Teaching Tip: Looking back to move forward

At this point in the semester, I’m certainly not going to suggest that you try some new approach to your teaching.   Instead, I’d like to share an idea that could help you develop your own teaching tips.

On my faculty developers’ listserv, we have been discussing the practice of writing an end of semester “case study” of one or more classes.   At one institution, every instructor is asked to critically examine each of their courses and reflect in writing on what went well, what did not go so well, potential ways to improve the course for the next offering, etc. This exercise was not part of the annual summative evaluation (although it might come in very handy), but was meant to provide a useful structure for analyzing and reviewing teaching progress.

Now, I think most of us do some kind of basic looking back at the end of the semester, but I don’t know if anyone at Marymount is doing anything quite this comprehensive (if you are, let me know!).  When I read about it, I first thought that it would take a non-trivial amount of time, particularly if taken seriously.  However, I think that the process would provide benefits that might just make that time worthwhile.  These are the benefits I see (so far anyway):

  • If you only teach a course once a year (or even less), it’s hard to remember what you intended to change unless you keep some kind of records.  While I tend to scrawl a few notes on the old syllabus and assignment sheets and throw them into the course folder, after a year these often seem incomplete and sometimes incomprehensible.  How the future me would appreciate a thoughtful analysis in complete sentences! And since the future me is the only person who gets this, I don’t have to worry about editing it for public viewing.
  • I’m pretty convinced that I would actually process more deeply and learn more from writing up my reflections than even just thinking deeply.  If there is one thing I believe in more every semester, it’s the power of writing to actually help thinking happen, not just record the thinking that occurred.  Writing is learning, and I want to learn things that will help me teach more effectively.
  • I think using this process could help me remember points I want to make about my teaching performance during the annual assessment process, for example by identifying teaching strengths and weaknesses and show how I am addressing them.  So, this process could save time while writing that document, since essentially I will have done some of the work for it in advance.
  • Finally, this process will help me identify where I want to improve as an instructor, what kind of reading I should be doing or what kind of sessions to attend at teaching conferences and what questions I want to ask my colleagues about how they handle specific teaching issues.

A couple of listserv responders suggested possible questions and formats for a course review or case study.  One is fairly structured toward the course itself and asks questions like:

  • What do I think of the course’s learning objectives?  How might they need to be changed and how hard would that be?  Do they feed into other courses or program objectives?
  • How well did students meet each objective?  What evidence am I using and is there better evidence that I could collect?  How well can I even judge how well students met each objective?  Was there an objective I really didn’t measure that well, or at all?
  • Did my assignments help students to meet my course objectives?  Do some of my assignments not really relate to any of my course objectives and goals?
  • Was the time I and my students spent on assignments and activities (e.g. completing assignments, giving feedback for and grading assignments, planning class activities) worth the academic payoff?

Another, more global approach was suggested by independent consultant Alice Cassidy and focuses on the classic paper, Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, Chickering & Gamson (1987).  Don’t be put off by the title if you teach graduate students.  The concepts are universal.

Good practice in undergraduate education:

  1. Encourages contact between students and faculty
  2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students
  3. Encourages active learning,
  4. Gives prompt feedback,
  5. Emphasizes time on task,
  6. Communicates high expectations, and
  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

Cassidy asks instructors to reflect on how they are implementing each of the 7 principles as well as thinking about the following three questions:

* What do you do in class time, in meetings with students and through design of assignments?  How do you take part in professional development activities to explore more about these?

* In what ways do you document your work through a teaching portfolio/dossier or other material?

* When and how do you explain these to your students?

I’m definitely going to try this approach after my final grades are in.  If you already do something like this, please share your process with us, or other thoughts you have about ways we can learn from our teaching experiences.



Teaching Tip: Avoiding academic drift

In their new book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa report their findings on learning in college classrooms.  Using the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), an essay-format critical thinking measure,  Arum & Roksa assessed the writing, critical thinking and problem solving skills of over 2,000 students from 24 institutions of varying size and selectivity.  Student scores on the CLA administered at the beginning of their first year were compared to their scores at the end of the second year.

