Dr. Elena Nuciforo, Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Arts, was recently awarded a grant through the Writing Across the Curriculum Program. The award is used to improve the course Communication Theory, specifically its final paper assignment. As a Gordon Rule course, Communication Theory focuses on the preparation of first and second-year college students to help them develop critical, analytical, and communication skills through a writing assignment.
All the grant recipients attended workshops facilitated by the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program to discuss best practices in writing pedagogy and to brainstorm strategies for improving their own writing assignments. Dr. Nuciforo has worked closely with Shelley Wick, a WAC consultant. Together they have improved current writing assignments so that students will better understand the connections between formal and informal writing, gain a deeper understanding of the course content, and further develop their skills as writers in the social sciences. One particular new strategy that will be added to the course is scaffolding. Dr. Nuciforo, has added smaller writing assignments that enable students to build their paper in several steps, while receiving guidance and feedback along the way. Scaffolding strategies such as this one, encourage students to treat research and writing as a process and have been shown to contribute to greater student confidence, deeper engagement with the material, and ultimately better learning outcomes.
Another novel feature of Dr. Nuciforo’s final paper assignment is introducing students to several university resources. For example, Holly Morganelli, the librarian assigned to help Communication faculty and students created a LibGuide specifically for this course. As part of the course, Ms. Morganelli conducts a library-based workshop where students learn how to use library search system and locate all the necessary resources for their writing assignment. Another resource used in the course is the FIU Center for Excellence in Writing. A representative from the Writing Center comes to class and conducts a workshop on writing a paper the main focus of which is a literature review of original studies. All the students are required to visit the Center with a final draft of their paper before they submit it for grading.
“I believe this collaboration is a great way for our students not only to improve their writing, but also learn about all the resources offered by the university. Very often these resources remain underutilized because the students are unware of their existence,” says Nuciforo.
The idea to introduce scaffolding to the assignment and expose students to the university resources that can help their writing came to Nuciforo after teaching this particular course for several semesters. Nuciforo wanted to enhance student analytical skills in this core communication course.
The WAC program assists faculty that teach Gordon Rule or other writing intensive courses or who just wish to use writing to enhance their teaching and to improve student writing in the major. The aim of the program is to create a community of scholars that recognize how and why to use writing as a pedagogical tool, and ultimately to ensure that students have meaningful opportunities to write throughout the university curriculum. In addition to the grant, the recipient is given access to academic resources such as one-on-one consultations, guidance and feedback sessions, workshops, and consultations with departments.