Assistant Professor Erin Workman is our newest tenure-line faculty member in the WRD department. She joined our faculty in the autumn quarter, teaching both WRD 103 Composition and Rhetoric I and WRD 104: Composition and Rhetoric II. This quarter, Workman is teaching a graduate course, WRD 540: Teaching Writing, and the undergraduate course, WRD 209: Genre and Discourse.
Before joining us here at DePaul, Workman was a Ph.D. student at Florida State University (FSU). There she researched writing transfer, which Workman refers to as the way writers repurpose their knowledge as they move across different contexts. In her dissertation, she analyzed students of first-year writing, but in the future, she also hopes to follow students after their first year in a writing program. She continues to do research on writing transfer here at DePaul.
Workman is currently in the process of developing surveys, focus groups, and interviews of a representative sample of incoming first-year undergraduates to follow them through the course of their time at DePaul. Ideally, she would like to also include time after the students graduate, to see how their writing practices inform what they go on to do in their careers.
Writing and portfolio assessment is also an interest area of Workman’s; specifically, the study of how we design assessments that aren’t harmful to students. She has examined anti-racist writing and portfolio assessment and other discriminatory or destructive practices that can inhibit a student’s growth in writing. Her goal is to encourage students to draw on all of the resources that are available to them in writing education; not just what is deemed acceptable in academia.
The first research project that got Workman into writing and rhetoric was researching the way that readers respond to students’ reflective writing in assessment contexts. Her time at University of Maine (U-Maine), where she received her master’s degree, informed this work. She studied the way readers assessed portfolios as a final requirement for first-year writing. With this work, teachers were able to use more consistent material across sections to prepare students to pass the course. She has also done other research projects on writing transfer and teaching for transfer curriculum using the book Writing Across Contexts by Kathleen Yancey, Lianne Robertson, and Kara Taczak.
Workman hopes her research ultimately benefits students by helping teachers develop pedagogies that respect their students’ incoming knowledge in writing. She wants teachers to instead encourage students to build on the knowledge that they bring into the classroom. She believes students shouldn’t have to “unlearn” formats such as the five-paragraph essay, but instructors should instead develop assignments and activities that help students make connections across contexts.
Workman will become the Director of First-Year Writing in July after Professor Julie Bokser. She also works on many committees in the department including our Speaker Series committee, which plans logistics for bringing a visiting lecturer to campus every quarter.
Register for one of Professor Workman’s classes, and introduce yourself to her if you haven’t already!