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Is there anything else that you would like to share about the Students as Scholars QEP?

5 Responses to “Question D: General Comments”

  1. Paul Rogers says:

    Part of scholarship is presenting and publishing work. It would be fantastic if there was a fund set aside to help students afford travel to present their work at conferences. Thanks!

  2. Tim Born says:

    Paul – a fund specifically for undergraduate student travel is part of the QEP budget. We completely agree with you that sending students to conferences to present their work is essential.

  3. Tracy McLoone says:

    The Students as Scholars QEP as written here seems weighted toward the data acquisition part of inquiry. While this is necessary and certainly fosters teaching and learning of valuable skill/knowledge, how will different disciplinary standards and methods by which good scholarship is measured be addressed?

    Humanities and arts initiatives are mentioned, but the outcomes and expectations in the QEP seem to me to be directed toward quantitative or coded qualitative analysis and less applicable to either expression or theoretical analysis.

  4. Susan Hirsch says:

    We at ICAR are excited about this topic and hope to build on the activities we are already engaged in. A broad approach to research/creative activities/scholarship will be key to ensure that ICAR students can participate effectively. Thus, we echo Tracy’s comment and remind that engaged scholarship and reflexive scholarship sometimes push the boundaries of what “counts” in the eyes of some. Finally, the request to discuss the QEP draft led to a very productive discussion of pedagogy at ICAR. We acknowledged, however, that it is very difficult to find the time to have such discussions. It would be great if the QEP process encourages more such opportunities and helps us figure out how to fit them into already packed schedules.

  5. Cathy Saunders says:

    I’m concerned that students won’t get enough practice in working with primary sources early in the QEP process to be able to achieve goal/outcome #6 (“communicate effectively about their scholarly project in a form appropriate to the intended audience”), especially if the most appropriate form is some version of the scholarly article (or conference paper). The activities envisioned in the middle (“inquiry”) stage of the plan seem mostly to involve evaluating and manipulating secondary sources; in my experience, such work does not prepare students for describing in an organized, easily comprehensible way the patterns that emerge from a body of primary evidence (i.e. supporting a thesis based on analysis of primary evidence, whether quantitative or qualitative — and I agree we shouldn’t forget disciplines that rely wholly or primarily on qualitative evidence, which include the humanities and many areas in the social sciences), or for writing about the ways in which the patterns they’ve found compare to those identified by earlier researchers.

    In fact, I strongly suspect that too much experience writing solely from secondary sources can make it *more* difficult for many students to move on to making an argument based on primary evidence they have gathered themselves. Accustomed to establishing authorial credibility by citing “authoritative sources,” they have trouble claiming their own authority as original researchers, and tend to give short shrift (and too little space) to their own findings. I also strongly suspect that the “surprising findings” in the 2009 Senior Survey reported on pp. 14 and 15 of the draft stem at least in part from our students having too much experience with the secondary-source-based persuasive essay often assigned as a “research paper,” and not enough experience with formats which require them to support an analytical argument by moving between a body of scholarly work and a pool of primary evidence similar to those analyzed in the earlier literature, but not specifically discussed in that literature.

    The situation can, to some extent, be helped by paying attention to our vocabulary — something the plan suggests. Calling a secondary-source-based persuasive essay a secondary-source-based persuasive essay rather than a “research paper” would help (as, I think, would substituting a review of the literature — either as an independent project or as part of a proposal — in advanced classes where only a secondary-source-based project is possible). So would calling attention to the fact that when students do problem sets or write lab reports or produce original analyses of a poem, performance, painting, etc., they are analyzing primary evidence.

    But I still think students need more practice earlier than currently envisioned by the plan with writing about primary evidence, and with comparing their results to those of earlier studies. Such practice need not necessarily involve students gathering primary evidence (or even finding secondary sources); instead, professors could provide a set of sources to work with, along the lines of the AP/IB Document-Based-Question (DBQ) or the Distributed Research Paper discussed at this year’s ITL conference.

    Since I currently require my English 302 students to perform modest amounts of original research, precisely so that they can practice the skills mentioned above, I tend to think that English 302 is one place where these skills might be built. But I realize that what works (well, I think) in one instructor’s sections may not easily translate to the larger program.

    Whatever specific courses are involved, I very much hope that the final plan will require that courses at the middle level include activities designed to allow students to practice the skills mentioned above, so that those skills will be becoming familiar to students by the time they reach the top of the pyramid. At the universities with which I’m familiar that have a well-established “culture of student scholarship” as measured by the fact that all or many undergraduates write a senior thesis, there’s a deliberate attempt to build the skills necessary for success in the final, long project by requiring an earlier, shorter, but otherwise similar project: the junior paper. In terms of length, we’re probably talking about having some of our seniors produce something that more closely resembles those universities’ junior papers than their senior theses (which is realistic given both faculty and student resources, especially time). But, whatever we call the capstone project, we also need at least one earlier, shorter project which requires, and builds, the same skills.

    (As mentioned above and under another question, I teach primarily English 302 — H, S, and N — at GMU. I also successfully completed the junior paper/senior thesis sequence at Harvard, where doing so is optional, and worked as a tutor in the writing center at Princeton, where the junior paper and senior thesis are required. So I’ve seen a lot of independent projects based on a least a modicum of original research from a lot of different disciplines at various stages of the writing process. One of the most common issues I saw as a writing center tutor, and still see as a writing teacher, is secondary sources taking over what is intended to be a mostly primary-source-based paper. It’s also pretty clear that the more practice a student has writing with/about primary sources, the less likely this issue is to arise.)

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