Results from the study are sobering, but probably not surprising to anyone who has worked in higher education recently.  Approximately 45% of the sample made no progress in their skills in the first two years of college.   The authors consider many variables in their analysis of the data including ethnicity, prior preparation, gender, student attitudes and more.  While students don’t make as much progress as we would wish for many reasons, one of the encouraging findings of this study was that faculty choices made a difference.  Arum & Roksa reported two faculty-controlled variables associated with student improvement:  high faculty expectations and rigorous amounts of reading and writing.  All well and good you say, but what does that mean and how can we do it?  This week I’ll write a bit about reading and writing, while next week we’ll look at other ways of demonstrating high expectations.

In Arum & Roksa’s study, a course with rigorous amounts of reading and writing was defined as 40 pages per week of reading and 20 pages of writing over the course of a semester.  Students who reported taking courses that required both rigorous reading and writing showed more positive change.  Students who reported that their courses had only one or neither of those requirements did not show positive change.   Recall that these were freshman and sophomore level courses, not upper-level major courses.    And of course, this definition of rigor (as well as the CLA itself) tends to privilege humanities and social science courses that are naturally highly verbal.  So, rather than take these numbers as a standard to be met,  think about the kind of reading and writing that occurs in your discipline and then think about helping students learn to do it.  Reading a dense philosophy article or a detailed mathematical example would take easily as much time as reading 40 pages of a novel or a textbook.  And in studio courses, “reading” may not use words at all, but the concept of studying the works of professionals in the field to learn from them remains.

Reading: I believe that reading (both amount and skill levels) is one of the biggest problems we encounter with students at all levels.  Many students across  America don’t regularly do assigned course reading – one of Arum & Roksa’s findings was the low level of outside work students put into their courses overall.  But, in courses with higher levels of assigned reading and writing, students did put in more hours of study.  So, try to avoid the vicious circle i.e. students don’t read and so we assign less reading because they don’t read.  Also, realize that you will need to teach your students, especially at the lower level, how to read the material you give them.  Most do not come into college having encountered difficult reading.  One way to combine increased reading and writing is to ask students to keep a reading journal, produce a summary or a list of questions that show they have completed course readings.  These assignments also provide you with a check on whether students are reading, and the difficulty level of the assignment.  They could form the basis of a self-made study guide for future examinations or the basis for a longer writing piece, perhaps comparing two items.  Some professors use reading quizzes to check on reading compliance as well.  You may prefer the summary or journal approach since it takes more time to make up a reading quiz.  Another way to check on reading AND stimulate class discussion is to have a group reading quiz.  Students could take the quiz as a small group OR (my favorite) students take the quiz individually first and then re-take it in the group.  I like this approach because it combines individual and group accountability and stimulates students to talk about the reading material.  It also shows them that their peers really can be helpful sources of information.

Think beyond the text book, even in lower level courses.   Having to struggle with “real” disciplinary texts requires students to stretch their skills and develop them.  Just don’t assume that students can read such texts (or even some textbooks) without support.  Spending class time actually reading in small groups and then discussing the material can both model deep reading and get students started on a homework assignment to finish the article themselves.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to make sure that your reading assignments meet the “rigorous” standard:

  • Do you assign readings but then cover them in lecture?  I have a friend with many unread college texts because he could get everything he needed to do well in the course from lecture alone.  At least he bought the books; some our students don’t bother.
  • Is there any downside to not completing readings?  In the example above, there was never anything on exams that was only in the readings, and there was no other way of assessing whether he had read anything.   So why bother?
  • Can students get an A or a B in your class if they are not reading?  According to Arum & Roksa’s work, many students across the country apparently are having this experience.  If you really want students to do the readings, you need to structure your course so that students not only can’t get A’s or B’s but cannot pass the course without reading.

