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Constructing Writing Practices: A writing model for all disciplines

I woke up yesterday morning to an email from an unfamiliar name in my inbox titled, “article you just published.” It was a nurse scholar from Georgetown requesting a copy of a publication I knew was coming soon, but I didn’t know had hit the presses yet. Hot off the press at the Journal of Nursing Education.

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 1.03.51 PMconstructing-writing-practices-in-nursing (ooh I hope this PDF works — it may be linked here, and it probably isn’t copyright appropriate but we’ll see how long it lasts)

This is the first time I’ve been emailed directly for an article of mine. But it is also the first time my current work has been published in a journal with a > 2.0 impact factor (high for nursing education journals). And then the ivy league comes calling. Also a first.

I tell the story of the birth of this paper in the article itself and my engagement with the literature to produce it. Believe it or not, this section was requested by reviewers. I think they expected a couple of sentences and I gave them about two pages instead — oh well — be careful what you ask for.

The paper started as a philosophy of nursing science assignment where I was asked to address a controversy in my research area. What immediately came to mind was the deep sense of devaluing of writing in nursing and nursing’s anti academic discourse — both of which contribute to the much talked about theory-practice gap that pervades practice disciplines such as nursing (and most health professions, but also other practice disciplines like education and business).

In combination with the anti academic discourse, I had just spent the fall revising a paper exploring all the writing self-efficacy measurements developed for post-secondary populations through a template analysis of the items on these questionnaires. I was looking to find out the constructs psychometricians were identifying as having influence on writing self-efficacy of students. The largest category of items in the template focused on surface writing elements like punctuation, and putting together a paragraph, or writing sentences with subjects, verbs, and nouns, or can you write clearly, with focus. Those were not the elements of writing that I saw my students agonize over when writing for me. They agonized over topic choices and ideas and understanding what they were reading and how frustrating writing could be. The model that developed from this template analysis was a combination of Bandura’s self-efficacy theory and Flower and Hayes’s cognitive processing model of writing and a reviewer asked me if this was it…. was this template enough to describe writing — and more specifically, writing in nursing? I wanted to address this question.  I had also been simultaneously immersed in the literature talking about writing as a socially constructed process so I also knew the model I would eventually develop would be situated in a socially constructed epistemology.

The components of the model can be defined liked this:

Identity: Incorporates writing voice, the self as it appears within a written text, past experiences with writing and their influence on present writing, and levels of writing self-efficacy. Reflexivity facilitates the metacognition and intertwining required to activate the other components of the model as they relate to writing and nursing identity.

Creativity:Novelty and originality as defined by a discipline inform creativity. Idea generation, synthesis, and interpretive abilities all require creativity. Creativity fuels passions and develops identity.

Emotions:Writing emotions can be positive or negative, are subject to roller-coaster extremes, and will drive or inhibit the writing act. Emotions are present at all phases of writing from planning to feedback.

Relational Aspects: Writers form relationships with the sources they incorporate through citation, inspiration, or interpretation. Writers write for an imagined audience and that audience connects with their writing when a writer reveals themselves in their work. Students also form relationships with their teachers during pedagogical processes and feedback interactions.

Context:The writing context includes perceived difficulty of the writing task and writing evaluators, the stakes involved in producing a well-received product, and the values and demands inherent in a disciplinary discourse.

The paper emerged in four phases:

  1. A two page proposal which focused on the theory practice gap and anti academic discourse. I didn’t know at this phase I would be building a model.
  2. A seminar on my topic where I presented the first drawing of the model based on the layers of a globe. I even had a visual image of that globe which when I shared it with my classmates and asked them to reflect on it and discuss it, really fell flat. They didn’t get it — although I have to say that one of my classmates recently, after writing her candidacy papers said to me, “I totally get this now.” It just takes the right kind of writing experience. Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 12.49.51 PMI don’t remember combining creative and emotional knowing at this stage. I wonder when that changed? Probably where everything changes: in the act of writing.
  3. The final draft of the paper where I removed the visual drawing from the paper because it hadn’t worked when I presented it to a test audience. The paper just described the model as an intertwined process, with identity at the core, where each one of the any the five factors could be the focus at any point of the writing process or they may be simultaneously influencing one another and merged through reflection.
  4. The post submission review process the article changed again mostly in my discussion of nursing’s relationship to writing. Virtually nothing of the text of the model changed other than the reviewers asked me to attempt to draw the model again. So I did… I drew some rough sketches of the model on my own and then I called in an artist pro (my 17 year old daughter Emma) and asked her to draw me a better version. She was a real pro. She drew me four versions on her digital drawing tablet using my version as inspiration and we ended up combining two together. I liked the angular look she had given one version — the twisted strands of the model that you see with the labels on them. They reminded me of how you wrap a tensor bandage. But I liked the the round twist she put on her rounder version of the model so we combined the two into what you see as the header to this blog. IMG_7725My very rough trial drawing of my vision for my model. I saw the intertwining as a braid. As you can see, Emma’s final version at the top of the blog is just so much more effective.

The model is black and white in the article but for poster presentations I had upcoming I asked for a coloured version. I let her pick the colours. Then with the help of some text templates from @academicbatgirl I decided to make a mug of it.

fullsizeoutput_1b06NSFW — but it will comfort me at home.

I wrote the paper for nursing, prepared the poster for a nursing education conference,  but I decided with a bit of an elbowing from my advisor to enter the poster in the faculty of health sciences poster competition. I had no chance of winning in this biomedical positivist world where most of the work is physiological or microbial or population health so I was curious how the judging sessions went. I ended up with two judges one from microbiology and the other from molecular genetics (hilarious — I don’t even know what this is) and I spend my 10 minutes just talking about academic writing and its genres and I managed to get one of them to say, hey … this isn’t just for nursing, this could work for all disciplines. Getting that statement out of a judges who were very unlikely to share my worldview, was winning enough for me.

This model is what I will use to develop the items to assess writing self-efficacy on a new questionnaire designed from a constructivist perspective of writing. I’ve already developed the items but you know how the PhD process goes — several hurdles to jump over before I can get started on testing the questionnaire.

The paper appears here:

Mitchell, K. M. (2018). Constructing writing practices in nursing. Journal of Nursing Education, 27(7), 399-407. doi:10.3928/01484834-20180618-04

If your library doesn’t subscribe to it and you would like a copy of the article please feel free to email me at academicswrite@gmail.com or contact me on twitter @academicswrite

 

How to Write a PhD Candidacy Exam in 30 Days (or less)

This is the second part of at 2-part blog. You can find the first part, where I wrote about candidacy preparation, here.

