Addressing Cultural Divides through Writing and Argumentation

Purpose

This class was called Addressing Cultural Divides through Writing and Argumentation. I designed this class to teach students how to strengthen aspects of their own identity through targeting their abilities to write a coherent argument. The paper students wrote was based on topics to which they were intimately connected. Thus, the content of the paper continually substantiated what they can do. My tutelage began in translating their content into an argumentative structure. Their abilities sprang from the folds of the core competencies addressed in the learning goals listed in the syllabus. When they were encouraged to identify and enhance their own abilities, they eventually understood and gained the confidence to distinguish themselves literally in writing and culturally from others in their contribution to the greater whole. The ‘greater whole’ are all those other persons (that they find in the research literature) that either agree or disagree with their stance on the topic.

Reflection

This was my first attempt in fully designing a class. I wanted my students to detect abilities they originally thought they did not possess. With writing, and constant revisions, they saw their product emerge. Many of my students were surprised at how much they wrote by the end of the semester. Writing is hard. And I wanted my students to experience the level of dedication that was required to write a coherent argument. Many of my students had no issues stating their claims. However, they encountered the most difficulty in finding evidence to support or denounce their claims. This was because their own claims were too broad, and contained many assumptions. They quickly recognized that narrowing their claims required incorporating aspects they never considered before, or releasing irrelevant notions. Imagine their shock at the number of logical fallacies that are committed in verbal communication! Personally, I learned the most from correcting their papers. A tedious exercise but I have honed my own writing style in contrast to their selected writing styles in argumentation. I did not anticipate this outcome my learning of writing has substantially grown since teaching this class.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations that ensued in these classes. We helped each other tighten our claims, and included the best evidence to strengthen our arguments (including mine when I try to convince them of the importance of argumentative writing)! But most importantly, students gained confidence in their own writing. They recognized that it was okay to make mistakes, receive critical feedback, erase and try again. Furthermore, I emphasized quality over quantity in my class. I preferred two well written paragraphs that introduced an argument as opposed to four pages of hyperbole or harangue. 

At the end of the semester, my students created digital portfolios to showcase the progression in their writing. This particular portfolio belonged to my student, Eivar Amaya, a recent immigrant from Colombia to the United States. Eivar's brilliance was demonstrated by his creativity that polished his critical thinking. He was able to speak about the 'fallacies' committed in advertisements, where emotionally persuasive tactics used primarily to embellish products convince consumers to buy products they do not need. Of course, he spoke about this better in Spanish, but the Writing Center staff and I worked with him to illustrate and translate what he perceived. In addition, his final paper was not posted in the e-portfolio since he left suddenly to join the military.

Syllabus

This is my syllabus. If you need a copy, please contact me.

Evaluations

These are the evaluations from my students after teaching the class for Spring 2014Fall 2014 and Fall 2015. I taught this class fully online in Spring 2015 but unfortunately, I did not receive any student evaluations.