my finding, one where I reverted temporarily to that “easy” way of thinking. I suggested that talking with workshop participants about portfolio assessment would be clear if we referenced McAlpine’s dichotomies. However, I knew those dichotomies weren’t quite fitting with the affordances and opportunities of portfolio development. Luckily, Michael and Joe came to my rescue with a suggestion, simple yet profound, to replace “or” with “and” in our discussion of those dichotomies. And, in a Back to the Future mind/body/time warp experience, that overwhelmingly satisfied feeling from my undergrad philosophy class returned. However, instead of the feeling rising due to the easiness of “or”, it rose due to the easiness – and richness - of “and”. I realized again how powerful (and harmful) dichotomies can be, and how easy it is to revert to that way of thinking. But I also realized, thanks to Michael and Joe, how important, yet quite easy, it is to move away from that exclusive "or" way of thinking to more inclusive thinking, learning, and teaching with that little word: "and".


dichotomy, n.” Oxford English Dictionary Additions Series. 1997. OED Online. Oxford University Press.13 May 2013 <>. 
McAlpine, M. (2002). Principles of assessment. CAA Centre, University of Luton.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Update on Richardson Library Renovation: Faculty Resources in the Library Learning Commons

University Librarian Scott Walter recently posted an update on the Richardson Library's ongoing renovation, including a description of several new resources for faculty: 

"For faculty planning their fall courses, however, it will also provide access to two new service programs designed to directly support your teaching and research: the Learning Commons and the Scholar’s Lab.

The Richardson Library Learning Commons will be a collaborative effort between the DePaul University Libraries, the Division of Academic Affairs (e.g., The Writing Center, The Science and Math Learning Center), and the Division of Student Affairs (e.g., Office of Multicultural Student Services). With support from Caryn Chaden, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, faculty and staff currently working in these areas have spent the past several months planning for the launch of the new program and for the introduction of Learning Commons services to new and returning students through orientation programs, instruction associated with the Chicago Quarter, etc. Bringing together existing library services such as research assistance and information literacy instruction with existing partner programs already housed in the library (e.g., Supplemental Instruction), the Learning Commons is envisioned as a “one-stop shop” for learning support for DePaul students in all schools and colleges. We hope you’ll visit the Learning Commons in the fall to learn more about what it can offer your students.

While visiting the Learning Commons, you will also be able to see the Richardson Library Scholar’s Lab, another new program to be housed in the Information Commons and one dedicated to supporting teaching and research that bring together scholarly content, data sources, digital content, and technology tools. A collaborative effort between librarians and academic programs exploring opportunities for teaching and research in areas such as digital imaging, textual analysis and text mining, social science data, and digital humanities, the Scholar’s Lab will provide a new resource to DePaul faculty and students in all schools and colleges interested in exploring innovative approaches to teaching, learning, and research, and will promote engagement between faculty and librarians working with the next generation of digital, scholarly content."

To learn more about new resources and for other related announcements, visit the project's website

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Feedback on My Feedback

By Kamilah Cummings    

As last quarter drew to a close, I was discussing the final revision of a student’s essay with him. During that discussion I found myself repeating feedback that I had previously written, so I asked if he had viewed my earlier feedback. He replied, “You really didn’t give me any feedback on my paper.” In my head, I briefly replayed the hour that I’d spent providing feedback on his paper. I then opened the file that contained my original feedback and discussed it with him in detail. Our subsequent discussion revealed that not only had he failed to read most of my feedback but that he did not understand much of what he had read. This experience led me to question my view of the feedback process. 

According to Sadler and Davies, “The cycle of assessment for facilitating learning consists of an assessment task, a student’s response, an appraisal by a teacher or competent marker, and the provision of feedback” (Sadler and Davies 1). However, my recent experience led me to question whether that cycle should end at my feedback. I began to wonder whether I could improve the effectiveness of the assessment cycle by asking my students to provide me with feedback on my feedback.  

In reflecting on my conversation with that student, I thought about the countless conversations I have had with colleagues where we wonder if students actually read our feedback. We have at times been mystified by a student’s inability to apply our feedback. Yet, without a method to assess our feedback beyond a student’s final revision, there is no way for us to determine whether students have read or even understand our feedback. 

This all led me to create a feedback assessment assignment that allowed my students to give me feedback on feedback that I had given them. I attached this assignment to their first essays because I wanted to use their responses to improve the effectiveness of my feedback on future assignments this quarter.

I am used to receiving student feedback on the overall classroom experience in end-of-term course evaluations. However, as one of my students remarked, “by that point you just want to get it over with and can’t even remember half of what happened anymore.” My students expressed that providing feedback to an instructor during the course was something new for them.  However, according to Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching, “Soliciting mid-semester student feedback has the additional benefit of allowing you to hear your students’ concerns while there is still time in the semester to make appropriate changes” (The Center for Teaching). The Center suggests using methods from Barbara Gross Davis’s book Tools for Teaching such as in-class feedback forms, online surveys, or small group analysis to obtain feedback from students during the term. 

The feedback assessment assignment that I created was a one-page form.  I didn’t want it to feel like “work,” so I kept it simple. I asked six questions that centered on how students felt about feedback, their understanding of the feedback that I provided, and how they planned to apply my feedback.