I think it might be important to point out that I have written these two blogs unaware if I’ve actually passed this exam, so everything I say should be viewed with that light. At the end of the last blog, I left you with a paraphrase of my 3 questions. I told you earlier in the previous blog that I made my decision about which questions I would write on, almost instantly. But I did not tell you which questions I chose to write.

I wrote papers responding to questions 1 and 2 – and so you don’t have to go back to the previous blog to figure out which ones those were – they were the questions about exploring theoretical perspectives for writing self-efficacy and the question about the relevance of writing to nursing and what were students saying about their writing experiences, and how that informs pedagogy. I chose these two question because I love writing about theory (Q1) and I saw an interesting opportunity to go through the pile of qualitative studies I had been gathering over the years (Q2). I decided against question 3, which asked me to discuss various aspects of tool development, because it lacked an interpretive element.  Also, much of what I was being asked to do in question 3 would end up in my proposal. There was a little smidge of my 3rd suggested study area about the measurement of writing performance in this question because it did ask me to discuss if predictive validity would be important.  There was also a smidge of talking about qualitative approaches to instrument validation. Yes, I could have killed two birds with one stone and subsumed a lot of my answer to this third question into my proposal, but I wanted to interpret the literature, not regurgitate it, in my month of writing. For that reason, question 3 was the least appealing to me.

I had a brief period of mourning that I wasn’t going to be able to write the synthesis of genre, activity theory, and communities of practice (the situated perspectives) I envisioned. But what question 1 asked me, once I reflected, was even better. I had to settle on three theories and I flip-flopped, because, at first, I thought, I would only be able to pick one of the situated perspectives. I knew rhetorical genre theory would be my first choice. I knew I couldn’t leave out self-efficacy theory. I figured I’d pick communities of practice as my third choice, and I wondered how I would be able to ignore activity theory in the process. I also thought I should probably talk about the cognitive process models of writing but I went back and forth on that because including them guaranteed I could only write about one situated perspective. But I kept going back to the question, over and over. It didn’t ask me to discuss three theoretical frameworks or models. It asked me to discuss three theoretical perspectives. Why couldn’t this mean that I could talk about “situated perspectives” in general as one theoretical perspective?  Maybe I broke the rules of the question a little bit but I also think I had a good argument for doing it. You almost never see these three situated theories spoke of in isolation. How would I be able to talk about one without drawing in the others? So I found a way to talk about all three of them.  I spent the second half of the first day of my exam and the entire next 2 days pre-writing notes on the three situated perspectives. Also during this note taking period, I went hunting for the papers that I knew alluded, in snippets, to the epistemological standpoint of Bandura. In the education literature people have been bumping up on the question of his epistemology for years and not completely answering it.

In paper 1, I wrote about self-efficacy theory, the situated perspectives, cognitive process models of writing, and their respective epistemologies, and I came up with a synthesized perspective that puts all three of them together. I found (I hope) the epistemological intersection between self-efficacy theory and constructionist perspectives. Here’s the funny thing about that:  I was supposed to just tell them what perspective was best for informing writing and writing self-efficacy in nursing education contexts. When I started exploring the epistemological fit of self-efficacy theory to constructionist perspectives, I thought I was straying from the question. Maybe I was. I also thought that this problem had just occurred to me while taking notes on the literature but it turns out that this is exactly what I suggested to my committee I write on in the first place.  They threw their own spin on what I had written (via the nursing process thing I mentioned last blog) but in going back to my notes to write this blog, they basically asked me the question I told them to ask me. Here is the excerpt from my notes I wrote to my committee back in April.

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 10.36.21 AM

For paper 2, very little of what I read during my pre-exam preparation period informed my response.  I pulled out two old folders I had been throwing papers into for 2 years  – one that said “writing and nursing” and one that said “qualitative studies” – and I pulled out the relevant papers. When I read the question, I wrote a note beside it that said, “Haven’t I written about this already?” And I have written about the relevance of writing to nursing education before but I did it from the standpoint of interdisciplinary literature. I decided for this paper, I was only going to use papers written by nurses.  In paper 1, I was using mostly non-nursing literature and having difficulty attaching it to that nursing process. For paper 2 I found the opposite to be true. It would only be about nursing. Paper #2 was asking me to analyze the context of writing in nursing education. Again… they didn’t ask me specifically to analyze context. That’s just how I interpreted the question. There are no more than a handful of non-nursing papers cited in paper 2. And lets just euphemistically say that the qualitative studies in nursing exploring the writing experience leave a lot to be desired.

Question 2 didn’t specifically ask me to use qualitative research to explore the nursing context but, but my committee in their reading list they gave me, had included about five qualitative studies on student writing. I felt that was a big hint to how I should approach this paper. So instead of pre-writing notes from every paper written in a nursing journal about writing, I just wrote notes about the findings and themes of the qualitative studies that interviewed nursing students. What I came up with was an informal metasynthesis of 17 studies. I had to do a mini literature search to see if I missed anything major that would come up with a basic search. This meant I had 3 new papers to read. Intensively examining qualitative research gave me some interesting insights about how students see writing. It also showed me a big gap in the nursing literature about writing. No one in nursing is interviewing instructional staff about what they see as the relevance of writing. There was one grading study that interviewed faculty — that was all I found.

The other thing I did in the second paper was explore three recent trends in nursing research about writing. Those three trends were 1) connecting it to the thinking required for clinical practice; 2) writing self-efficacy studies; 3) conducting qualitative studies about writing development.  I identified a big nursing discourse feature: everything we talk about has to be rationalized in terms of care for patients. Papers about writing are no different.

To look at the writing self-efficacy trend led me to an interesting exercise of self-reflection (which ultimately informed some revisions I went back and made to the first paper as well). I had to read my own collection of publications on writing in nursing (now at 6 publications) and step out of my knowledge of that work and where it came from, and really look at my contributions to writing research in nursing. What was I collectively saying about writing in nursing, just with my own already published work? I tried to read my own papers as if I was an external reader who didn’t also write them and highlight things in them that supported the theses I was creating in these two new papers. It was very interesting to see how my own past thinking was already heading in the direction I was about to take in these two exam papers.