Writing: Writing is for all courses, not just WI!  One of my biggest concerns about the WI requirement is that students will not expect extensive writing in any course not labeled WI.  But if you think of writing as “thinking on paper” and assign multiple shorter summaries, annotated bibliographies, critiques or reflections, you will be pushing your students to interact with course concepts more deeply.

Extensive writing does not mean a long term paper, turned in at the end of the course.  While I believe that extended, long-form writing can be a useful format, it isn’t appropriate for every course.  You may choose to keep most of your writing assignments short and/or low stakes (e.g.  marked as done or not done).  Like reading, writing assignments will only be done if students see a positive reason to do them, and unfortunately the argument that they enhance learning tends to fall on deaf ears.  So, if you’re using low stakes assignments, you will need to figure out some way to include them in your grading scheme.  For example, a short essay or reflection can be used as an “entry to class” ticket, but you have to be willing to keep students who don’t have the “ticket” out of class.  You could require them to go off and complete the assignment or do something else before coming back to class, but understand that this approach requires a strong belief that coming to class without having done the assignment is pointless for the student and detracts from the class experience for everyone else.   If this approach does not work for you, consider counting the writing as all or part of a daily class participation grade – students can still attend class if they have not done the assignment, but won’t receive much or any credit.   Another way to use lower stakes writing is to have students create a portfolio of their low stakes work and then choose one or more low stakes pieces as the basis for a graded assignment.  Does this take more faculty time?  Yes of course it does but less than you might think.  And you get insights into your students’ thinking and understanding that it’s hard to get any other way.

Higher stakes written assignments should count for enough of the grade that students cannot get A’s without completing them in an acceptable manner.   If your class doesn’t ordinarily include a lot of writing, e.g. math, nursing or design, but you want to incorporate a rigorous amount of writing, you might consider contract grading (also known as the Chinese menu approach).  Students who successfully complete requirements in a variety of areas achieve a pre-determined grade.  For example, to get a grade of C, students would need to complete requirements 1, 2 and 3 while to get a B they would need to complete all of the C grade elements plus requirement  4, which could be a writing assignment or a certain number of reflections.  To achieve an A students would need to complete all of the C and B requirements plus additional work of your choice.  Devising a contract grading system has the added and interesting benefit of really forcing you to decide what is foundational to your course.  What elements should be required for a C but not for a B or an A?  What really constitutes higher level, rigorous work that earns an A?  It is also important that “completion” has clearly defined criteria – handing in all required work does not result in a passing grade if it is done poorly.

Of course, the other issue with incorporating more reading and writing into your courses is the culture in your school and department.  Can your department establish departmental standards that are rigorous so that students can’t pick and choose faculty based on their expectations, and so that no one is unfairly penalized with low student evaluations?  Talk to your peers and your chairperson about how your expectations fit with the aspirations of the school and the department.  One strong point made in the Arum & Roksa book was the need for higher education to step up and deal with this issue before we are subject to increased scrutiny and outside regulation.  But beyond that, we want our students to be strong thinkers and writers, and right now many of them are not.  We need to share what works and talk honestly about what is not working to achieve our goals.


Arum, R. & Roksa, J. (2011).   Academically adrift: Limited learning on college campuses.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Teaching Tip: Muse? What muse?

This week the Monday Motivator, a weekly email for new faculty from the Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (http://www.facultydiversity.org/?page=MondayMotivator), focused on the benefits of daily writing.  Evidence indicates that even brief daily writing sessions result in increased faculty scholarly productivity, but many professors resist establishing a daily writing practice.  Instead, they believe that it’s more effective to wait for inspiration (the “muse”) to strike and then write for extended periods of time.  Unfortunately the muse doesn’t always strike at convenient times, and junior faculty members using this method suddenly may realize that tenure is upon them and the muse has gone missing.

