Coordinator's Corner: Naming What We Really Value in the Lunsfords

Coordinator's Corner: Naming What We Really Value in the Lunsfords

By Cassie Wright

Sharp slide decks, moving vocal delivery, timely argument, exceptional evidence and research methods, a certain je ne sais quoi... What is it that we find so compelling about Lunsford presentations? How do we evaluate this student work, equitably, reliably, and validly? How might we help students learn the rhetorical skills requisite of effective oral presentation of research? And how might we work toward creating a shared vocabulary to articulate what we value in this assignment?

Naming what we really value - a phrase inspired by Bob Broad’s so-named book What We Really Value -- remains at the forefront of my service as PWR 2 Coordinator.  As everyone who has taught PWR 2 knows, at the heart of PWR 2 is the oral delivery of research assignment and the Lunsford Awards. And getting students from the research proposal to the Lunsford presentation can be somewhat intimidating for the first time PWR 2 instructor. While orientation offers a beginning conversation about PWR 2 curriculum, it is but a first step.

So I am grateful for all the work that goes on behind the scenes to continue supporting PWR 2 instructors. For example, over the past two years, in an attempt to create an effective archive of presentation materials that instructors might more easily access and use in their own courses, the Publications Committee and ATS Jenae Cohn has developed an archive of annotated Lunsford materials for use in the teaching classroom. These clips are a great starting point for thinking through naming what we value in the Lunsfords and for providing practical teaching materials for new PWR 2 instructors trying on some of these terms for the first time.

Like Chris Kamrath’s work with the Boothe essay, I also wanted to help show students that Lunsford judging wasn’t just about evaluating student work but also honoring it; that PWR values public speaking and sharing student work with a broader audience; that the work students do in our PWR 2 classes matters.

Like all good artists, then, I imitate, and give credit where it’s do. Thank you, Chris for modeling an effective two-part evaluation system with Boothe judging. It was invaluable in helping me think through ways to make Lunsford evaluation more manageable, reliable, and transparent.  

In truth, I also rely a lot on the help and skill of our invaluable Academic Technology Specialist, Jenae Cohn, for coordinating and archiving slide decks, video editing, and publishing of materials. Lunsford judging really couldn’t get up and running without her labor and time. Thank you, Jenae, for continuing to work quietly and steadily behind the scenes.

Thank you, too, Jenne Stonaker, whose impeccable administrative acumen was invaluable in helping me think through archivability and sustainability of a new two-phase rubric driven approach to scoring Lunsfords. In particular, Jenne and I had collaborated closely on the Notation in Science Communication ePortfolio initiative, thinking through language for the ePortfolio scoring rubrics and ways to model this process; I had also served as a reader for NSC applicants under her tenure as NSC Coordinator. I saw how Jenne was streamlining and archiving the application rubric for scorers, and how instructors adapted quickly to the GoodgleSheet interface; so I went with what worked and adapted her format to the Lunsfords Awards judging process this past year.

Our current Lunsford judging process remains dialogic and collaborative, and we regularly seek feedback from judges in the nominee and finalists rounds regarding usability, efficacy, and general thoughts/suggestions, all of the materials of which are being archived in annual outcomes reports for forthcoming PWR 2 Course Coordinators. Every so often, we tweak scoring language to more accurately reflect what we value. Last year, for example, Helen Lie helped steward an inclusive statement about World Englishes in our delivery scoring criterion. Thank you, Helen, for helping bring thoughtful inclusive language to our assessment practice. And, true to our program’s cultural rhetorics mission, we have also included a statement about valuing non-ableist and alternative modes of embodied and vocal delivery to more accurately honor and model cultural rhetorical difference in our winner’s archive.

My colleagues showed me “how” to create an efficient assessment workflow. As to the “why” of our workflow, I knew I wanted to apply Brian Huot’s proverb about local assessment. Too, I want to go back to Bob Broad. In particular, Broad’s theory of dynamic criteria mapping (DCM), defined as “locally-informed, context-sensitive criteria for writing assessments,” has informed my thinking about our evaluation practices around Lunsfords (Broad, What We Really Value).  Drawing on PWR 2 course learning outcome language and Ed White’s and my work with assessment, I have worked with PWR leadership and instructors, user-testing and revising scoring sheets to develop a pretty solid two-round rubric-driven scoring system that we’ve been using for the past two years. It’s not exactly “beyond rubrics” as Broad would like, and there’s more work to do here to better align our practice with DCM, but I think we’re headed in the right direction. Thus far, the outcomes data seems to suggest things are going pretty well. Judges and leadership appreciate distinguishing a group of finalists from nominees both because it creates a new way of honoring a greater cohort of students as “finalists” (we hope to also fold this acknowledgement formerly into the Lunsford Award Ceremony this year) and the two-part system helps to reduce overall and distribute general time and labor required of lecturers to help evaluate student presentations.

And lest I risk sounding like some sort of cliched awards speech, I hope you permit one final thank you. Thank you, all, because I really do rely on the goodwill and teamwork of instructors to help support an organic and dynamic process of naming what we value. Every quarter I learn from and alongside my colleagues as I listen to them name what they value in these presentations--how they teach the assignment, what impressed them about the finalists and nominees, and how they would use current and past winners’ videos in their classrooms. This was most palpable this past fall in the “Naming What We Really Value” workshop Chris K and I co-ran in September Sessions 2018. In my breakout PWR 2 session, we once more distributed the scoring card and invited participants to evaluate three different oral research proposals. We then invited participants to break out in small groups and share their rationale and discuss the consensus/dissensus amongst each other. The workshop was more an invitation to ask questions, open up conversation, and learn from each other rather than standardize and narrow our teaching practice--a small step in coming closer to creating a shared vocabulary that helps us name what we value in the Lunsfords. Language that we hope will remain inclusive and support cultural rhetorics, that will be flexible and feasible enough to apply to our own classrooms, and that is responsive to and respectful of the students we teach. This most of all.

In What We Really Value, Bob Broad writes, “At the heart of what we do is the student, striving to learn and succeed.”  “Learning to write well” and here most rhetors and PWR and OCP would stress speak well, “is clearly one of the most powerful elements in any person’s potential for success in personal life, professional life, and democratic citizenship.” As PWR 2 Course Coordinator, it has been humbling to labor in these efforts, trying to respect and reduce the labor of all involved and improve our teaching and assessment outcomes in the process. I hope these changes are welcome, and I welcome feedback if and when they are not.