- Student Collaborative Writing Groups:Mapping Glacial Geomorphology and Glacial Sedimentology
In recent years there has been a conscious effort to provide students with an avenue to pursue both self-directed and interdisciplinary studies within their undergraduate education at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. This idea was initially stated in McMaster president Patrick Deane’s open letter “Forward with Integrity” (Deane 2011), written to reinvigorate key principles of McMaster University, which looked toward improving the student experience through research opportunities. This collection of articles represents select work from senior undergraduate students from the McMaster University School of Geography and Earth Sciences (SGES) course “Glacial Sediments and Environments.” The students worked together as one large collaborative writing group modelled after the international group writing project of the 2012 International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Annual Meeting in Hamilton, Ontario (Marquis, Healey, and Vine 2014). The goal of this project was for students to write a paper based on an original idea within the realm of either glacial sedimentology or glacial geomorphology.
Traditionally, undergraduate research rarely includes the dissemination of results beyond the classroom (Walkington and Jenkins 2008). The encouragement of dissemination to an international audience will create an experience that promotes self-authorship and challenges students to evaluate their knowledge claims and take ownership of their ideas (Hodge, Baxter Magolda, and Haynes 2009; Moore and others 2011; Barber, King, and Baxter Magolda 2013).
The eight-week process began with students creating their own groups and choosing a topic of interest with few constraints on topic choice. Groups formed quickly, with the diversity of interests and expertise among the students ranging from geomatics through to ecology. This diversity made selecting a topic of interest that all group members could agree on difficult, requiring negotiation and long discussion. Throughout the process, course time was put aside for both formal and informal discussions. This included a “Liquid Cafe” session (Healey, Marquis, and Vajoczki 2013), in which students were asked to think of a particular question or difficulty they encountered in their research and write it on a large piece of paper. One group member was then left behind to facilitate conversation while the rest of the class visited the other groups to discuss the issues at hand and brainstorm ideas. This required groups to explain the premise of their paper clearly and concisely to their peers. It also gave students the opportunity to receive numerous informed opinions on their question and see how other groups were progressing with their work. Two weeks before the final paper submission the group turned in a draft for both peer and instructor review. In this process each group submitted a draft paper to be reviewed by the course instructor, the course teaching assistant, and at least two colleagues. The authors were encouraged to include key questions in their drafts to direct the reviewers’ responses. Many groups took it upon themselves to find reviewers outside of the class by leaning on the expertise of SGES faculty members, University of Iceland faculty members, McMaster Map Library staff, and Ontario Geological Survey researchers for additional review of their work. The final week of this process involved groups revising their papers, responding to review comments, and, when necessary, meeting with the course instructor. While all groups submitted quality work, not all papers could be selected for publication. It is the hope that the experience of effectively collaborating with others toward a common goal while critically evaluating one’s own ideas and academic beliefs will be valuable in careers both inside and outside academia for all participating individuals.
The collection of articles begins with a look into potential issues with relying on topographic maps for glacial geomorphological analysis with “Spatial Analysis of Glacial Forms in the Area Surrounding Lake Simcoe, Ontario, and Its Influence on the Morphological Interpretation of Glacial Features.” Through the identification of drumlins, a subglacial landform common in southern Ontario, the changes in landform shape over time due to both cartographical precision and anthropogenic influences illustrate the necessity for researchers to be mindful of their data sources. The next three articles in the collection explore new methodologies that use...