Professors Mackin and Sargent to Present their Research

Professors Jonna Mackin and Jennifer Sargent will attend conferences in March to give papers about their research and teaching.

Professor Mackin will attend the Student Success in Writing Conference, held in Savannah, Georgia. The conference is a yearly gathering of secondary and post-secondary teachers who meet to share ideas about promoting student success in writing. Mackin will discuss her recent work in the classroom involving the adaptation or transfer of writing knowledge. Mackin's paper, entitled "A Teacher's Story," will discuss a series of scaffolded course assignments and experiments designed to help students become more rhetorically flexible as they apply writing knowledge to new contexts. This work with her students was inspired by recent scholarship from Michael-John DePalma who argues that adaptation does not merely involve the reuse of past writing knowledge in new contexts, it also requires that students learn to "reshape" that knowledge (616), gaining the ability to "integrate," "transform," "remix and assemble," "boundary-cross," "recontextualize" and "adapt" what they have learned (619). In her classroom, Mackin encouraged the development of this rhetorical adaptability by challenging her students to transform and rearticulate their writing into a series of new contexts, including various forms of electronic media. While she admits that her experiments were not always completely successful, Professor Mackin did discover that her students' work "became more varied and creative" as they worked in new contexts and media forms and that they became aware of the "expressive potential" that comes through "reshaping their own knowledge into new forms."

Professor Jennifer Sargent will present a paper at the Eleventh Annual Conference on the Teaching of Writing, held at the University of Connecticut. Like Professor Mackin, Sargent's presentation emerges from her teaching with the Institute—specifically, an upper-level writing course entitled "The Written Judicial Opinion” which examines the "relationship between the Supreme Court’s public discourse and the academic qualities, concepts and constructs that highlight the Court’s mission to create rules and policies for the masses." In her conference talk Sargent will explore how writing instructors can use Supreme Court opinions to teach students about many aspects of rhetorical construction, expository writing, and argumentation. Furthermore, Sargent will explain that students benefit from seeing how these academic concerns have important, real-world applications and consequences. “Not only do students come to understand argumentation,” she states, “but they also see the role of rhetoric within the larger societal conversation about social issues and the human condition.”