As I thought about why professors resist the idea of daily writing, I started to think about the similarities between ourselves and our students.  We bemoan the common student practice of waiting until the last minute to complete writing assignments, of not allowing sufficient time to write drafts and let them rest, of not breaking larger assignments down into pieces.  Yet, how many of us “binge” write?  If the “inspiration” for students is a looming deadline, isn’t that also true for us?  The assumption that writers have to wait for inspiration and then need big chunks of time to produce anything of value seems to be quite widespread (and seems related to the fantasy of the writer in his or her garret, oblivious to the world as the muse strikes).  In fact, most of the time when I read interviews with successful writers, they seem to have very organized schedules that involve regular daily writing.

I’ve certainly done my share of binge writing as a student and as a professor, and for a long time I thought it worked just fine.   I first began to think of binge writing as problematic while I was teaching the Senior Seminar in psychology, which involved a lengthy literature review and analysis.  We always had one class conversation about the process of writing a lengthy and complex paper.  Many students had never had to write something that could not be done in a single (long) sitting, and most of them never had done more than a single draft.  Trying to complete this task using binge techniques was a recipe for stress overload and disaster. Then I heard Tara Grey talk about becoming a prolific writer, and I read Robert Boice’s research on faculty who become productive scholars.  I started looking into various writing coaches’ philosophies.  I found the same thing over and over.  Daily writing matters.

So what’s so great about daily writing?  Well, one of the advantages is that you never quite forget what you’re doing  – you can work for half an hour, leave yourself a note about where you want to start tomorrow, and go off feeling good about having accomplished something.  The work stays fresher, and you may find that you keep thinking about it between daily sessions, so in that sense you may be getting more done.   And it’s a lot easier for most of us to squeeze in 30 minutes every day than it is to find a 3 or 4 hour block of uninterrupted time.    Contrast that with the article you started a few weeks ago (a month?  already?) and now you can’t follow your own train of thought or remember what you wanted to do with it.

OK, this is a teaching tip, so what does this have to do with teaching?  Well — what if we required students to write daily?  It would be an interesting experiment to see if students who were required to write a certain amount each day ended up with better quality work than those who did not write daily. If daily writing is as good as the research suggests that it is, we could be helping our students acquire a habit that would promote academic success and lifelong learning.  Will they like it?  Probably not.

How could we manage such a requirement?  Students could keep a journal or some kind of record of their writing process, and turn it in with their work (this does have the disadvantage of being easily falsifiable).  For students who have trouble concentrating, the Pomodoro technique might be a useful way to structure daily writing as well as track progress.  For those of you who have not heard of it, the Pomodoro technique is a time management tool created by an Italian university student named Francesco Cirillo.  Basically, you time yourself for 25 minutes using a kitchen timer that has a noticeable ticking sound and dings when it’s done (his was shaped like a tomato, hence the name).  Each 25 minute segment is one “pomodoro”.  A five minute break separates pomodoros during which you do not think about whatever you’re working on.  After four pomodoros, you take at least a half hour break.   Pomodoros are logged and can be used to help you understand how long a project really takes.  For example, the paper you thought would take two hours (four pomodoros) might actually take twice that long.  By monitoring your time, you can plan more efficiently.  You can do as many pomodoros in a day as you want to; if you only have time for one pomodoro per day of writing, no problem.  The process of timing and logging pomodoros helps many people concentrate and focus.  (This is a very simplistic explanation of the Pomodoro technique.  To learn more check out  http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/)   Another option is 750words.com which gives you a daily nudge and also tracks the number of days in a row that you have written.   You might also be able to use blogs or online journals as a way to track daily writing.  Note that I am NOT suggesting you read or grade all this writing.  The purpose is to make sure that daily writing is occurring, and the assumption is that it will help improve the final product.

Of course, if you’re a “muse-driven” writer yourself, you might not believe that daily writing will help.  Or maybe you think it would be good for students but not that helpful for you.  So, try it out on your students and see what you get – you might be inspired to try it on yourself.

