What will my students know by the end of the course–and more importantly, what sort of people will they be? The second question is, admittedly, a tall order: our 150 minute of contact time per week for one semester is but a bleep on their life’s radar (this is further complicated by online teaching). Yet, I think it’s inseparable from the knowledge question. Hopefully, they will know how to tackle the writing of a review paper–but also be the type of person who asks the right questions about how all that knowledge they are summarizing came about. I would love for my students to learn open-minded skepticism, epistemological valor, reflective techne – in other words, doubt but be open to other points of view, have the courage of their own convictions and the courage to ask good questions, learn skills but also reflect on what skills mean, how they got acquired, and how they can get better at those respective skills once we part ways.
I like to model these skills through class discussion and exercises. In the scientific writing classroom, for example, I provide students with two clinical studies (published in peer reviewed journals) that assess the same intervention for a particular condition, but arrive at different conclusions. Students are provided with heuristic templates to help them interpret these studies. They have to engage in the hard work of assessing methodologies, rationales, and interpretation of results in order to make their own final evaluations as to why they would find one study more credible than the other. This exercise is one of the highlights of the semester; one of the most important takeaways is the ability to ask the right questions about science–and about writing.
In the writing class, I want my students to remember that writing is a way to organize and discover what they think about a subject; it is a way to reveal their own convictions, and a way to share them with the world. Writing is, fundamentally, connection, or communion (which has same etymological root as communication). Writing means sharing what we think about the world with others, forging and cultivating relationships by shedding light on topics that matter. Writing is hard and serious work, and has constant practice at its core. All our writing practices in the classroom–freewriting, brainstorming, outlining, note-taking and organizing, drafting, peer reviewing, workshopping, editing, conferencing, etc.–are meant to build, through recursivity, enduring habits that students can rely on during their academic career and beyond.
I’ve been an early and enthusiastic adopter of technology, but also a critic and a skeptic where skepticism is due. I encourage my students to collaborate and create multimodal assignments, and I teach them the basic tech tools to do so. My scientific writing as well as my multidisciplinary courses, for example, have a multimodal capstone assignment, in which students work in groups to explore in-depth a topic related to our course materials and present it via a website (or, sometimes, a brief video accompanied by a script). Students also have to reflect on the experience of working on this assignment and on the group work they did in individual memos. Most students felt that this was not only an engaging way to demonstrate their knowledge, but a useful skill that would serve them well in the future.
I strive to be kind and compassionate in our daily interactions, and also respectful of students’ time and abilities. Wherever I see opportunities, I encourage them to think beyond the boundaries of a course and seek publishing or other engagement opportunities (as a result, some students have pursued and occasionally succeeded in publishing work started in class). Who we are as figures of authority in the classroom may shape who students will be in their own fields as they grow to be figures of authority in their own right. When that time comes, I would like to think that modeling respect, kindness, and compassion now will reverberate in their future behavior.
WR 101: Writing & Rhetoric 101
Writing & Rhetoric I increases students’ ability to develop and express ideas effectively and to engage in various academic and professional discourses. By reflecting on the nature of writing, and on their own strengths and motivations to write, students will learn to evaluate as well as write for a wide variety of rhetorical situations, including both text-based and multimodal forms of discourse. Critical reading of texts will help students understand the rhetorical process, analyze the audience and its cultural contexts, and anticipate the audience’s response. A substantial amount of writing is required. This course meets the general education discipline requirement for written communication.
WR 102: Writing & Rhetoric 102
Writing and Rhetoric II is designed to build on skills gained from WR 101 and help students develop sophisticated, situation-sensitive writing and research strategies. Students will learn to analyze and construct arguments in formal and informal settings on interdisciplinary topics. We devote special attention to evidence discovery, claim support, argument response, and their applications to academic debate, public decision-making, and written argument. A substantial amount of writing is required. This course meets the general education skills disciplinary requirement for written communication.
WR 302: Scientific Writing
This online course introduces students to scientific writing in the health sciences. Students will learn techniques that will help them write effectively and efficiently, summarize and analyze scientific research, display scientific data and present on scientific topics. Additionally, they will reflect weekly on they learn from the assignments and readings. This course relies heavily on self-motivated learning and participation in class as well as on discussion boards. This course fulfills the technology and written communication skills of the general education curriculum.
WR 700: Writing for Graduate School
This course prepare students to write at graduate and professional level in their academic discipline. In consultation with their advisor and the professor, students will choose a topic to develop throughout the semester in a series of writing assignments, culminating in one longer research paper. Students will develop these assignments and the final paper as part of a writing portfolio related to one area of their discipline or future profession. All work will proceed through the various stages of the writing process (topic-testing, research, rough draft, peer review, revision, final draft, and reflection), with the goal of cultivating good, sustainable writing practices. Students will meet individually with the professor at least twice a semester to discuss their work and revision strategies.
MD 221: Medicine and Culture
This course covers the major periods and figures in the history of medicine. Students will gain enhanced appreciation for the rich history of the profession, knowledge of famous individuals and important medical theories and trends, a deeper understanding of major developments in basic science and patient care, and an augmented perspective on how medicine might change throughout their careers. This course fulfills the written communication and reasoning and problem-solving requirements of the General Education curriculum.
MD 216: Intro to Animal Studies
Where is the boundary between human and animal? What are our responsibilities to non-human animals? How do we pay attention to non-human animals in the age of Anthropocene and climate change, and how can we move toward a more compassionate, more inclusive ethics that takes into account our entanglements with them? This multidisciplinary course is a survey of Critical Animal Studies, a relatively new interdisciplinary field that explores these and many more related questions. We will study animal sentience (feelings, intelligence, behavior) and the current uses of animals by humans as companions, food, sport, labor aids, therapeutic aids, entertainment, artistic inspiration, and scientific test subjects. From a humanities perspective, we will touch on some of the ethical, political, social, legal, and cultural implications of such uses. From a scientific perspective, we will examine some of the consequences of current human interactions with animals, including industrial farming, deforestation, wildlife conservation, and practices contributing to global warming. This course fulfills the ethics and oral communication requirements of the General Education curriculum.