A PWR-full Summer: Snapshots from Summer Classes
Although summer sees a break in the regular school year rhythm (PWR lecturers' lives aren’t always measured out in 11 week intervals), teaching has been in full swing during the nominal fourth quarter. As Christine Alfano wrote in her spring column on what goes on behind the scenes during a PWR summer, nearly a third of PWR’s lecturers taught at Stanford this summer!
PWR’s summer classes have been developed to serve a wide-range of student demographics: high school students, incoming athletes, transfer students, international students, FLI (First-Generation Low Income) students, and sophomores looking to get a head start on the coming year.
I reached out to PWR colleagues teaching this summer and asked them to share highlights from their summer courses, and what kind of mindset they were seeing among their students.
Here’s a compilation of their responses and a peek at the range of courses serving a variety of student groups this summer.
John Peterson (PWR 1A – “Introduction to Writing at Stanford," for incoming frosh athletes): “A highlight was discovering how many of these highly competitive, high achieving students wanted to research stress and other mental health issues associated with being an elite athlete. They were inspired by the stories of Simon Biles and Naomi Osaka, who each spoke openly about their concern for their mental health when they dropped out of competition while at the top of their sports. We learned how investigation of lived experience and published scholarship combine as powerful parts of a research process.”
Erik Ellis (PWR 1D – “Writing Academic Arguments: The Art of the Essay," for high school students): “I loved teaching in person this summer. We met in Hume 201. When no Boot Camps were going on, walking into the dark building and ascending the somber staircase made me feel like I should be holding a candelabra and clearing away cobwebs. But once I entered 201, students lit up the world with their good vibes. We had a lot of great conversations, and they always volunteered to read sample student essays or to share their own work in progress. I savored the spontaneous applause after an international student read her dramatic scene about how her 'peaceful walk' to the market turned into an eye-opening and infuriating confrontation with sexual harassment, which she smoothly connected to anti-abortion rhetoric. For their rhetorical analysis essays, students analyzed everything from Trader Joe’s to Mexican artist Antonio Arias Bernal’s WW II propaganda playing cards. Another highlight of the summer was blasting Bartok and Phoebe Bridgers in succession—two examples students came up with of how successful music, like successful writing, often follows the itch-and-scratch trajectory that Peter Elbow elucidates.”
Helen Lie (PWR 2HLA --“Decoding Academic Persuasion: How Researchers Persuade Audiences”): “I had an interesting mix of mindsets in the class; a few students who loaded up during the summer to get ahead, and several others who struggled with writing or speaking anxiety and took PWR 2 during the summer so they could focus on fulfilling their requirement. Students moved at an individualized pace and appreciated having flexible deadlines. Students also had the option to present from a seated position; I had a few takers for the ORP and one for the ODR. With just 8 students, the class felt more laid back than during the academic year. The smaller size also helped students with anxiety feel more at ease." A highlight: "During the breaks students would sit in the classroom and talk about random things, which was very entertaining and informative, from their unanimous critiques of the Res Ed neighborhood system to enthusiastic recommendations of YouTube channels (e.g. 'Professor Dave Explains') to share with my non-STEM 10th grade daughter, who, I had told them, was taking chemistry over the summer.”
Arturo Heredia (PWR 2AH – “Ethnic Narratives and the Rhetoric of American Identity): “I always get self-selected students interested in the subject of ethnic narratives. However, for me, teaching through Zoom is always an opportunity to rephrase or re-design all my assignments, especially for the in-class activities. The goal is always to encourage students to foster a sense of community through Zoom. And now I have a set of revised assignments I can consult as I get ready for this fall quarter."
Mutallip Anwar (SOAR Writing Class, for incoming frosh, including FLI and international students): “I am absolutely loving my summer class…half of my students are international students and the other half are from all over the US.
"They are all so enthusiastic and eager learners. It's been such a pleasure working with these students over the past four weeks. The curriculum is very well designed (huge kudos to Christine and other veteran SOAR lecturers). It does such a great job of introducing students to a variety of genres and provides excellent scaffolding throughout the process to ensure they successfully complete the writing tasks. One of the assignments is a literacy narrative. I got to learn so much about them and their prior educational experiences from their literacy narratives. Reading them was definitely one of the highlights of teaching SOAR and allowed me to connect with the students at a deeper level.”
Harriett Jernigan (SOAR): “The incoming frosh this summer are just as excited as last year’s. Unfortunately, I think they’re still dealing with the residue of the heaviest days of the pandemic as well.” Among the course highlights, Harriett reflect that “I think the excerpt students read from Ta Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me left a deep impression on the students. It resonated deeply with marginalized and underrepresented students in particular” and that her students “really enjoyed playing ‘Spot the Troll,’ an online exercise about distinguishing between real and fake social media profiles. They were surprised at how often they mistook a fake profile for a real one, and it made them consider their sources more carefully.”
Meg Formato and Lisa Swan (Leland Scholars Program, residential program for 90 incoming FLI students): In summer 2022, Dr. Formato and Dr. Swan designed a new writing course for LSP helping students explore their voices in academic writing. “Our goal was to empower students to bring their voices, knowledge, and experiences by writing a literacy narrative and op-ed essay. Focusing less on research, we opened up opportunities to practice ways of reading and annotations, storytelling and descriptive language, and varying forms of evidence. We used our Friday classes as writing for non-academic purposes, complete with field trips to the Cantor Art Center, the Hume Center, and the Windhover Contemplative Center.”
Jennifer Johnson (LSP): “Building on a curriculum developed over different years of the Leland Scholars Program, Nissa Cannon, Becky Richardson and I worked together to develop a new course, 'Introduction to Collaborative Research at Stanford' grounded by the LSP capstone: the Research Poster Presentation. We each taught one section of 30 students holding 6 research groups based on student preferences, with diverse topics in the Humanities, STEM and the Social Sciences. The course integrated support from different campus resources: all 18 research teams visited a Hume writing tutor at the Hume Center, received support from an external research mentor across disciplines, and engaged with Oral Communication Tutors at a Research Pitch Workshop. With a central focus on collaboration in academic spaces, the class configuration featuring research teams offered us unique opportunities to rethink our group work pedagogy at each stage of their research process. From facilitating a collective research question brainstorm to strategies for cowriting a research proposal, these are collaborative practices that will prepare students for learning contexts across Stanford and beyond. Each class, students kept Individual Research Logs where they tracked their roup’s research process and shared individual reflections on the highlights and challenges of collaboration. For me, it was a joy to follow their research journeys in these logs, as they built an understanding of the writing and research process as social, often sharing behind-the-scenes stories of collaboration that fueled their work.”