Do you write daily?  Do you find it helpful?  How do you encourage students to do less “binge” writing?  If you are in a design field, do the same ideas relate to the design process?  Could you adapt daily writing to daily designing?

An Academic’s 10 Tips on Scholarly Nonfiction

Duke political scientist Michael Munger meets his daily word quota with “10 Tips to Write Less Badly.”

Likely you’ve heard them all before–writerly common sense.

I can’t decide if I agree with him about input/output goals.  He thinks you should set a page/word count: today I will produce three pages; not, today I will spend three hours writing.  If you’re someone who gestates essays in your brain before committing pen to paper, however, a time count may be more useful.  It’s easy to say, I’m the kind of writer who works things out in my head so I can go to the grocery store and think about psychometrics as I choose cereal.  But if you make a time commitment to sitting in front of a pad or a computer, then even if you don’t write much down, you’ve eliminated the distractions to the mental work.

As Ernest Hemingway, W. Somerset Maugham, E.L. Konigsburg, or Mary Heaton Vorse said in one form or another, “Writing requires applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”

(Write something quotable, and lots of people will want to claim it as their own.)

Teaching Tip #13: Summertime and the living is EZ (er)

Can you see the light yet?  Right now, it may feel like that last big Light where your dear departed await, but it’s really just the end of the spring semester tunnel.  So, let’s look forward to planning your summer.   I hope you are including large dose of fun and relaxation; could some of that fun relate to your teaching?  Here are some ideas from the CTE:

Read: Not exactly beach reading, but if you’d like to stretch your thinking about teaching, here are some excellent choices.  The CTE has copies of all of these if you’d like to borrow one.

The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer

Not a “how-to” book, but a reflection on the spirit, art, pain and passion of teaching.  We have multiple copies if several folks would like to read this together and discuss it.

Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher by Stephen Brookfield

Brookfield encourages us to examine our work in the classroom critically through the four key “lenses” of self, students, colleagues, and theory.  Great examples and a sense of humor.

Our Underachieving Colleges by Derek Bok

Bok’s critique of current higher education will raise questions and make you uncomfortable at times.  Isn’t that what a good challenge is all about?  Another good group read!

The Art of Changing the Brain by James Zull

Neuroscience for all, as applied to teaching.  Clear, interesting and helps you understand how to apply what we know to your teaching.

Learner Centered Teaching by Maryellen Weimer

What are the ramifications of focusing closely on what students learn as opposed to what teachers teach?  Maryellen Weimer lays it out for you clearly and compellingly.

And one more book that I can’t recommend yet but plan to read this summer:

Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham.  Although this book is not specifically for higher education settings, it’s gotten rave reviews and I’m looking forward to it.  Care to join me?

Talk: It’s a good time to stop by the CTE and chat about including more inquiry in your courses, using technology, course design or other topics.  We have lots of information as well as suggestions taken from classroom practice, and we’re around pretty much all summer.  Stop by, call or email!

Write: Join a summer writing group.  Peer review isn’t just for students! Start working on a grant proposal or your application for sabbatical.  Finish up that article or start a new one.  We’re happy to host writing groups and help you get organized.  Email teaching@marymount.edu to express interest.

Play with Tech Toys: The CTE has clickers you can check out and Sympodia you can play with.  E-learning services will be offering BB 9 training regularly.  Go to https://www.marymount.edu/itstraining/ to check for group training or contact elearning services if you need individual training.

Take a workshop: WI workshops will be offered through the summer; even if you’re not teaching a WI courses you will learn how to incorporate writing into ANY course in ANY discipline!  Contact Sylvia Whitman at Sylvia.whitman@marymount.edu for more information and to sign up.

Plan a course portfolio: Join a few colleagues and plan to design a course portfolio for one of your classes next year.  Why would you want to do that?  A course portfolio can help you improve the course for yourself and your students, it can provide evidence of your teaching skills and your commitment to teaching excellence and you can hang out with like-minded colleagues and share ideas.