Each paper had slightly different pre-writing process which is why I can’t just generically summarize a paper in some spreadsheet or Word file document somewhere and assume that summary will be applicable to every instance in which I choose to cite that paper. I have papers I’ve done pre-writing notes on three times, because for each paper I write, I need to look at that work with a different lens. I also have some papers I know so well I no longer need to take notes on them.

By the way, my pre-write notes are always handwritten in a notebook or on loose-leaf like the image on the blog header. That’s what works for me.

Each paper required three days of pre-writing, three days of first drafting, and then one day of surface level editing — so 7 days each to get a first draft in a readable form. I think I had longer writing days for paper 1. It was a more intellectually challenging write. I had at least one big moment when I felt stuck. It was a harder revise too. After I finished the first draft of the first paper I started in the next day on to the second paper note taking. I did a little bit more editing on the second paper than I did on the first paper immediately after I finished writing it. I only went through the first paper one time. The second paper I think I read two or three times, editing as I went.

After I had two solid drafts, I took 3 days off. I went to the cottage and played for a few days, had a Harry Potter movie watching marathon, and tinkered with putting together my reference lists for the two papers when there was down time. But the priority was relaxing, movie watching, bike riding and dog walking/hiking, and that always came first. The dog had a close encounter with a skunk while we were out there so that caused a few unwanted distractions as well.

When I got home from the cottage, the next day I did major revisions to paper 1. I knew that writing paper 2 would begin to help my vision of the first paper, in particular given I was supposed to write it from a nursing perspective and I didn’t feel I did a very thorough job of that on the first draft. The second day back I revised paper 2. I think I read through both of them and just fine tuned both papers on day 3. I emailed my advisor at the end of day 3 and told her I was finished. I was going to let them sit for a few days and then do copy edits, but I would be submitting early guaranteed.

Over the those three days I started writing my proposal. I read a paper about the epistemology of measurement during that time which also brought a few insights into how I would approach final copy edits to paper 1. After ignoring the two exam papers for 3 to 4 days, I read through them both on an errand run to a town just south of where I live and I allowed my fresh eyes to find copy edits in both papers. I got home and made the edits. Gave them both one more read and emailed them on the evening of Thursday September 27th. I handed my exam in a week early and the week that followed, until my official deadline came and went, I never once felt the urge to call them back.  They were done.

The deadline for the pass/fail result on the written portion of the exam is October 25th. My oral defence, if I pass, is November 8th.

 

Preparing for the PhD Candidacy — How to be READY

One of the biggest myths about writing is that you can apply generic rules and make them apply to every writing situation. Or that you can follow someone else’s process and make it work for you. You can’t. So take what I wrote in the title limply — adapt my process at will — you can’t do it wrong other than to do nothing. But while how I prepared for my candidacy exams may have made me READY, I can’t promise that it will make you READY. But if I make you feel the writing will be possible, then I’ve done my job.

This blog, in first draft, ended up being nearly 3000 words so, I’ve decided to split it into two parts. This part will address how I prepared. The second part will be about how I did the writing.

Now. To get back to where I had originally started this story. . . .

September was writing month for me. I scheduled my candidacy exam (also known as the comprehensive exam or comps depending on your discipline or institution) to start right after the September long weekend. All such exams in PhD programs have slightly different flavours. Ours, in my nursing program, is 30 days to write two 25-page papers. I was emailed three questions on September 4 at 0900, and then I picked two of the three to accomplish the task.  My end date was October 4 at 0900. So now that I’ve handed the papers in and the time on my exam has run out and the door for me to beg to have them back has effectively closed, I can say a little bit more about what I was up to for that month. I wrote two papers and each of them required a different approach to writing. I am going to do my best to articulate what those different approaches were and why they had to be different. I say “do my best” because, for the most part, for me, how I make my decisions in my writing approach are pretty much tacit.

But first…. here is how I prepared to write before the exam started.

In case your wondering, it was not a difficult decision to pick my two questions once they arrived. I knew with one reading of the questions which ones I would write about. I had been preparing for months. My exam questions were born out of a lengthy meeting with my committee back in April. My advisor asked me to write out several areas of learning I felt I needed to work on within my research area — the development of a measure to support contextual and constructionist writing self-efficacy. She also asked me to supply references, so I went through my boxes and my computer files and I pulled everything I had that would fit the study areas I described.

Our candidacy exams tend to present three questions that fall into some pretty predictable research domains: theory, method, knowledge translation/policy (or in my case in nursing education, pedagogy). In brief, this is what I told them I wanted to learn:

  1. Constructionist perspectives on writing self-efficacy and how that would fit with with Bandura’s social cognitive and self-efficacy theories which certainly, in the way cognitive psychologists tend to apply it in research studies, didn’t feel very constructionist in epistemology. How do you reconcile that?
  2. Mixing qualitative and quantitative questionnaire development approaches.
  3. Measurement of writing performance and how there was a real problem with how we were scoring writing in post secondary education and trying to use those performance scores in research.
  4. Socially constructed writing pedagogies. What are they and how do we implement them?

I presented these four ideas in a meeting. I also told them that I had no interest in writing 25-pages about statistics and in no uncertain terms should they dare ask me to write a paper about factor analysis, for example. We talked about the areas I did propose. Some interesting things came up — for example one committee member could see a close link between idea #1 and idea #4. My committee went off and deliberated for about six weeks or so, and met once without me present and I believe they wrote my questions at this meeting.

In the meantime, while I awaited instructions, I started to do research and pull literature. I focused on ideas 1 and 2, so I pulled all the literature I could on Delphi methods and cognitive interviewing and I started there. I had to write an abstract for a conference so this was necessary work regardless, but there was a chance I’d have to write about them on my exam too. I also pulled literature on genre theory, activity theory, and communities of practice. I also gathered all my literature on writing self-efficacy because, no matter what, I would have to link everything I wrote about to writing self-efficacy.

Sometime in the middle of June I got an email from my advisor with a suggested reading list “for my consideration” and was provided with three very broad areas of study:

  1. Social constructivism and relevant related or alternative perspectives that inform writing self-efficacy.
  2. The practical value and pedagogical implications of writing self-efficacy for nursing students and educators.
  3. Measurement of writing self-efficacy.

Not bad, I thought. Pretty close to what we had discussed in our meeting.

