Integrating Writing in an Introductory Course on Linguistics

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Panayiotis Pappas, Department of Linguistics

Project team: Meghan Jeffrey, Irina Presnyakova, and Fiona Margaret Wilson research assistants

Timeframe: May 2014 to May 2015

Funding: $5,000

Course addressed: LING 220 – Introduction to Linguistics

Final Report: View Panos Pappas' final project report (PDF)

Description: Currently, the Department of Linguistics does not have a writing intensive (W) course at the lower division. This gap creates issues for students who try to take the upper division linguistics courses, as they are not well prepared to construct linguistic arguments in brief essay form. In order to address this problem, LING 220 will be developed as a writing intensive course.

LING 220 is the introductory course to all of our programs and certificates. It is a survey course, which covers all of the major components of human language (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics). Although the different components of language have very different content, the reasoning and argumentation involved in all of them is very similar: It revolves around the discovery of patterns, their description, and the use of rules to relate several superficially different forms to a single linguistic unit. One aspect of this process that differentiates linguistics from other fields is that frequently we rely on what cannot be said (e.g., teached) in order to determine the precise nature of these rules. Thus argumentation in linguistics is a unique skill that needs to be taught to students entering our program.

This grant will help us develop a suite of writing assignments that work with the survey nature of the course, as well as determine what types of feedback are most effective. We expect that this will provide our students with the fundamental argumentation skills that are necessary for their success in upper division courses.

Questions addressed:

  • Which assignments used in this course are most amenable to being developed as written assignments
  • How effective are the assignments chosen in terms of student writing performance?
  • What types of feedback are best for developing elementary argumentation skills in a survey course?
  • How do students perceive their learning from different types of assignments and from different types of feedback?
  • How do instructors and TAs perceive the effectiveness of the assignments and the different types of feedback?

Knowledge sharing: I currently collaborate with a team of seven instructors who will be the first point of dissemination. I will also give a colloquium in our Department once the study is completed.   

Pappas, P. A., Taboada, M., & Alexander K. (2017, May). Teaching Linguistic Argumentation through a writing-intensive approach. Paper presented at the 9th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for the Study of Discourse and Writing (CASDW), Toronto, ON.