Monday, May 1, 2017

Read About Student Philanthropist

Socrates proudly supports Deidre Kearnes

I briefly met Deirdra Kearns ’17, when she was raising funds for “Pay It Forward” by selling wristbands and other takeaways in the Campus Center of Farmingdale State College. Her strong enthusiasm and commitment for this project was evident to me, and to anyone who stopped by to speak with her. And, yes, I bought a wristband, which is proudly worn as a laurel by Socrates in my office (right).

Click here for the full story from Farmingdale State College.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Grad and Author returns to Address Students

Prof Gold and George Resch at FSC
Farmingdale State College (FSC) alum and author George Resch (’05) recently spoke with the Professional Communication Majors Honor Society, Lambda Pi Eta. He stressed the importance of the Professional Communications degree from FSC, discussed his growing popularity as an Instagram celebrity (@tank.sinatra), and acknowledged how that informed his decision to publish his first self-help book, Happy is the New Rich. He also explained the painstaking process of writing a book. Resch offered valuable advice about the importance of trying, failing, and trying again. After taking questions, the Farmingdale-graduate read some of his favorite quotes from Happy is the New Rich. George was recently interviewed as an expert on social media by the ABC Newsmagazine Nightline. You can follow him on Instagram (@tank.sinatra) while waiting for his book, which should soon be available on!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Becoming a Scholar of Authentic Learning (ODU ENGL 810, Paper 6, 15 December 2016)

Rhetoric > Composition> Authentic Learning > OoS> Authentic Learning > My Scholarly Contributions (Final version)

My planned Scholarship on the discipline of Authentic Learning

I plan on studying how and why Authentic Learning improves undergraduates’ writing skills, and the transference of those abilities across disciplines. Authentic Learning writing artifacts are the final deliverable or document prepared by the student for consideration by a non-academic consumer (such as an editor or client); the students work could be submitted with or without final instructor assessment indicated by an academic grade. A final deliverable or document can be traditional paper-printed or digital and accessible online.  

Does It Improve Pass Rates and Student Satisfaction?

Recent studies of Authentic Learning focus on small, class-sized cohorts. Nadia Malik published her study focusing on a small group of NYC college students in the Costume Pathway theatre arts program (2016). Her stated outcomes included students developing “self-awareness and analytical and reflective thinking… to improve [their] written communication,” to enrich learning experiences and develop transferable skills for industry-ready graduates (Malik). During the same period but on the other side of the pond, Dr. Justine Simpson published findings of her six-year small-scale study reviewing “quantitative and qualitative data” of 180 undergraduates at Leeds Beckett University
(UK). She compared six years of pass rates and student satisfaction, three years before and three years after instituting Authentic Learning methods (Simpson).

For my study, it has been suggested that I conduct student interviews at the end of the semester to identify if student success is related to how my class is structured, a quantified instruction technique that the students feel is relevant, or my “stellar, charismatic personality” (Laws).  That last one is not as ridiculous as it seems. “Personality,” or humor, is documented as a successful teaching tool bonding students and teachers, and improving relevance, retention and application of lessons for students  (Abbas, Darweesh and Aziz). Those are essential for students to effectively transfer skills from the classroom to the workplace.

Authentic Learning, Project Based Learning, and Applied Learning

The State University of New York (SUNY) mixes authentic, project based, and applied learning as one effort across their colleges and universities. SUNY further defines “activities [that] must meet these criteria as one criteria for Approved Applied Learning Activities.” The course activities must (Puff, Allison):

1.      Be Structured, intentional and authentic

2.      Require preparation, orientation, and training

3.      Include monitoring and continuous improvement

4.      Require structured reflection and acknowledgement

5.      Be assessed and evaluated

Professional Knowledge

As a successful, working, and published technical writer, I know from professional knowledge that strong writing skills transfer across industries, document formats, and genres. Real-world assessments occur outside the academy by professional editors or real customers with no input from an instructor. Students in my classes are challenged and engaged with a semester-long, iterative process of selecting their writing topics and walking through documentation procedures that may result in publication outside the college. Having students choose their writing topic themselves gives them sole responsibility for identifying what Dr. Audrey Rule, professor of curriculum and instruction at SUNY Oswego calls “a path to the solution.”
In his classic book of advice for beginning writers, “On Writing Well,” William Zinsser says that “Writers are the custodians of memory.” We glean facts from written records (paper and online), but the actual, detailed, and nuanced information is what a writer collects by speaking with a subject matter expert. That interview occurs in every writing genre, including journalism, medical writing, technical writing, and any writing that involves getting facts from someone else.

Grounded Theory

Understanding how Authentic Learning impacts successful communication across the disciplines and into the real world improves by using Grounded Theory, which is “grounded in data systematically gathered and analyzed” (Corbin). Grounded Theory is an approach for developing theory that is "grounded in data systematically gathered and analyzed" (Strauss& Corbin, qtd by Cohen). Dr. Joyce Ness, ODU English professor emeritus, contends that instead of focusing on a single, limiting question or thesis, grounded theory studies all the players in an arena.