And then I spent the next 2.5 months just reading. I read everything I hadn’t already read on the list the committee made for me. Some of it was great and I wondered how I had never found these particular articles before. Some of it was utter garbage. I’m not really sure how they came up with their references. But I took the reference list as a bit of foreshadowing. There were measurement articles, cognitive psychology articles, writing self-efficacy articles, dissertations, and qualitative studies. There were articles there that I wasn’t sure why they had suggested them to me. Some of them were qualitative studies with children. One was a paper about “achievement goal theory” that was so dense I had to put it aside as unreadable about half way through.

I had done fresh literature searches but I also had a whole collection of papers that I been reading over the past several years which would be relevant. I concentrated on new reading. There were a handful of articles I re-read, but not too many.  I would say the bulk of my reading was feeding the first study area — the other areas I had been accumulating and reading literature for several years already.

In writing out my ideas of what I needed to learn, I said to my committee: There is something about this rhetorical genre theory, activity theory, communities of practice theory which keep coming up in my reading and I think they are the same damn theory! Well, long story short, they aren’t the same damn theory. They certainly connect with one another nicely though and there are a several papers out there that synthesize 2 of them together (activity and genre mostly) and a couple that synthesize all three.  So what I was seeing in my limited reading was astute. In my head I started collectively calling them “situated perspectives.” But what I really was hoping I would get to do was synthesize the three theories together with my own take.

In fact here is an excerpt of what I wrote about those three theories in my preparation document. I’m quite pleased at how well I saw the connection between these theories given I had maybe read one paper about rhetorical genre and one about activity theory. I had read Lave and Wenger’s book too, for another paper I wrote. Although, I see I’m a little fuzzy on what an “activity” is.

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 8.47.28 PM

I didn’t do any real pre-writing while I was preparing. I just read and annotated. I tend to take notes with a particular direction in mind and not having the questions, I could waste a lot of time taking notes and be off base from the actual focus of the question I would be asked. This is why I can never understand how people can annotate an article once in some database and not have to go back through it again with a different lens.

The one thing I did do, and I knew would be useful no matter what my questions were because all the questions would eventually ask me to draw in writing self-efficacy studies, was collect together all the writing self-efficacy studies I had and create a table which synthesized their methods and findings. The table had headings like: population, sample size, study design, writing self-efficacy measure, writing performance assessment method, correlates, findings, pedagogy. And I filled in all the blanks for each study — there were around 40 of them just targeting post-secondary students. I also took notes on self-efficacy theory from Bandura’s papers and some of the other key scholars in the area specific to writing self-efficacy and self-regulation (e.g. Pajares, Zimmerman).

I got to a point in my preparation though where waiting became torture. I felt saturated in my reading. I felt frustrated that I couldn’t start writing. I was feeling burnt out. I knew at that point, despite a pile of books I hadn’t touched, it was time for me to stop reading. So I stopped. I took the entire week off before receiving my questions and it was the best decision I ever made. I spent the week pulling electric fence wire off horse fencing, watching teen romance movies, and listening to ABBA. The perfect non-academic combination.

When I got the questions on September 4th I printed them out and read them once quickly. I made my decision as to what I would write and spent about a half a day sorting the literature — the stuff I had printed copies for — into piles. I will paraphrase my actual questions because they were each, written out, about a half a page long.

  1. Pick two-three theoretical perspectives that inform understandings of writing self-efficacy and explain which is the best perspective for understanding the assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation of writing self-efficacy in nursing education. (Any nurses reading this are suffering post traumatic stress right now. Oh damn that nursing process phrasing… ugh… I don’t know if that is discourse that exists in other disciplines but assessment, planning implementation and evaluation is very much nursing discourse because that is the nursing process — the THING that guides everything we do. And if it sounds familiar it should. I don’t think it is an accident that there are similarities to the scientific method).
  2. What is the relevance of writing in nursing education. What do nursing faculty and nursing students say about how writing is taught in nursing education and what kind of pedagogy can make it better.
  3. What’s the best approach for developing and validating a measurement instrument.

The funny thing about candidacy prep is that you spend so many months reading and you envision your question and you envision the paper you will write based on that reading. My typical process is to read and formulate my own paper — not answer very specific questions written by someone else. There were pieces of each of these questions that made me a little bit crazy. The nursing process in one of them was one crazy making aspect — the fact that I had to link that theory question to the nursing profession at all was not a direction I really wanted to take. These questions had nuances within them that made me have to re-envision everything I had been contemplating while I was reading. It made me glad I didn’t do a lot of pre-writing before I had the questions.

So now I had to write. And the writing is the best part so that will be the focus of Part II. Stay tuned. Is this enough of a cliff hanger for you?

 

Inspired by Trauma: The Things our Students Write About . . . if you let them

Nursing students in high proportions choose the profession because of healthcare experiences they’ve had with family members or in their own lives. These experiences are profound,  identity changing, and career directing for many of them. This blog is ultimately about what happened when I gave them the opportunity to write about it. It is also a wakeup call for the many personal crises our students experience while they study.

I’ve been using an academic paper to teach synthesis thinking in the undergraduate course I teach, Research and Scholarship in Nursing, for about six years. I get bored easily so I am continuously on the hunt for new ways to implement this assignment. One consistent feature of that assignment is the requirement to find five primary studies on a particular research focus.  The first version of the paper was very method focused and the second looked to see how well the media was doing with presenting research to the public. I’ve written about the first two incarnations of the paper here.

Because I wanted to increase the qualitative research content of my course, this year I developed a third version of the paper and required all students choose five qualitative studies to address their topic. The main requirement is to synthesize the themes identified in those studies. Any topic is fair game as long as it can be connected to nursing and or health.  I am a strong believer that writing about a topic you are passionate about makes for more engaged writing. So I asked students to choose their topic based on a personal experience, a clinical experience, or they could springboard off a documentary or a media article as well. They are required to write about a page long narrative that describes their inspiration.

Seemed simple enough. Seemed non-threatening. The second version of this paper also suggested that students choose their topic based on an idea that they were personally connected to as well.

What I was not prepared for were some of the deep and personal reflections that reading qualitative research stimulated in some students. Some of them wrote things that broke my heart. It also has become evidence for the complicated lives our students live while they attempt to complete a very grueling accelerated nursing program.

I tweet periodically and selectively about my own emotional experience (and grading biases) while grading these papers:

 

Now not all students are going to get personal with a teacher, nor do they feel safe doing so. This is a reality I accept. About 26% of the 162 papers I graded this year chose topics based on the more benign routes to inspiration: a clinical patient they’d had, a topic that was just “of interest,” or was inspired by a documentary, blog, or media article.  But for the other 74% this is what I heard about:

They wrote about the health issues of their first degree relatives, mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses or children (23.5%).

