November 17, 2009

Making Our High School Connections

A component of PCCC's Writing Initiative five-year grant is to make connections with the area high schools that send students to the college during year three.

The Writing Connection involves collaborating with area schools to share the best practices in teaching writing across disciplines.

During Year 3, we have now added Professor Alexandra Della Fera as our mentor to work with high school teachers in our High School Connections. Alex was the clear choice not only because of her background in writing, but because she is already connected to area high schools by her work with the PCCC Dual Enrollment program.

In addition to her teaching in the English Department, she coordinates the English Composition teachers at county high schools who are teaching PCCC's college-level Composition I course in the high schools.

Professor Della Fera will be working with the Initiative team to invite teachers in all disciplines to apply for our Summer 2010 seminar.

How do high school teachers capture the attention of a visual, online, Net Generation of students in a time of fragmented instruction, high-stakes testing and the social and economic tensions?

Research shows that integration of critical thinking and writing skills into all classrooms helps student performance and understanding of the discipline being taught. The Initiative has created Faculty Institutes for PCCC faculty that offer hands-on, collaborative activities designed to strengthen the integration of critical thinking and writing skills in general educations courses. Using those Institutes as a model, participating teachers will work with classroom action-research activities and strategies for gaining immediate feedback on student learning.

Sessions for the two day event will be designed and facilitated by Professor Della Fera, Elizabeth Nesius (Coordinator of the Writing Center) and Ken Ronkowitz (Director of the Writing Initiative).

At least one summer session will be held at the Writing Center on the Paterson campus. Attendees will receive a stipend of $500 for attendance at the two days and completion of the activities, and also receive NJ professional development hours for their participation.

In year 4 of the grant, we plan to connect with the 4-year colleges where our students often matriculate after completing their Associate degrees.

For more information on our high school and college Connections program, see our site at

October 20, 2009

Beginning Portfolio Use at PCCC

Whether it is a collection of writings, artwork, photographs, computer programs, architectural drawings or videos, any portfolio is a compilation of work that has been put together for a specific purpose. Portfolios have long been used for job interviews and for promoting your services to a potential client. In educational settings, they are most often used as a way of documenting a student's progress and performance in a course or program.

At PCCC, we have several purposes in using them as part of our Writing Initiative. We expect them to help show student achievement as a writer and critical thinker in the writing intensive courses.

The members of the Initiative team will also use the portfolios as a way to assess program effectiveness.

We also expect that students will do their own self-assessment through the reflective writing that we ask instructors to include in their WI classes.

Some of goals in piloting ePortfolios at PCCC are:
  • making these learning portfolios
  • having a repository of writing samples for assessment of the grant objectives
  • being able to set benchmarks for the future
  • providing continuity for students taking multiple writing-intensive courses
  • making the process "product-neutral"
The College also has objectives for this pilot:
  • help provide institutional and program assessment for Middle States and other programs
  • interface with assessment software
  • examne and recommend portfolio products
  • consider implications for the future including the expressive, transfer and career portfolio uses

eFolio is an e-portfolio product being piloted by students enrolled in Writing Intensive courses at PCCC. eFolio users can share academic and personal information with professors and peers.

We will be posting additional information about the pilot here and on our Portfolios LibGuide.

October 11, 2009

Survival Grammar Workshops Offered

Due to a surprising demand, we will now be offering weekly grammar workshops for all students at the Writing Center.

Our ESL and grammar guru Claire Ribeiro will expand on her popular workshop that addresses many of the grammar issues that students face in their writing.

Each session begins with a lesson and continues with interactive exercises to help you practice your grammar and improve.

All PCCC students are welcome, no matter what level.

A different grammar topic will be featured each week.

Session will be in the PCCC Writing Center on the main Paterson campus (within the library area) on Mondays from 5:00-6:00 with a repaet of that workshop topic on Fridays at 1 pm.

As always, check our current workshop listing online for what is being offered.

October 1, 2009

Writing Intensive Courses Offered for Spring 2010 Registration

The following 15 Writing Intensive courses sections are being offered for registration for the SPRING 2010 semester.

WI courses have their registration limited to 25 students, so be sure to register early and fulfill your graduation requirement.