Ness points out that the players in my study could be the instructors, the students (published and unpublished), editors or those accepting student work for publication or distribution, and the audience (Ness). My study will focus on several categories of people (“players”) including undergraduate students in my classes (who are published at an unusually high rate from a small school); the professional editors or real customers reviewing and possibly accepting student work, and faculty leading classes subject to this study (including me and hopefully at least one control group).

Grounded Theory uses these three types of coding to identify research elements (Cohen):
1.      Open coding assigns categories for examination. Categories here could be students initially seeking and obtaining publication, those who seek publication but whose work is rejected, and those who did not seek publication.
2.      Axial coding groups similar categories for creative and statistical comparison.
3.      Selective coding “integrates the categories…in a way that articulates a coherent understanding or theory of the phenomenon of study.”


Melding ODU and SUNY Guidelines

Implementing this study on a SUNY campus requires first resolving conflicting definitions of authentic learning. For ODU, standards for Ph.D. research requires focusing on one discipline for a dissertation. For the purposes of this study, authentic learning has previously been limited an academic definition: “Authentic Learning writing artifacts are the final deliverable or document prepared by the student for consideration by a non-academic consumer (such as an editor or client).”

Conducting this study at any campus requires using student work, which also requires obtaining approval of the Campus Institutional Review Board (IRB). The Farmingdale State IRB will ask for this proposal to also obtain approval of the Applied Learning Committee (ALC) at Farmingdale State College to meet the broader SUNY “Criteria for Approved Applied Learning Activities,” described above (Puff, Allison). I have spoken informally with members of the ALC, offering a possible solution. They are eager to see this study proceed and support using the more formal academic definition, above.


This work will include the five standards from SUNY. It was agreed that this study will also require that artifacts be subject to review by a non-academic professional without regard of an academic instructor’s grade, and that students show an ability to effectively transfer skills from the classroom to the workplace.
I first imagined performing this study years ago, but felt that my small sampling of only three years’ data was insufficient to develop a clear conclusion. Now, with over a decade of data from my classes, I can compare the next three year’s results parallel to a control class run by another faculty member.  That will provide results that can be quantified, codified, and shared with other instructors as a pedagogical model for using Authentic Learning to move students towards mainstream publication.



Abbas, Al-Duleimi, Deygan Darweesh and Rana Naji Aziz. "Humour As EFL Learning-Teaching Strategy." Journal Of Education And Practice 7.10 (2016): 105-115. ERIC. 03 Dec 2016. .

Cohen D, Crabtree B. "Qualitative Research Guidelines Project." July 2006. Retrieved 01 November 2016.
Corbin, J.. & Strauss, A. "Grounded theory method: Procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria." Qualitative Sociology 13.3 (1990): 3-21. Web. 03 Dec 2016.

Glaser, Barney G. (1965) “The Constant Comparative Method of Qualitative Analysis.” Social Problems, Vol. 12, No. 4 (Spring, 1965), pp. 436-445. Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. Stable URL:
Laws, Joaanna. "ODU English 810:." Howard Gold, 9 Nov 2016. Academic Blog.
Malik, Nadia. "Pedagogies applied to develop student self-awareness and written self-evaluations: A costume case study." Art, Design & Communication In Higher Education 15.2 (2016): 161-174. Web. 03 Dec 2016.
Ness, Joyce. Theories and Methods: Grounded Theory (Paper 4, ODU810, H. Gold) Howard Gold. October 2016. Blog. 05 December 2016.
Puff, Allison. "Criteria for Approved Applied Learning Activities." 2016. Farmingdale State College. Web. 13 Dec 2016.
Rule, Audrey. "Editorial: The Components of Authentic Learning." Journal of Authentic Learning 3.1 (2006): 1-10. Web. 27 Nov 2016.
Simpson, Justine. "Authentic Learning – Does It Improve Pass Rates and Student Satisfaction?" Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice 4.2 (2016): 62-76. Web. 3 Dec 2016.

Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1994). "Grounded Theory Methodology." In NK Denzin & YS Lincoln (Eds.) Handbook of Qualitative Research (pp. 217-285). Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications.
Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. New York: Quill, 1976. Dec3 2016.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

OoSes: Authentic Learning (Paper 5, ODU810, H. Gold)

Rhetoric > Composition> Authentic Learning > Authentic Writing

Writing is not like painting where you add.…
Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove,
you eliminate in order to make the work visible.
- Elie Wiesel (1988)

Problem Statement

College undergraduates often do not understand the importance and value of writing a formal, well-researched essay. After graduation, their prospective employers have a reasonable expectation that students with a bachelor’s degree should be able to write lucid materials worthy of distribution or publication. However, that basic expectation is often not satisfied (Hart, 2008). College students do not have a consistent program providing proof of that capability (Buckman, 2007), and there is no reasonable and tangible means to encourage students to strive for personal excellence in writing skills (CCCH, 1995).
Nearly 50 years ago, the CCCH concluded that it is impossible to provide a basis verifying a teacher’s competence or expertise on subject matter skills, classroom habits and style.  Even if we had such tools, these would not measure the how much or how well students learn (CCCH, 1959). Recent views offer that good teaching engenders creative assessments, “leaving space for the student to become fully active, to learn and grow” (Case, 2002).