They wrote about the deaths of their parents from cancer, their loved ones with autism, food allergies, ADHD, anorexia, obesity, and mental illness.

In their immediate families they’ve been caregivers (both directly and vicariously) for cancer, colitis, heart conditions, diabetes, postpartum depression, alcoholism, MS, chronic pain, arthritis, and infertility.

A student had a child who died at 2 years from a brain tumor.

They wrote about second degree relatives and friends – grandparents, aunts, and uncles (24.7%).

Cancer was still common as were heart conditions, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental illness including postpartum depression.

They had friends who’ve committed suicide.

They were present at the hospital when a family member went into cardiac arrest.

They investigated the experience of living with a host of other medical conditions and procedures: cystic fibrosis, acute brain injury, bariatric surgery, abortion, premature births, caring for special needs adults, chronic pain, Parkinson’s, and stroke.

Their family members died surrounding conditions of poor person-centered hospital care.

A student had a family member request an assisted death before it was legal and watched his frustration and suffering.

Most poignant was when they wrote about their own health challenges (16%) – the present, the past and the anticipated.

The present:

They’ve manage their studies while also managing type I diabetes.

More than one have had pernicious acne they’ve lived with since adolescence and have faced body image and self-esteem challenges as a result.

One is undergoing the diagnostic procedures to rule out a significant neurological disorder.

Two struggle with irritable bowel syndrome and wrote about the constant struggle to have to keep tabs on bathroom locations, the social isolation that often occurs, and wearing diapers, in some circumstances — Just in case.

An astounding number of them are depressed or experienced postpartum depression — some of them were still in the stage of thinking they might be depressed but were not quite sure, or were not quite ready to admit it to themselves.

Two students wrote about the decision making they’d had to do to have an abortion and their awareness of the stigma surrounding that decision. Both students had had these abortions within the current academic year.

The past:

Many of these students are parents and several talked of past health issues that were childbirth related – Four wrote about complications they’d had in pregnancy, one of which was a student who almost died in childbirth. I learned a new term … “perinatal near miss.”

One student was a teen mother.

One student had experienced and survived a hemorrhagic stroke and her difficult cognitive recovery.

Two talked about being sexually abused as children or sexually harassed by authority figures in their lives. Two out of 162 is far under the average abuse rate for women. Many, I am sure, would never have dared write about it – not to a teacher.

The anticipated:

Genetic conditions were the trend for anticipated health problems.

They live with worry about their ability to have children in the future due to these genetic health threats. Many of our students come from communities with very fundamentalist Christian values and these possible genetic issues that they may pass onto their children have them worried they may one day have to consider an abortion.

They have a genetic inabilities to develop immunities to infectious diseases often prevented by vaccination.

A student had made the decision after her grandmother, mother, cousins, aunts all developed breast cancer to have prophylactic bilateral mastectomies. She was positive for the BRCA1 gene so she made what to her was a no brainer decision. When you live with this knowledge, you become easily detached from your breasts anyway.

But most appalling to me was those that wrote about the nursing profession (10.5%) — the bullying and “eating their young” attitudes they experienced and witnessed on the units they were assigned to for clinical practice. Some of this bullying came from teachers.

Only 4.3% were willing to come out and say they’d been bullied, but another group addressed this issue through the backdoor by talking about academic anxiety, or the high rates of stress and burnout in the nursing profession which affected the behavior of nurses. They wanted to look at burnout because they needed a rationale for why sometimes the nurses they encountered were just plain mean.

And these are just the students willing to disclose these issues and struggles. I read their stories and I respond. I thank them for sharing their story, sometimes I ask them questions (for which no one has ever emailed to answer after feedback). Sometimes they don’t tell me how the story ends… But it doesn’t matter. This story ends by acknowledging that it brought to light for me, evidence that we have a problem that we are not doing enough to correct. Our students have lived traumas, they are vulnerable, some of them are being treated very poorly as students, and they are survivors.

We are also not doing enough to listen. The rates of these family and social issues students face in their day lives are astoundingly high. They affect the ability of students to function in the classroom. Chances are, when they beg for an extension, are absent from class or a test, they have a good reason.

Six Myths of Academic Writing that must Disappear from our Conversations

The world is in love with a quick fix. Writing is hard. While we easily recognize both statements to be universal truths, we still search for a quick fix to make writing, especially our students’ writing, easier to for them execute and us to read.

Grading can be the bane of our existence. I know. I’m in the middle of grading 51 undergraduate papers right now. But there is simply no quick fix to making our grading consistently pleasant and there is no instructional strategy that will bring every student’s work to proficient. Writing is a flawed and finicky process that requires resilience and adaptability. We struggle with our own writing (editor’s note…. I’m struggling with this paragraph. It has been through numerous nit-picky edits and rewrites). Our students are struggling with what, to us, being years ahead in our writing education, may seem like basic skills. It’s easy to lament about how they can’t write — blame some poor faceless high school or introductory writing teacher  for their apparent lack of skills — but what is our responsibility?

How much of our attitude and temptation to lament are rooted in several pervasive myths about learning academic writing? Writing scholars who work daily with these novice writers have been writing and publishing about these myths for decades but this work seems to preach to the choir. When writing is placed in the hands of course leaders who don’t study writing, don’t read about writing, or don’t write themselves, but yet assign and grade undergraduate writing, the myths live on in poor pedagogical choices and harsh grading.

Some of the beliefs that novice graders or those not interested in writing pedagogy hold, e.g., our students are bad at grammar, that writing is transferable to all contexts, and a basic course is all writers need, do not help our students learn to write and become lifelong writers. So here are 6 myths of academic writing that need to disappear from our dialogue.

Drilling grammar will be a cure-all for bad student writing. Drilling grammar might make them better at select points of grammar but it won’t fix the whole. It won’t fix their tendency to be repetitive or to be too casual and it won’t make them ensure they have addressed the assignment guidelines appropriately. Those are problems of discourse and genre, not to mention personal characteristics of the student, not grammar. If you must, give them a review sheet of all the grammar issues that drive you crazy and are sure to decrease their grade,  but don’t call in the local writing expert to do a one-hour writing workshop to drill grammar. They will be irritated with you for asking, you’ll be disappointed in the results, and your students may not even show up. If you rant at students about their writing being ubiquitously deficient, they will tune you out and devalue writing.

