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One of the monumental tasks facing developmental English instructors in post-redesign institutions is how to provide just-in-time professional development for teachers who do not have experience teaching in an integrated classroom. Pairing reading and writing specialists to collaborate on assignments and syllabus development provides one effective strategy. Brief workshops throughout the term can also be helpful. Here is one relatively simple reflection activity for a short workshop designed to support new IRW instructors.
To conduct the activity, ask instructors to complete a short reading assignment and a brief writing assignment, each no more than 3-7 minutes in length. After each task, have instructors reflect on what they did: how did they start? How often did they stop and return to the instructions? Where did they look during the process? What were some of the steps they followed? Ideally, instructors would complete these assignments using screencasting or recording equipment, so that they could review their process afterwards and make more detailed comments.
After instructors have made notes on what they did, ask them to consider which process they were able to document more fully: reading or writing? Very often, our familiarity with one or the other in the classroom makes us much more attentive to our idiosyncratic patterns or practices in that area—reading teachers may analyze their reading techniques in much more detail than their writing habits, while writing teachers may do the opposite.
As teachers reflect on differences in their own awareness, encourage reading and writing instructors to work together to probe and expand their reflections. Reading teachers, for example, may encourage writing counterparts to consider movement backward or forwards in the text, or (if it was a particularly challenging text) the speed or timing of adjustments to initial hypotheses about the text. Writing instructors might ask colleagues to consider the role of planning prior to the first written words, or the amount of revision that occurred during the writing process. Participants may also consider how rhetorical contexts informed both the reading and writing they did: how did a potential audience influence the writing task? How did awareness of an intended audience impact the reading assignment? Finally, the instructors might investigate how they would assess the effectiveness of their performance: how do they know if they read well or wrote well? Did some instructors have very different—but equally successful—processes?
If there is time, have participants complete a second set of activities and reflections, noting what additional insights they gained about their own reading and writing processes.
This simple workshop activity—reading/writing, reflection, discussion—will of course not make anyone into a stellar IRW instructor right away. But as instructors build awareness of their own reading and writing processes, they raise critical questions which can enhance both their future professional development and their interactions with students.
What is the best professional development for integrated reading and writing in your experience?
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