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Using CompFAQs in Graduate Courses

DRAFTY Ideas (July 2008):

[This is a document in process; so any feedback you can offer: <comppile AT gmail DOT com> . . .]

One of the principles informing CompFAQs is that we (as participants in our disciplinary knowledge community) know quite a bit about writing and writing instruction. But we have no ready-access to even the most common answers to questions that are asked regularly. (At least we didn’t until we launched CompFAQs.)

CompFAQs is an open, collaborative environment, relying on the wiki ethos to invite / encourage community participation.

See CompFAQs History for an overview of how this started and why.

How many ways might faculty use CompFAQs in graduate courses?

Beginning considerations:

How can we be innovative as we think about our course assignments? Instead of fixating only on a traditional seminar paper or some mock conference presentation, on “reading responses” or “reading notebooks,” we might think instead of how we develop / express our professional / disciplinary identities in the network culture, using tech-tools that enable us to expand the reach of our knowledge community. Work on CompFAQs (or on CompPile: see ideas here) invites / challenges students to learn about and to engage with “live” forums in our ongoing conversations.

Submissions do not have to be complete answers or “WikiPedia”-like or “essay-like.” The larger goal of CompFAQs is to provide research-based, relevant answers to questions. I don’t think answers will ever be “done.”

Submissions can take many forms, in other words. One advantage I see for this in a grad course is that contributors have a chance to consider carefully the needs / expectations of our knowledge community as they manifest in this open, collaborative environment.

Or in common comp-talk, when students contribute to CompFAQs, they are engaging in a “living” discourse/knowledge community, with a “real” audience, a specific purpose, and an innovative forum. This last is interesting to me because it offers students a chance to use research and writing in “non-traditional” ways, taking advantage of web-ness, etc.

So here’s a drafty list of ideas:

  • Create your own FAQs, based on the focus of your course. What are some regularly asked questions that need to be answered? As students develop questions, they begin to recognize the sub-questions involved. And even if students didn’t compose an answer to their FAQs, the process of developing and refining questions might be a useful activity.
  • A further step might be to develop FAQs and propose a framework for the response: what would be sub-sections? What kinds of research would be useful? What CompPile keywords / glossary items will help with a search for resources? In doing this, students would be doing more than asking a question; they’d be thinking through the ways it might be answered most effectively, suggesting frames/ frameworks for the answers.
  • Do an analysis of the CompFAQs site to determine what might be added, changed, improved, deleted, etc.?
  • Propose and help me implement a tagging process, or help me see other ways to make connections among the many different parts of CompFAQs and connecting CompFAQs to our larger disciplinary conversations. Should / could CompFAQs have its own “delicious” account? What other ways might CompFAQs entries be “found” or accessible? Should these be indexed in CompPile?
  • Develop a “living” timeline / history of our field: this could be an interesting project to start and to maintain.
  • Create annotated bibliographies (or even something like Becky Howard’s collection).
  • Connections to CompPile? Track an issue via CompPile to explore the history of a question?
    • Identify RAD studies that relate to a particular question / issue (RAD studies are identified by the keyword “data”) and produce a bib or a lit review (or the draft of one, so others can add).
    • Or compose a bibliographical review piece that synthesizes research / scholarship on a particular issue, topic, question, using CompPile to identify / locate resources. These would not necessarily have to review ALL research; instead, the review could serve as a ‘digest’ of relevant research for a specific time period, span of years, etc.
  • Contribute to an existing FAQ:
    • Contributions can add to existing responses, extending, developing further, adding research suggestions, linking to other resources, etc.
    • Link from current FAQ responses to develop a further thread or angle or sub-set of the question.
  • Here’s an example of an assignment I might use:
So far, no one has attempted the “grammar” FAQ. What do we know about the connections between “grammar” instruction and writing instruction? What research has been done? (The Qs here could go on and on.)
  • A student or group of students could address this as-yet unanswered FAQ in several ways:
  • Using CompPile, develop an annotated bibliography of research / scholarship that has dealt with this issue.
  • Create an FAQ space that sorts through the various sub-FAQs in the larger one, and suggest how others can add to the responses.
  • Using listserve archives for WPA-L, TechRhet, ATTW-L, WCenter, and other listserves, begin a systematic review of how this question has been asked over the years and how it has been addressed.
  • Using CompPile, collect “teaching suggestions” related to the FAQ.
  • And I’m sure I’m not thinking of other possibilities, such as contributions that might look more like a “traditional” piece of writing, etc.

With any use of CompFAQs in classes:

Students or faculty do NOT have to know how to use the wiki. Glenn can arrange to post any or all materials. However, for students or faculty who are comfortable with the wiki environment, they are welcome to contribute.

FAQ responses don’t necessarily have to reside on the CompFAQs wiki. Students can develop responses on their own sites or as a PDF; we can link to the site from CompFAQs; we can upload documents.

One caveat: new CompFAQs will be listed on the front page and in main index only after Glenn approves it.

Glenn is available to help students plan the design of their FAQ responses, sub-links, etc.

Glenn and (usually) Rich are available to read drafts of student contributions.

Please consider participating in the CompPile/CompFAQs community.

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Page last modified on January 29, 2011, at 02:36 PM