Study Proposal

Carol Mullen stated that college writing projects should prepare students to be academic authors and researchers (2001). The goal of any college level writing program is to perfect a vital form of communication extending far beyond the ivory towers of academia.
This study will show that Actual Learning writing assignments at the undergraduate college-level student writings are themselves, assessments that do not rely on an instructor-determined grade. When students select writing topics then aim towards “real-word” publication, these opportunities effectively improve students’ grades, provide professional writing experiences, and better prepare students to enter the workforce.
Studying OoSes!
Taking a Break from Papers.
This study considers four categories of students, all of whom attended Farmingdale State College (FSC) and were enrolled in writing classes with this researcher/instructor between the fall 2005 through spring 2018 semesters:

  1. Students who submitted work for publication and saw their work printed.
  2. Students who submitted work for publication but whose work was not printed.
  3.  Students who wanted to submit for publication but whose work was not submitted.
  4. Students who opted out of publication.

We will look at undergraduate college students who, over the course of this study (fall 05 - spring 18), had opportunities to improve their writing with the goal of publication. We will also find out how those students judge their writing skills afterwards.

Motivating Factors

Factors for motivating students of writing include knowing “who one is writing for…, why one is writing…, when one is writing…, and how much control one is allowed in the writing” (italics by the author; Hutchings, 2006). A study of how assessments impact college students concluded that academics required a “much more thorough accounting of student motivations and heeding them” (Lord, 2007).
However, difficulties in standardizing collegiate assessments include considering a broad range of writing requirements from different professors. Some researchers believe that that the writer’s topic directs the outcome, and therefore the assessment (Ruth and Murphy, p. 410). Students’ become confused when faced with differing and, perhaps, conflicting, academic writing guidelines (Lea and Street, 1998). Grades resulting from such writing classes provide meaningless assessments. Neither the student, faculty (other than those grading the papers), nor administration have any understanding of the grade’s basis.

Study Background

From fall 2005 through this semester, one particular Professional Communications Course at FSC stressed writing-as-process over writing-as-product (Wolcott, 1987). The assignments were dependent on previous course work, with a recursive element of submitting new documents based on previously researched and reported information, then following up with revisions of each document. The primary objective of the course is to help students improve their professional communication and writing skills. A secondary goal, not stated as an official objective as it lay outside the academy’s scope of influence, above teaching writing skills, was (and remains) providing students a chance to see their work published in real-world, professionally-edited periodicals as selected by editors of main-stream venues (newspapers, web sites, and other consumer-facing periodicals and output).
The CCCH Committee on Assessment believed that students should
§  demonstrate writing skills through repeated outlines, drafts and revisions;
§  write based on real-world practice;
§  “be informed about the purposes of assessment”;
§  and have their outcomes assessed by more than one person - - especially in situations that escalate the stakes from the classroom to publication (1995, p. 434). 

The same CCCH paper on assessments charged faculty with making time to assess each student paper fairly, supporting assessments with classroom teachings, helping students prepare for the assignments, and continue researching the value and methods of writing assessments (p. 435).
Willa Wolcott notes that, “In the real world, product is all we can share with each other” (p. 44). Writing is a reiterative, process-based exercise. However, academic grading of writing skills is based on one product or outcome at a time, breaking the whole into parts (grammar, spelling, research and citation, composition).
For this study, student papers considered for participation will meet 90% of the course requirements (not necessarily receiving high grades), and would be considered valid for submission to the editor of a local or regional periodical (not necessarily being selected for publication). 

Works Cited (2001) Elie Wiesel. Interview in Writers at Work, Eighth Series, ed. George Plimpton (1988). Retrieved on April 25, 2008, from

CCCH (1959). Determining the Quality of Composition/Communication Teaching. College Composition and Communication, Vol. 10, No. 3, Panel and Workshop Reports. CCCC Tenth Annual Meeting, 1959 (Oct., 1959), pp. 146-148
CCCH (1995). Writing Assessment: A Position Statement Author(s): CCCC Committee on Assessment. College Composition and Communication, Vol. 46, No. 3, (Oct., 1995), pp. 430-437.
Case, R. (Fall 2002). Plato’s Premise: Fostering Student Autonomy. Thought & Action. NEA, Washington, DC.
Hart (Peter D.) Research Associates, Inc (2008). How Should Colleges Assess and Improve Student Learning? Employers' Views on the Accountability Challenge. Washington, DC. Association of American Colleges and Universities. 9 pp. (ED499718)
Hutchings, C (August 2006). Reaching students: lessons from a writing centre. Higher Education Research & Development, 25, Issue 3, from EBSCO database.
Lord, R. (September, 2007). Writing Assessment at Plymouth State College. Writing Across the Curriculum, 18.
Mullen, C.A. (Feb 2001). The Need for a Curricular Writing Model for Graduate Students. Journal of Further & Higher Education, Vol. 25 Issue 1. EBSCO database.
Wolcott, W. (Feb., 1987). Writing Instruction and Assessment: The Need for Interplay between Process and Product. College Composition and Communication, Vol. 38, No. 1, pp. 40-46