  1. AE 101 OL1 (Thoubboron)
  2. CIS 101 M10 (Cameron)
  3. CT 101 WE1 (Hillringhouse)
  4. EN 205 M03 (Mitnick)
  5. EN 205 M04 (Bender)
  6. HI 101 OL2 (Jenkins)
  7. HI 102 W03 (Drakulich)
  8. HI 102 ME2 (Kmec)
  9. HI 202 OL1 (Perdew)
  10. MU 106 OL1 (Ayala)
  11. PH 101 OL1 (Fruncillo)
  12. PL 101 OL1 (Getso)
  13. PS 101 M03 (Burkart)
  14. PS 101 W01 (Murphy)
  15. SC 104 WW2 (Baranowski)

September 19, 2009

Thinking Visually and Critically

Mark Hillringhouse is in the PCCC English department. He teaches one of our writing-intensive courses - Critical Thinking CT 101.

Besides using one of our LibGuides to post materials at, this year he started using a blog to model for his students the idea of thinking visually.

"Sometimes I pre-visualize an image before taking a photograph. An image can have a powerful effect on the imagination," he says.

Mark is well known beyond our campus for his poetry and his photography. He brings both of those to his teaching in critical thinking.

Student in CT 101 created blogs and portfolios using their own photography and images by others to consider topics in critical thinking.

Mark uses some of his own images to model types of writing for his students.

Mark's Visual Thinking blog is at

September 18, 2009

Mentoring Faculty in Using Critical Thinking

Mark Hillringhouse will be the Writing Initiative mentor for critical thinking this academic year.

Mark developed and taught the WI section of Critical Thinking (CT 101).

Mark is known as both a poets and photographer and brought both of those talents into the critical thinking course as ways to teach creative and visual thinking.

He will do a presentation at our January Faculty Institute along with Kelly Bender to introduce the mentors to the new WI faculty fellows.

September 17, 2009

Mentoring Faculty in Writing

Professor Kelly Bender of the PCCC English department has been selected by the Initiative team to serve as our mentor to WI teaching fellows for writing for the academic year 09-10.

Kelly has developed the Writing Intensive section of  EN 212 and will be teaching a WI section of EN 205 next year.

She will present at the January Faculty Institute on creating writing assignments in other disciplines.

September 15, 2009

ECHO 360 for Capturing WI Moments

This past summer, Passaic County Community College, in collaboration with the Title V Writing Initiative, purchased an ECHO360 system. Traditionally known as a “lecture capture” system, ECHO 360 consists of a camera, computer podium and overhead projector. It allows presenters to capture voice, projection onto the screen, and views of the classroom, or any combination thereof.

Multiple units were purchased for the main campus, including a portable unit and one for the Writing Center Annex. In addition, each satellite campus has one classroom equipped with the technology.

The college has great plans for the use of the technology. While some instructors plan to “capture” their classes and make them available to students, others plan to make videos or podcasts to supplement their in-class lectures. In addition, the Center for Student Success and Admissions departments have plans for instructional videos on everything from registering for classes to logging into Blackboard.

The Writing Center intends to use this technology to help support distance students and others who may have difficulty coming to the on-campus Center. There are plans to capture writing workshops as well as create instructional videos for using the different technological supports available to students in the Writing Initiative. ECHO 360 videos and podcasts can be made by faculty and staff at PCCC by contacting Tom Tierney at WI faculty can contact to schedule use of the system in the Writing Center.

July 1, 2009

Summer Workshops For Students

Though the Writing Center is closed for the summer, there will still be workshops open to all PCCC students.

These workshops are designed to help students become better writers in a variety of situations. Some workshops may focus on the CWE, but all are designed to provide information that applies to writing in other scenarios, including in class.

All workshops are FREE for PCCC students. You do not need to register and can just show up at the beginning of a workshop.


Preparing for the CWE

This workshop will focus on helping students manage their time when taking a timed essay exam. It offers strategies for planning the essay and writing within a time constraint so that you maximize abilities and chances of passing the exam. This is especially helpful for students who have never taken the CWE or who have problems with running out of time or going off topic. Materials needed: pen and paper.