To write is to write is to write. Think of this myth as the equivalent of a nurse is a nurse is a nurse. Can we plunk a mental health nurse into an ICU?…Would you ask an electrical engineer to build an airplane? I would hope not. We also can’t give a student, who has only written poetry or social media posts, an academic paper with citations and a supporting argument and expect perfectly executed writing. Not without some kind of instruction first. The student who has written academic papers in English literature may not be adequately prepared to write a paper in psychology. And guess what, it gets even closer to home than that… We can’t ask a student to write a paper in gerontology and then, in the next course, expect them to competently, without our guidance, to write a paper about maternity or palliative care — nor a research critique, or an ethics analysis or a letter to the editor. Each of these acts of writing is a new genre and requires a new skill set. Writing gets to the core of thinking unlike any other assignment but writing in all these different genres and voices requires significant instructor support. We can’t take a hands-off approach to our own assignments and think a tutoring service or a writing centre would do a better job of explaining our assignments than we can.  Those supports can help to a point, but only you can articulate your expectations and teach your assignment as it should be written.

Requiring an introductory writing course is enough writing instruction. It isn’t. Writing is a lifelong adventure of learning and improvement. Only more writing makes better writers. One course will get them started but every assignment will require new skills, a new discourse, and a new voice.

My students should be able to write using the same language that I would write with. Every discipline and every course within a discipline has its own preferred language and word choices — discourse is the fancy writing scholar term for that experience. Your students have had different educational and life experiences, not to mention lack of exposure to the required language choices of your course material, so they will have a different voice. They will choose different words to explain processes that for you are are second nature. Those different words are going to sound wrong to you but the only way a student can learn the right language is to mimic it or attempt it blindly and in attempting it they may (and will) get it gloriously, heroically, wrong.

Let me introduce my student Melanie to you. Melanie has graciously given me permission to share a piece of her writing. Melanie is a second year nursing student who has been working as a licensed practical nurse for some time now but has come back to school to upgrade to a baccalaureate degree. She knows nursing language but she does not know the language of research methods so she reached out for help with writing a section of her paper where she had to explain how she selected the three themes she decided to write about in her paper.

“Tell me if this is what you are looking for,” she wrote in her email to me with the following cut and past passage inserted within:

 

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This was not a bad start for not knowing this discourse of writing a method section to a research paper. Her APA citing is wrong. Her explanation leaves some holes. She knows I know what she did, but she didn’t explain it well enough for someone not familiar with the assignment or the exercise we did in class to prep them for this paper, to understand her process. There is nothing horribly grammatically incorrect with this passage but, yet, it somehow it doesn’t read quite right.  An inexperienced evaluator might read this passage and mistakenly label it as grammatically inept, be tempted to rewrite her sentences for her, and take many marks off her grade.

I resisted editing sentences, and emailed Melanie back with this response. (I’m the one in purple.)

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Not perfect feedback. I should have commented on the “this” at the start of the last sentence which is missing a clarifier (you’ll note below she didn’t fix it on her own). And Melanie took this feedback, made it her own, and wrote in her final paper a very strong rendition of the method section.

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The highlight on the word knowledge is just my track-changes comment box telling Melanie she made the perfect edits based on the feedback she got. And this is how students learn the discourse of a discipline. They can’t possibly get it right the first time when they have never done it before.

My instructions are really clear. There shouldn’t be any reason for them to screw this up. If you want strong papers from every student, then your instructional process better allow them to write as many drafts as it takes to get there… otherwise, learn to embrace the normal curve. You may think you have written brilliant assignment guidelines. You may think you’ve explained the process of writing your assignment dozens of times but some student will still get it wrong. Some students just need more time and much more feedback to get it to that point. They aren’t all equally skilled and you will never get 50 easy to ready wonderful papers in your mailbox. This is the worst part of our writing pedagogy in the college environment where class sizes are large and the ability to require multiple drafts is labour intensive. I don’t have help with my class of 51 (which is on the small size from typical for my program). I am their only writing support and that in itself is ineffective pedagogy but, I digress. Learning to write takes time and writing and rewriting and rewriting again with strong feedback is the only method to make that happen. If students don’t edit based on feedback it is only because they didn’t understand the feedback they got. The literature is clear about lack of understanding being a huge problem in academic writing feedback.

They don’t do the reading I ask them to do. Chances are they do the reading but they aren’t understanding it. As much as their writing skills are variable, their reading skills are also variable — perhaps even more so. Learning a new disciplinary language is not unlike learning a foreign language. They have to use the language and read the language often to become proficient. Make them read lots and they’ll pick up on the meaning of the discourse, they’ll be able to use it in their writing and their writing will get better — it will sound better to you who are already fluent in your discourse.

Students also have to be able to understand what they are reading to be able to interpret or paraphrase it. So problems with sentences that are intermittently minimally changed from the original in some students’ papers is likely a problem of not having the language to paraphrase. It’s not plagiarism; its poor reading skills (and poor writing skills. They go hand in hand).

What I know to be true is I’d rather put the work in up front before the paper is handed in for grading than leave things to chance and be disappointed by the frustrating results. Your students CAN write and they’ll write better when their instructors don’t instantly assume they are deficient.

 

The Value of Valuing Writing Self-Efficacy: Changing thinking

If Doctoral programs didn’t change your thinking, they wouldn’t be doing their job would they? Here at the start of a new year, I thought I might reflect upon what has happened to my thinking on my planned thesis project to develop a measurement instrument to assess writing self-efficacy.

I finished all my required course work toward my doctoral degree last month and I’m itching for the next steps.  I still have one more course to take and that is an elective I, and my committee, have agreed upon which will fine-tune my skills in measurement of psychological concepts and the statistics of assessing those measurements.  I’m really looking forward to the change in pace as I have been immersed in philosophical ramblings for quite some time now and that is hard thinking. Something a little more “rule based” and structured might be nice. I say that now but I’ll be frustrated, no doubt, by the particulars in no time. In some ways, taking the course is a bit for show on my transcript so no one questions where I got my measurement training from when I go to defend. I would rather sit and read a hundred articles on my own and figure it out with textbooks and conversations. The bad thing about courses is that the structure I just admitted to craving, hems you in. I really hope I have some flexibility in terms of what I read about and how I tackle my assignments but that is usually not the case.