We will have an organizational lunch meeting on May 26th at noon on the Main Campus.  Please email Carolyn.oxenford@marymount.edu or teaching@marymount.edu if you are interested (whether or not you can make it on May 26).

So, what are you doing this summer?  What would you like to try? Share the fun!

Note: This will be the last regular teaching tip post until August.  I would love to hear suggestions for topics you like and things you’re bored with.  Guest bloggers are also welcome!

Teaching Tip #12 Situational despair: The end of semester paper

So, you gave a written assignment, with some directions and maybe even a rubric.  Now you’re sitting in your favorite grading spot and reading your students’ work.   The MIA thesis, the failing logic, the absent evidence, the atrocious editing – where did it all go so wrong?  Unfortunately it’s probably too late for this semester’s batch but how can you avoid repeating this experience?

First of all, realize that you’re not alone; I’ve experienced it and my conversations with faculty suggest that most of them have too.  I think that most of our despair stems from a common set of assumptions that many of us learned when we were students.  They go something like this:  Professor assigns paper with due date at the end of the semester and basic instructions.  No other communication is necessary.  Student hands in final paper; professor makes pithy and insightful comments.  Student internalizes said comments and applies them to papers at the end of the next semester, never making the same mistakes again.   Writing improves in a steady upward spiral. Grateful students send their donations and their children to the University.

So what’s wrong with this picture?  Quite a lot, as it turns out.  Research on transfer of learning from course to course shows that it does not happen easily or automatically.  Many students who are told to provide more supporting evidence in History 211 are unlikely to provide it in Marketing 301.  They may not even provide it in History 212 without a reminder.  Students need your help understanding the requirements of the discipline and the requirements of your particular assignment before they can meet them.  Passing EN 101-102 is not sufficient preparation for writing papers in every other course.

Students benefit most from feedback that is provided BEFORE the final paper is turned in.  This is a form of “just-in-time” teaching i.e. providing instruction at the moment it is most relevant and helpful.  Requiring drafts and revision allows you to catch errors before students get too far afield, and you also can direct students who need extra help to the LRC before it’s too late.  If you do this up front, the final papers will have fewer problems and you’ll probably be able to grade them faster.  In addition, plagiarism becomes much more difficult when drafts are required, which minimizes another end-of-semester nightmare.  If you’re allowing drafts but not requiring them, you are probably noticing that the students who need the most feedback don’t submit.  That’s why I strongly suggest requiring them.

When it comes to encouraging students to use what they learned in their earlier classes, start by asking/reminding them about what they already know.  Then encourage them to think about how they can apply what they know to THIS assignment, and what they will need to do differently.  Students do not know automatically that the passive voice they’ve been hunting down and killing in English class is required for science writing.  As an added benefit, when you model the transfer of knowledge and skills between courses, students may learn to do it themselves.  **Promotion alert**   If you’d like to improve your quality of (grading) life by helping your students write better, consider attending a Writing Intensive workshop.  You’ll learn lots of helpful strategies that can be used in any class, not just WI.  Contact Sylvia Whitman for details at Sylvia.whitman@marymount.edu.

Now, you may wondering —  what has happened to students today?  After all, you WERE able to transfer information and you DID improve your writing with relatively little feedback and without what some would characterize as “hand-holding”.    And we all have at least a couple of students in each class who DO get it; who think critically, write well and make us feel so much better about our teaching.  Why can’t they all be like that?

As many of you have heard me say, our students are not us.  I sometimes think back to my own undergraduate years (yes, it’s increasingly difficult).  I would have been horrified to turn in poorly written work, but I wonder how many of my classmates were that picky.  For the most part, we who stayed in academia WERE those few students who did the outstanding work.  What was everyone else doing?  I have a feeling that many of them were like the majority of our students now, stumbling along but in need of much more support than they got.  Those students did not have the benefit of what we have learned about teaching and learning over the last 30 years.  Our students can get the benefit of that knowledge, if we are brave enough to try something different, and willing to meet them where they are and not where we think they should be or wish they were.

