Presenter: James C. Wangberg, Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture, University of Wyoming, and Principal Investigator, USDA Challenge Grant for a National Conference on Student Writing and Critical Thinking
The genesis for this conference was a series of small-scale writing workshops designed for College of Agriculture faculty at the University of Wyoming. These workshops stimulated broad discussions about teaching writing and critical thinking skills across the disciplines and resulted in several departmental and individual initiatives to improve instruction. John C. Bean's book, Engaging Ideas: The Professor's Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom, proved to be a highly stimulating and important resource for these faculty development activities. Faculty participants (affectionately known as the WAG - Writers in Agriculture Guild) were particularly impressed with the practical implications stemming from the book and the workshops. We then saw an opportunity for our project to be a model for a larger effort, an opportunity to promote a national dialogue among agricultural and food science faculty on these important topics. Thus, with a USDA Higher Education Program Challenge Grant, this national conference was organized.
The conference was organized with two principle goals in minds: first, to be highly interactive across disciplines, and second, to provide useful "take away" products or ideas that will have immediate application at your institutions. Therefore, in the spirit of Bean's Engaging Ideas, you were engaged participants and took advantage of the formal and informal settings that were provided over the course of this conference. And while there were diverse topics offered under the themes of student writing and critical thinking, you identified one important task or issue that would benefit your teaching and focused on developing a personalized action plan that you could sustain upon your return home.
We were pleased to have John Bean as the conference keynoter and appreciated the role he played in facilitating your engagement and the development of practical action plans. Perhaps our gathering in Jackson will be the start of another WAG, this time bridging institutions nationwide and creating a dialogue among a larger number of food and agriculture faculty.