Since 2011 I’ve been studying writing self-efficacy. I’d like to say I fell into that area of research inspired by something profound I read or a conversation I had but it was quite happenstance and to some degree arbitrary. I had read nothing. I just knew my students lacked self-efficacy about their abilities to write the paper I assigned them. I’ve since read a lot and my thinking has shaped — it is a little less a big lump of clay… it’s taking form. I have opinions. I am developing expertise.

Before I even entered my PhD program I had conducted three studies and a questionnaire review on the topic. I knew when I was writing my please-admit-me letter that I wanted to develop a measurement instrument to measure writing self-efficacy. Nothing about that has changed. I’m going forth. But my thinking about how to approach the project has changed a lot. One of my classmates just asked me recently how it is I’ve managed to get this far and not change my topic.* (She, incidentally, has changed her study focus three times). My response was, first, that it was a bit of pragmatism…. the most direct route to graduation so I could get on with doing exciting and meaningful stuff.

My second response was that it had changed, philosophically. I wouldn’t have considered myself a theoretical thinker when I wrote that admission letter — that turns out to be absolutely not true, and slightly lacking in self-awareness. The originall vision was straight up statistical psychometrics. But, partially because I had to for a course, I developed a constructivist model of writing (for nursing) — bracketed for a reason — which I revised and sent back to a journal at their request over the holidays. But the reading for that has lead to other thoughts about writing self-efficacy, my chosen concept. I chose the concept when I had read nothing but now I have read plenty.

  1. Constructivism is the road to better measurement of writing self-efficacy. Writing has been through three epistemological shifts (product, process, social) that happened in fairly rapid succession and the tools that measure writing self-efficacy reflect that. The earliest tools assessed it by grammar fault and ability to construct sentences and be clear. Later ones took a more cognitive process, motivational, self-regulation, perspective. But none of the tools take a social constructivist perspective. Some of the tools have the occasional item that brushes up against constructivism but they don’t capture all the social aspects of writing bound to affect writing self-efficacy. How do I know this? I did the work and it was published in the Journal of Nursing Measurement along with an accompanying editorial.
  2. Writing self-efficacy does not have as strong of a relationship to grades as we would like to think. I certainly have not seen any convincing evidence in my own studies or anyone else, that it actually predicts grades…. at least not in a real-world relevant way. (In health research they would call what I am talking about clinical significance.) Part of this prediction failure is related to context. People assess their self-efficacy based on previous performance but in the face of a new teacher, a new subject, a new discipline, new rules, they may assess their own ability poorly. I for example would tell you right now that I believe I have fairly strong skills and knowledge of measurement based on the reading I’ve done and my research experience. I should ace my measurement course without difficulty. But I’m walking into a course on Friday in a new discipline (psychology), with an unknown professor, into a post-positivist world when I have been firmly living in social constructs for the past year, and I may really have no hot clue how well I’ll perform or live up to expectations. Writing self-efficacy may not be able to adequately predict grades. It may however predict the behaviours you require to get a good grade. It may also predict your willingness to keep writing. The only thing that will make your writing grades better is more writing. And are grades really a good reflection of the quality of a writing product anyway? Food for thought.
  3. I believe that the way in which people cognitively interact with a questionnaire and come to a decision on what score to give themselves is a complex process. And this is one part of my thesis project that has evolved dramatically. I was going to do straight up psychometrics — factor analysis, multivariate statistics — but I want to know more than that. So I will develop the questionnaire based on my constructivist theory and I will do think-aloud interviews with students to assess how they interpret the items and come to a decision on how to score themselves. Cognitive interviewing, the psychologists call it. So the project has become more qualitative. I will also use a delphi panel to help me with final edits. The question is, what comes first, the delphi or the think-aloud interviews…. Hmmm.
  4. I’m becoming more interdisciplinary in my thinking. Strange since I’ve been immersed in the nursing world for all my courses and my teaching but what I am doing is not just for nursing. I’m discovering quickly that my work will spread further if I quit spinning it for nursing journals. I published the questionnaire paper and it was really good. The theory paper is awesome and I called it a theory for nursing education but…… it is a theory for all disciplines. It’s almost too bad that I sent it to a nursing journal but I also had some bones to pick with nursing and their writing publications so it is OK there. I’ve published a few other studies that have had some interesting findings and I’ve had more than one moment of being ready to lose my shit with some of the overly structured rules attached to some nursing journals. I nearly pulled one submission recently because of that. I had a great journal choice in educational psychology all picked out as my target for resubmitting and then when I went to read the paper for fit, it was all nursing this, nursing that.…… and it was going to be more work to remove the nursing spin than I was willing to do. I just want the damn paper published. I fear that the psychology people doing work in writing self-efficacy won’t find my papers in order to cite them. They will be unlikely to search CINAHL for this topic — for good reason.
  5. My study needs to be about more than about undergraduate writing. I was going to only interview undergrads but the fact of the matter is that I do want the questionnaire to be applicable to research on grad students as well. I also don’t want the questionnaire to be only applicable to nursing education. It needs to be interdisciplinary.

I need to be thinking about writing my research proposal soon even though I am about a year away from being ready to move to that stage. I’ve written now 4-5 papers that have required me to summarize and present a review of the literature on writing self-efficacy. It is going to be tough to find yet another way to write about the same findings without self-plagairising.

I still have a lot of reading left to do. The pile in the photo is all the articles that I have collected since summer of things I want to read. Some of those articles are about construct validity in writing and assessing writing outcomes so I hope to fit them into my  work this term. Hence, since I often focus this blog, and my Twitter on what I am currently focusing on, there may be a little bit of a flavour change in what I write about for the next three months as I explore measurement, and hopefully, measurement as it relates to writing.

 

*In some ways, I would love to change my topic. I have been introduced to all kinds of shiny things that have grabbed my passions — eg. Narrative Inquiry, for one. But I have a committee now set up to get me through a measurement project so I carry on. And, this IS the next step in my work, this tool development. The big qualitative study will come after.

Is Social Media the Creation of a Never-Ending Research Story? 

“At its heart, research is storytelling.”

How do we know our research has impact? What science seems to value in terms of impact is metric based: number of publications, citation counts, uptake of an intervention into practice. But research is a social process perhaps even more than it is a measured process and what if you do the kind of research that seeks social change, or change in beliefs, or adoption of new attitudes? What if your research explores how individuals learn and adopt that learning into their identity?  In those venues, measurement is irrelevant. How could we possibly count how many people change their behaviour or beliefs based on our research?

