Part 1: Setting up assignments

On several occasions on this blog, I’ve been discussing the nature, execution, and impact of collaboration between people in the ELT environment. In the next three posts (Parts A, B, C), I’ll be focusing on the benefits and results of an ongoing collaboration of assignments between two courses in my program at the University of Toronto that all my EAP students take:

Description Course 1 Course 2
Course IFP100Y1Y – Themes in World History IFP020Y1Y – Critical Reading & Writing
Description a first-year credit course a non-credit EAP course
Curriculum designer Dr. Alexandra Guerson moi

In a true sense of collaboration, Alexandra and I will both be writing three linked posts on the different aspects of this collaboration: foundational, collaborative, and results. Aside from having worked together over the last seven years, this series derives from a talk we gave at BALEAP last April entitled “Interactivity between a first-year content course and EAP course assignment for skill transferability“. In today’s post, we situate the collaboration in terms of the foundational aspects of our program and how our two courses align with each other, with an example assignment in my course that scaffolds skills in hers. You can skip over to her post here if you like.

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I’ve wanted to use Serial in class since I first listened to it. But first.

A little background first

Every year, one curriculum assignment is a quasi-extensive reading book club with students (I say ‘quasi’ because of a few items I’ll get to in a minute). For reading, students typically have stuck to required content only (i.e. for their credit course and those we selected for their ARCs and research projects). The purpose of this assignment originated because of this: we value reading a lot to improve vocabulary, notice grammatical patterns, highlight differences in genre AND that reading shouldn’t always be a chore.

With little time –inside– the curriculum and classroom instruction to cover more reading in detail, we collectively decided to create a book club conducted solely through Facebook groups with a 5% overall mark attached. Since each instructor has a defined group of students (one or two sections of around 15 students each; we have 300+ students in total in this course), opportunity to select a book of their choice wouldn’t  be possible if each instructor forced only one book onto just their group of students. Increasing interaction between different groups of students and instructors was a factor, while not significantly increasing instructor workload.

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Image sourced online

As much as I love and value collaboration (it’s one of the 4Cs I picked out as major components to my profession after all), I have some challenge with getting students to value it quite as much. My colleague often tells me her stories of true collaborative writing when pairing up with her research partner to write a paper like this.

It may be worthwhile at this point to define “collaborative writing” as I see it: beyond individual writing, it’s more than one person working together on a piece of writing in order to produce a cohesive whole where every contributor takes ownership over the whole. Beyond this, definitions can be a bit murky.

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