The WAC Fellows Program created a unique space for us to explore, through interdisciplinary plenary sessions and departmental workshops, the connection between writing assignments and discipline-specific learning outcomes. Program coordinators Pavel Zemliansky and Lindee Owens provided us with a clear pedagogical framework for our work, combining mini-lectures and handouts with selected chapters from John A. Bean’s excellent how-to guide, Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. The monthly plenary sessions allowed us to exchange ideas and drafts with peers from other disciplines (Nursing and Chemistry); the workshops, led by Pavel and Lindee during the intervening weeks, focused more exclusively on disciplinary norms and departmental culture.
With Bean’s book, Pavel and Lindee’s skillful guidance, and the American Historical Association’s Tuning Project as inspiration, we set out to identify general learning outcomes for our discipline. Building on our experience teaching History at different levels (introductory, upper-level, and graduate), we decided to create more finely “tuned,” level-specific assignments that could be integrated into our own classes and — possibly — serve as models for writing assignments across the History curriculum. For our final project, we presented level-specific assignments designed for use in our own classes using a common online teaching resource — The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. Our department’s curriculum directors for undergraduate, graduate, and public history attended the presentation and offered their support. We look forward to working with Pavel, Lindee, and each other at the FCTL Summer Conference (“Education and the 21st Century Student”) to refine our model assignments for internal peer review and presentation to the department.