My focus as PhD student this term has been knowledge translation. Knowledge translation goes by many alternative names — knowledge mobilization, knowledge diffusion, the movement of theory and research into practice — just to name a few.  This focus has caused me innumerable struggles. What does research impact mean when what you are trying to do with your work is invoke a paradigm shift about writing in a health discipline (nursing)?  Traditional discussions of KT and the oft-cited Canadian Institutes of Health Research definition, take a very linear approach – top down, some might say.  You do research. You get practitioners (knowledge users) to implement your research. Success happens. How successful might depend on how quickly that happens (rate of uptake). The knowledge translation model may seem simple if your research is about use a of a new drug to treat a disease symptom but less simple if you are looking at insidious changes that happen in practice attitudes and beliefs.

No matter your research focus, you aren’t getting through a grant application without explaining how you will share your research.  In practice-based disciplines, such as nursing or education, this is a tricky  obligation. We know from our lived experience that when we have a real-world problem, we and our colleagues, don’t immediately go to the library databases and search for a solution.  Our problems are more context-based and require solutions that consider that context. For example:

How do we get students to understand what we mean when we say we want them to integrate reflection and literature into their assignments?

How do I make this rubric assess what I want it to assess on this specific assignment?

As educators most of our knowledge doesn’t come from books. It comes from experience. When we have an immediate problem in our work our first search for knowledge involves walking down the hall and knocking on the door of a colleague or mentor.  That colleague usually responds with a story. Remember the time when…. ? or I had a student once who…. ? And we absorb these stories into our own experience and it changes who we are as educators. It changes what we know and how we practice. This is our mechanism for learning. This is our mechanism for change.

So my struggles with knowledge translation (and the more pragmatic requirement that I write a paper worth 50% of a grade on the subject) have made me ponder my existence on social media. I started the @academicswrite persona to talk about my research — to talk about all change that needs to happen in academia surrounding writing. It occurred to me while reading about the various modes of knowledge translation that I had created for myself a mode of community building and knowledge translation. But through what mechanism does social media work as a knowledge translation strategy? Is social media the creation of a never-ending research story? Is social media a mechanism for social change, and by extension, the uptake of (educational) research into practice?

But change is hard. And in academic writing you are coming up against belief systems that are outdated, emotionally charged, opinionated. There are so many faulty assumptions in academia, especially in the disciplines, about academic writing. I’ve written before about how academic writing instruction is devalued so I will not repeat those points here. In writing there is also a novice to expert trajectory that influences the academic community.  There will always be new people coming into that community that will scream loudly at the top of their lungs that student grammar is so bad and it makes their writing unreadable and this is the fault of someone else — high school teachers, the intro to writing teacher, texting culture.

(Novices can only see grammar problems. Experts can see past the grammar to the real causes of those writing problems that appear to be grammar.)

So, I have to write this final paper and I decided I’m going to tackle the role of social media in creating communities of practice through networked participation, because without knowing it, a year and three months ago when I started this blog and its sister-Twitter account, I was formulating the beginnings of my KT plan. And this KT plan works through a complex web of identity building, storytelling, and the changing of belief systems — a complex blending of the personal and the professional.  Drawing inspiration from Naomi Barnes, a member of my Twitter community, I can see how the relationship between Twitter and Blogs is a subtle process of knowledge building.

It starts with a Tweet that is a small spark. That spark may not look anything like the idea that is brewing inside. In fact, it might appear in your Twitter feed and go by completely unnoticed.

Your psyche may be sensitive to the topic so that you start to see it everywhere.

I tell my research story through tweets. I research and read papers on the topic and I tweet about what I read.

Then I write this blog you read now as a preliminary sketch of my thinking on the topic. The comments I get about the blog and the tweets will continue to shape my thinking. The blog will inform what I write in the formal paper to meet the requirements of my course. That formal paper may turn into a publication. The publication will be released and I’ll tweet about it. More twitter conversations will ensue. I may write a blog telling additional research stories that relate to the publication. I’ll create a larger narrative of my research which adds to the collective meaning and knowing on the subject.

I see blogging and social media as the construction of an ongoing story that blends the personal and the professional.  Because academic writing and publishing is one thing but blogging and micro-blogging, like Twitter, are a whole other genre of writing. A genre created for persuasive purposes. Through my Twitter (primarily) and my blog I’m telling a story that has no beginning and it has no end but that story is intended to seep into your emotions, your psyche, and your identity. And I’m doing it all though telling you stories that contain fundamental truths by using conventions that are part fact and part fiction.

But how do we use storytelling to persuade and create change through social media?

  1. Stories lead to reflection – I’ve often said on my Twitter account I am not a writing tipster but I do aim to inspire. If I make you think about your writing approach, even if what I say just resonates, I will improve your writing process. That improvement may come through simply providing you with assurance that the way you write is not abnormal. I may provide you with the courage to try something new whether it be in your own writing, or in how you guide your students. I will make you think.
  2. Stories create meaning – Meaning comes through creating a supportive relational space. Telling stories to help new community members feel belonging means you take your work seriously and the work of your colleague’s seriously too. These stories move our theory into practice because those experiences are lived.
  3. Stories “freeze thoughts out of context” – Social media becomes a permanent record of thought and its evolution. You can trace your own evolution of thinking through the trail of tweets you leave behind and by the correspondence it elicits.
  4. Stories create community by binding a listener and the teller together –Transformation may occur within a listener/reader in how they view themselves and how they view others. Empathy results. I follow people on Twitter based on who I can learn from. I follow scholars of different races and genders, ages and stages of life, different socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds. They tweet about their lived experiences which are different from mine. I don’t always interfere with their stories by commenting but I read and I learn and I come to understand.
  5. Stories evolve with discussion – we tweet and we write blogs and other contribute to the conversation, and by creating that conversation our thinking changes.
  6. Telling your story teaches others how to tell their own stories – when we tell stories we encourage others to tell their own stories. By listening to the stories of those with experience we can absorb their stories into our own sense of identity. Having an identity within a community means a sense of belonging will develop. In this way, the community continues to change and the collective knowledge developed within this situated learning is in constant evolution.

Storytelling is one of the mechanisms through which our practices change. Social media can facilitate that.  Please comment or tweet at me the aspects of storytelling that work in your community and networks. It will most certainly inform the paper I will write about this process.