I opened my office door early this morning. On my desk sat a copy of The Meaningful Writing Project: Learning, Transfer, and Writing in Higher Education. (as a side note: much love for a department that buys books for me).

The Meaningful Writing Project.

Michele Eodice, Anne Ellen Geller, and Neal Lerner have worked tirelessly on this book for about a decade, and it is heartening to see the work of people you admire come to (published) fruition.

I’m also heartened to see a project I helped along come to fruition. I was in the middle of my PhD at Oklahoma when Michele wrangled me into filling out some electronic IRB forms, browsing countless books and articles to see if any one has written on meaningful. I particularly remember browsing Haswell and Haswell’s Hospitality and Authoring and wondering why Michele picked this book. What does this book have to do with the Meaningful Writing Project? (turns out, it doesn’t have much to do with it; the book doesn’t appear in the references).

I’ve been around this important research project for five years, peeked at their poster presentation at CCCC in 2015, and browsed the first couple of chapters.

Here’s what I appreciate:

  • The fun that comes on page xi, which shows a student’s response to the survey question about meaningful writing. The student authored his response in pig latin and included a translation website. Michele, Anne, and Neal reproduce his response in full. On their first page.
  • There data collection methods: surveyed over 10,000 students at three different schools: University of Oklahoma, St. John’s, and Northeastern. Over 700 responded.
  • 27 one-on-one interviews with seniors; 60 one-on-one interviews with faculty. Undergrad co-researchers conducted the interviews with training and supporting and financial support from Michele, Anne, and Neal.
  • The rad infographics that come at the end of the first chapter and show data collection points.
  • The clarity of their findings. Given early for the reader: meaningful writing projects offer students opportunities for agency; for engagement with instructors, peers, and materials; and for learning that connects to previous experiences and passions and to future aspirations and identities” (4).
  • And my favorite data nugget: 79% reported they had never written anything similar to their meaningful writing project before.

I’ve talked with my chair about bringing Anne to UNG. We landed on a date, but the date didn’t work with Anne. My chair and I are heading back to the proverbial drawing board to get some more dates.

Hopefully Anne can come and talk with my 93 colleagues in the English Dept about meaningful writing.

I’m thankful for research that helps us see the world of writing and reading and learning through our students’ eyes.

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