In asking students their general attitudes toward feedback, I gained a better understanding of how they might receive my feedback.  Although most students welcomed feedback, some expressed strong anxiety over it. For example, one student wrote, “I feel like when I hear so many comments on what I did not do on my essay, [it] hurts me inside and makes me feel that I have not done my best on my essay.” After reading his response, I spoke with him and learned that he was used to his paper being covered with corrections, which resulted in him reacting negatively to feedback. I am always careful to scaffold feedback so that students do not receive “so many comments” on their work. However, in this student’s case, I am now even more aware of this when providing feedback. I am not sure that I would have learned this about him had he not completed the feedback assignment. 

The remaining questions focused on the students’ understanding of my feedback. Some responses revealed that students had not read the feedback. Others revealed that students either did not understand the feedback or misinterpreted it. For example, I learned that one student thought my suggestions for improving sentence clarity and incorrect word usage meant that he would “lose something in the storytelling.” He wrote, “Some of it is cultural and seems a bit turgid but it’s at the core of how I think in my head.” I explained to him that he could, indeed, maintain his authentic cultural voice and storytelling while improving his sentence clarity and word usage. Again, this is something that I might not have learned had he not completed the assignment. I am now mindful of his perceptions when providing feedback.

By asking students their plans for applying the feedback they received, I learned that most students did not have a plan beyond “correcting what was wrong.” This underscored that many students view feedback and revision as “correcting” rather than improving their work. They viewed revision locally rather than globally. As such, this is something I will continue to address in class. 

Overall, the responses I received from this assignment revealed that I cannot assume that what is clear to me regarding feedback will not produce a haze of confusion for students. In offering strategies for providing effective feedback, Sadler and Davies state that we must first “recognise that feedback is primarily a one-way message sent by a marker to a student, without any guarantee that the receiver-student will be able to interpret it” (Sadler and Davies 2).  I have learned that feedback cannot be a one-way message if I expect my students to apply it effectively. 

To that end, my biggest takeaway from this experience is that instead of feedback being a one-way message, it should be a conversation. This assignment allowed me to engage in a dialogue with my students regarding feedback in a way that neither of us had before. Although I always ask students to contact me if they have questions about my feedback, I think this assignment was more effective in soliciting feedback from them. By allowing students to assess my feedback mid-quarter, I gained useful insight from them about the ways they receive, process, and apply my feedback. I think this will improve the overall learning experience for my students this quarter. I have already started to apply what I learned from their responses to feedback on subsequent assignments.

Works Cited

Sadler, D. Royce and Lynda Davies. "Developing Effective Feedback for Learning." n.d. Griffith Institute of Higher Education. 28 April 2013 <>.
The Center for Teaching. Gathering Feedback from Students. 2013. 28 April 2013 <>.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Upcoming UCWbL Workshops

The University Center for Writing-based Learning has a number of upcoming workshops that you might recommend to your students, including citation and Digication workshops as well as cover letter and resume workshops designed specifically for veterans. 

For more information, contact the Outreach Team at or visit the UCWbL's website.

Tuesday, May 7, 12-1pm. Loop, Library Instruction Room: 
Library Research Workshop (through Driehaus ACE):
Work with UCWbL tutors and research librarians to familiarize yourself with best practices on how to get started on a research paper. This workshop will focus on research from a business perspective.

Wednesday, May 8, 12:30-2pm. LPC, McGaw 203: 
Chicago Style Workshop:
Work with UCWbL tutors and learn the proper Chicago format for in-text citations and works cited pages. Also, get tips on how to avoid plagiarism. Bring in your current papers and projects!

Tuesday, May 14, 12-1:30pm. Loop, Lewis 1600: 
Cover Letter and Resume Workshop for Veterans:
Work with UCWbL tutors to learn strategies for creating cover letters and resumes specifically for veterans. Bring in your current cover letters and resumes!

Wednesday, May 22, 12-1:30pm. LPC, McGaw 203: 
Cover Letter and Resume Workshop for Veterans:
Work with UCWbL tutors to learn strategies for creating cover letters and resumes specifically for veterans. Bring in your current cover letters and resumes!

Tuesday, May 28, 3-4pm. LPC, McGaw 203: 
APA Workshop:
Work with UCWbL tutors and learn the proper APA format for in-text citations and works cited pages. Also, get tips on how to avoid plagiarism. Bring in your current papers and projects!

Wednesday, May 29, 12:30-2pm. LPC, McGaw 203: 
MLA Workshop:
Work with UCWbL tutors and learn the proper MLA format for in-text citations and reference list pages. Also, get tips on how to avoid plagiarism. Bring in your current papers and projects!

Tuesday, June 4, 12-1:30pm. Loop, Lewis 1600: 
Open Digication Workshop:
Work with UCWbL tutors and continue to develop your Digication ePortfolio! You’ll learn how to create your own banners, use CSS coding, and customize your portfolio. Students should bring their own laptops.

Wednesday, June 5, 12:30-2pm. LPC, McGaw 203: 
Open Digication Workshop:
Work with UCWbL tutors and continue to develop your Digication ePortfolio! You’ll learn how to create your own banners, use CSS coding, and customize your portfolio. Students should bring their own laptops.