Josh Scheidler on how remote learning “requires us to be all in”

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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Scheidler_cropped.jpgJosh Scheidler (recommended by Brian Gogan) is pursuing his MA in English with an emphasis on Medieval Language and Literature at Western Michigan University (WMU). He expects to finish in May 2021. He teaches WMU's first-year writing course, Thought and Writing, as a graduate teaching assistant. His research interests include ethics and politics in medieval literature, first-year writing pedagogy, rhetorical analysis, and new materialist environmental rhetoric.


What is your greatest teaching challenge?
Right now, connecting with students the way I could face-to-face is proving to be challenging. There are often delays in internet connection that create a distance between students and their peers, and students and me, which also proves challenging. Right now, I’m working with students to help them become familiar with online spaces and how to navigate that learning curve; I know it took me a period of time to become acclimated to the online infrastructure we use in our program. But the work I’m doing with students to familiarize them with our online platforms and the resources we are using for remote instruction has allowed some connection with students. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that students have reached out to me, and one even called me early in the semester. Making connections online is challenging—especially considering we are working from a distance and with seemingly indiscriminate internet lag—but the vast amount of energy needed to build and sustain relationships requires us to be all in.

How will online or remote learning affect your teaching?
Remote learning is slow. The first two class sessions I have in Fall 2020 are 75 minutes each, but time has seemed to just disappear with these classes. It’s almost as if class is over just as soon as we’ve started. So, I am trying to give students exercises and activities that don’t ask them to traverse the various online platforms we are using so their time can be spent writing rather than navigating unfamiliar places. Remote teaching has truly highlighted the necessity of a writing instructor, or indeed any instructor, to demonstrate everything, give clear instructions, and explain what is being asked of students simply and thoroughly. The many ways to miscommunicate or misunderstand with online learning underscores the need to continue practicing with and developing written communication skills. Remote learning is making me work harder to ensure my students are given instruction and practice that will help them develop useful skills for the future.

What projects or course materials from Bedford/St. Martin's most pique your interest, and why? What is exciting to you about Achieve and why?
I think Achieve is really cool. Being able to view a timeline and visualize progression through the peer review process is extremely helpful and can give students a way to plan their homework more efficiently. Having to finish one step before moving to the next step is critical in making sure students take the time they need to complete one task before moving to another task. Most importantly, though, the timeline functions as a visualization of a writing process, which is crucial for those who think writing is nothing but a product or a paper turned in for credit. It can demonstrate writing to be something that is shaped by place, time, iteration or need. 

The depth of the revision planning in Achieve is absolutely fantastic. I enjoy there being a built-in reflection too. That there is an entire process for writing that is streamlined in this way — with revision plans built from peer reviews and a means for clearly tracking the changes from one iteration of the writing to the next — is incredibly useful for gauging student progress, development, and need. Having all of this integrated with an online learning platform or LMS is awesome to me. It really deals with the problem that I’ve encountered where students are being asked to go from one platform to the next, with peer review in one place and assignments submitted for a grade in another; this back-and-forth gets confusing for students and takes valuable time away from writing and developing successful writing habits. The activities that students have to do online should not obscure their endeavor to learn writing. 


Josh's Assignment that Works
During the Bedford New Scholars Summit, each member presented an assignment that had proven successful or innovative in their classroom. Below is a brief synopsis of Josh's assignment. For the full activity, see Paragraph Cohesion Activity.

This activity asks students to consider how paragraphs work with one another at the sentence level. The goals of the assignment are two-fold: I want students to practice working with another to solve writing problems, and I want to play an enjoyable game in class with students to give them individualized instruction when they need it. This activity approximates the peer review students will engage in with each other to determine what works in writing. It also lets me practice working with students somewhat individually, despite being in groups. This activity is something I do near the beginning of the semester as students are still developing relationships with one another and with me, and it has helped students to become comfortable working with one another. 

About the Author
This is the shared account for the Bedford New Scholars TA Advisory Board.