Trine professor’s research project awarded $10,000 grant

WitteAn ongoing research project conducted by a Trine University professor along with two colleagues from other institutions has received a grant from the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC).

Alison Witte, Ph.D., associate professor in Trine’s Department of Humanities and Communication; Kerri Haumann, Ph.D., assistant professor at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky; and Stacy Kastner, Ph.D., associate writing center director at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island; received a $10,000 CCCC Emergent Researcher Award for “Techno-Ecologies and Professional Development: Profiles from CCCC Certificate of Writing Excellence Awardees.”

The project, which began in 2011, seeks to determine how college professors who teach writing are trained to use technology in their instruction. During the current phase, the researchers will visit at least six institutions that have received the College Composition and Communication Writing Program of Excellence Award, given to college writing programs or support services such as a writing center. The team will study how these institutions provide technology professional development for writing instructors.

“We have chosen to work with these winners because one of the criteria is excellence in professional development for faculty and staff,” said Witte. “The research team will interview faculty as well as undergraduate and graduate students, as well as many other staff members.”

The grant money will be used to cover the cost of travel and transcription services.  

The project began when the team studied how technology pedagogy instruction is integrated into Ph.D. curricula. Results from that study were published in the journal Pedagogy.

“From that project, we learned we needed to think bigger and look at more than just curricula, and the current project came from that,” Witte said.

The research has included a literature review of more than 70 documents from professional organizations to determine what their recommendations or guidelines are for integrating technology with writing instruction.

“We discovered there really aren’t any specific guidelines, and that led us to realize we needed to study what people in successful programs and schools are actually doing,” Witte commented.

“We ultimately hope to be able to better articulate — by providing a set of case studies — what it means to be prepared to teach digital writing, and what it means to be provided with ongoing support and development for teaching digital writing,” she said. “These case studies will provide a much-needed catalogue of professional development models for preparing and sustaining instructors who teach digital writing.”

Among the most interesting findings to date, Witte said, are that there is no consensus about what it means to prepare college-level instructors to teach writing using technology. There also is no consensus about who is responsible for providing such preparation to college-level teachers.

“This is why we chose to study each school’s system for doing so — the responsibility for this process is generally distributed among many people and offices,” said Witte,

Once complete, the project will be released as a digital book, with each chapter profiling the systems of professional development at one of the schools. The team hopes to have its research complete by 2019.

The CCCC is part of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).