Research

Satire and Irony in the Rhetorical Tradition

I’m currently preparing a manuscript on the history of the percontation point (⸮), a long-forgotten punctuation mark intended to denote the presence of a rhetorical question. This and other so-called “irony punctuation” will serve as examples to explore the broader communicative registers of irony and satire in the written rhetorical tradition. Cultures continue to experiment with a variety notations designed to indicate double or secondary meaning in written text, such as bracketed exclamation points and scare quotes. In the age of digital media, scholars of rhetoric can look to the history of these punctuation marks to better understand extra-linguistic textual indicators and punctuation used today on social media and elsewhere, including emojis and emoticons.

Automated Writing Evaluation

Adapted from chapter three of my dissertation, my article, “The Effects of Automated Writing Evaluation on Improving Student Writing,” is currently under review. The article describes an exploratory quasi-experiment that tests how much a popular automated writing evaluation (AWE) program improves student writing in the eyes of composition instructors. Four instructors were given 20 pairs of papers each, with one paper per pair treated by the AWE program. Instructors were then asked to read and select the better of each pair, and the overall point estimate was calculated to determine the probability of designating an AWE-treated essay as “better.” The treated essays were selected as better only 30% of the time (95% CI, 20-40%), a statistically significant difference from the null hypothesis of 50%. This tentatively suggests the AWE program fails to improve student writing. Implications are discussed.

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Gamification

I have a chapter forthcoming in a peer-reviewed, edited collection titled Gamification in the RhetComp Curriculum, published by Vernon Press. My chapter considers questions of educational assessment as they relate to gamified pedagogy and how attention to assessment is crucial for gamification to succeed as an educational intervention. In particular, I explore three areas of concern related to the creation of fair and valid assessment instruments: 1) student attitude selection effects of games-based assignments and its potential influence on extrinsic motivation; 2) the frequency and type of in-game assessment prompts that stimulate metacognitive reflection while maintaining a gamified environment; 3) the promotion of inter versus intra-competition in games and the regulation of competition to maximize student learning gains.

Dissertation

The Android English Teacher: Writing Education in the Age of Automation

Supported by a summer-long grant from the Purdue Research Foundation, I conducted a small-n quasi-experiment to test the effects of automated writing evaluation (AWE) technology on improving student writing. Popular online college tutoring site Chegg.com claims that its EasyBib Plus AWE tool can improve both writing and writers. Such claims represent a shift in focus from summative to formative assessment abilities and raise questions about the future of in-person education. Drawing on the history of writing assessment and the results of the experiment, ultimately I argue against using AWE for formative writing instruction. In an era of growing automation, I maintain that a human-centered pedagogy remains one of the most durable, important, effective, and transformative ingredients of a quality education. 

Writing Assessment

In 2018, I was appointed as the Assessment Research Coordinator for a program-wide evaluation of Purdue’s composition program. In response to political pressures, the department sought to collect empirical data that demonstrated we were meeting our learning outcomes. I led a team in the piloting of six common assignments designed to measure different aspects of our program outcomes. This project required me to construct essay assignments and assessment instruments, conduct rating and norming sessions, and statistically analyze and visualize data, both quantitative and qualitative. This year-and-a-half long project provided me ample experience in writing program administration and institutional assessment. I wrote about my findings and recommendations in a published report that was distributed across the College of Liberal Arts.