As a follow up to last week’s post about  final exams,  I couldn’t possibly write a better entry than this one from the Center for Teaching and Learning at Brigham Young University:


As always, looking forward to your thoughts.  Procrastinate on that grading and post a few!

Peer-Reviewed Journal Wants Rhetoric Scholarship across the Curriculum

Noted from a listserv:

Announcing a new journal in rhetoric studies.

Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society
(http://www.presenttensejournal.org/) is a peer-reviewed, blind-refereed, online
journal dedicated to exploring contemporary social, cultural, political and
economic issues through a rhetorical lens. In addition to examining these
subjects as found in written, oral and visual texts, we wish to provide a forum
for calls to action in academia, education and national policy. Seeking to
address current or presently unfolding issues, we publish short articles of no
more than 2,000 words, the length of a conference paper.

Conference presentations on topics related to the journal’s focus lend
themselves particularly well to this publishing format. Authors who address the
most current issues may find a lengthy submission and application process
disadvantageous. We seek to overcome this issue through our shortened response
time and by publishing individual articles as they are accepted. We also
encourage conference-length multimedia submissions such as short documentaries,
flash videos, slidecasts and podcasts.

In order to foster dialogue, our journal features a Reader Response section in
which both contributors and readers are welcome to discuss the publications’
content in a public, digital space

Sample Submission Topics:

Present Tense is interested in submissions dealing with theory, criticism,
production, pedagogy and empirical research.

•        Social justice issues involving language, power, and the body: How do
institutional rhetorics shape economic policy, the treatment of bodies, and the
architecture of resistance movements? How do displaced peoples and refugees use
rhetorical resources? How do institutions exercise power? How do sovereign
powers operate in the midst of institutional and control societies?

•        Minority issues and minority rhetorics: How has Obama’s presidency
affected our notions of racism? How has the immigration debate changed in the
last decade? How are people of color and queer people portrayed by the media?
How do we negotiate the needs of women of color with those of feminism?

•        Green Rhetoric: How is rhetoric being used within and against
environmental movements? How is the green movement being portrayed by the media,
pop culture, corporations and the government? How does the language used to
frame environmental issues on either side have an effect on personal choices?

•        Rhetoric in national and international politics: How are attitudes
about domestic and foreign policies formed by various media outlets? How do
technologies shape our dialogue about foreign and domestic issues? How do public
speeches by prominent political figures seek to shape the ethos of the
individual, organization, and/or country they represent?

•        Popular culture and media analysis: How do rhetorical concepts help us
better understand today’s media and pop culture? How do networking sites affect
the way in which humans relate to one another? How are sites like YouTube,
Wikipedia and Creative Commons changing creative agency as well as the way we
share knowledge in our culture?

•        Rhetorics of Everyday Life and Technology: How might different
understandings of everyday things change our lives? How do the things which make
up our everyday world help shape our work, leisure time, social lives, emotions
and/or mobilities? What technologies mediate these interactions and how do their
rhetorical features affect our respective communities?

•        Non-Western Rhetorics: How do rhetorical practices in non-Western
contexts intersect with issues of education, justice, and power in those
communities and cultures? How are discursive practices used to negotiate
difference and conflict throughout the world? How do non-Western discursive
practices challenge or broaden traditional Western rhetorical concepts and

•        Public Rhetorics and Rhetoric in Action: How is the field of rhetoric
uniquely positioned to help us understand and engage the public? How can issues
of community-based research and service learning be informed by rhetorical
theory? How can historical, hermeneutic, and empirical research be used to study
and encourage public participation?

•        Rhetoric, Teaching, and Literacy: How are new composing practices
shaping our approaches to writing instruction? What emergent language paradigms
affect how we compose, argue, and design? How are new discourse technologies and
composing contexts mediating what it means to be a rhetor in the 21st century?

Please email questions or submission to: editors@presenttensejournal.org