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Writing with Numbers: a Faculty Workshop

Today was the last day of the annual faculty workshop sponsored by our writing program. This year we’re reprising a topic from two years ago: Writing with Numbers. The idea being that students often have minimal expertise in integrating numerical evidence into their papers regardless of whether the paper is primarily about numerical evidence or is a non-numerical paper that could nevertheless benefit from a few well-placed numbers. This is Numbers As Rhetorical Tools rather than a workshop on statistics.

On the first day John Bean (from Seattle University) walked us through the fine art of creating assignments that both encourage students to learn by grappling with problems and also learn to match their writing to various audiences. The next day, my co-worker introduced strategies and sources for find everything from census numbers to large datasets. (And by the way, she deserves a lot of credit for structuring a talk intended for an audience made up of professors from all sorts of disciplines, some of which routinely analyze huge datasets and some of which only occasionally need a population number from the census.) That day was fun because so many people had their imaginations tickled with possibilities for integrating numerical information into their course assignments.

Today the professors teamed up to revise assignments for their upcoming classes. And of course, we had our annual Sock Contest! For this contest, the Dean of the College appears and judges all of our socks to see which are the worst. There are two categories: Holiday and GodAwful. (Though many people spanned the two.) I won last year in the Holiday division for some truly ghastly Santa socks, but this year I dug through my drawers only to find that I’d already thrown away the shocking-green-and-orange shaggy socks that I wore constantly as a kid. Ah well… the world is probably a better place without having to see those socks.

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