Attacking the Question

Ever get an essay assignment from an instructor that seems to make no sense whatsoever? Ever sit down to write a paper only to realize you don't even know where to start? The place to begin an essay is with the question. What is being asked of you? What is required in the answer? This workshop will teach you how to attack an essay starting with the question. You'll learn to decode "professor speak" and figure out what's really being asked of you. From there, you'll learn how to formulate and organize an answer. This workshop will help students taking the CWE to figure out exactly what a question is asking and how to go about answering it.

If you have a paper that you're struggling with, feel free to bring the topic to the workshop to get some examples of how to get started. Materials needed: pen and paper.

Proofreading Strategies for the CWE

This workshop will help students overcome some of the problems with editing of writing an essay in a timed setting. Because students taking the CWE don’t have the luxury of having others read the essay or putting it aside for a while and looking at it later with “fresh” eyes, students must use other strategies to edit their work and recognize their mistakes. This workshop will give you some strategies geared specifically toward timed exams and allow you to notice more of your errors before you turn in the test! It will be especially helpful for students who are not confident in their writing abilities, haven’t written in a while, or have problems with grammar and editing. Materials needed: pen and paper.

May 11, 2009

Nine Writing Intensive Courses Being Offered in Fall 2009

Four WI courses were offered during the spring 09 semester.

1. EN 205 Introduction to Literature (Mitnick - Paterson)
2. PS 101 Introduction to Psychology (Murphy-Wanaque)
3. HI 101 Western Civilization I (Jenkins-Online)
4. HI 102 Western Civilization II (Drakulich-Paterson)

In addition to those courses, an additional five writing intensive courses will be offered in fall 2009.

5. Introduction to Music (Ayala-Online)
6. Introduction to Philosophy (Fruncillo-Paterson)
7. Introduction to Political Science (Getso-Paterson)
8. Critical Thinking (Hillringhouse)
9. Cultural Anthropology (Burkhardt-Paterson)

March 16, 2009

Hybrid Tutoring

On Friday I gave a presentation called "The Hybrid Tutoring Experience: The Path to Better Writers" at the Faculty Best Practices Showcase.

The presentation was about the advantages of combining online tutoring and face-to-face consulting for a single assignment.

PCCC uses to provide online writing (and other) tutoring to our students. Through the Title V grant, Writing Intensive students are required to use eTutoring for help with their writing at least twice during the semester. In addition, WI students are strongly encouraged to bring writing assignments to the Writing Center for assistance.

We have found that a good way to tackle difficult assignments is for students to go to eTutoring for a first draft of their essay and then bring those comments into the Writing Center and go over them with a face-to-face writing consultant. The student can go through the paper and make changes with a consultant present to answer questions, offer opinions, and make additional suggestions.

This approach has several benefits. First, it expands the number of times students can work on a draft of a paper. (eTutoring limits it to three drafts.) Additionally, it gives students the opportunity of knowing what problems they may be having before coming into a live session with a tutor. They can give the tutor information about their problems when making the appointment, and by bringing the eTutor's comments, they give the writing consultant a starting place. This saves time, as consultants usually start a session cold (not receiving the paper in advance). Finally, it removes some of the limitations of both face-to-face and online sessions by allowing students to ask questions about the eTutor's response and providing writing consultants with an immediate second opinion on the essay being discussed.

The PCCC Writing Center will continue to encourage hybrid writing tutorials with students to provide a well-rounded writing experience.

You can view my PowerPoint presentation below. More information about the PCCC Writing Center can be found at

March 1, 2009

Mark Hillringhouse Donates Photo to the Writing Center

Mark Hillringhouse with his photo in the Writing Center

Professor Mark Hillringhouse is an instructor in the PCCC English department. He will be developing a WI course section for CT 101 Introduction to Critical Thinking this year.

Mark is also a talented poet whose work has been published in The American Poetry Review, The Literary Review, The New York Times, The New Jersey Monthly, The Paris Review, and in many other journals, books, anthologies and magazines. He was the founding editor of the American Book Review, and a contributing editor for The New York Arts Journal. He has won three fellowships for poetry from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

This multi-talented professor is also known for his photography. Mark has been kind enough to donate a large print to the new PCCC Writing Center. The photography is of poet Gerald Stern's writing desk which he felt was an appropriate addition to the Center.

He recently published a series of his black and white portraits of the New York School poets along with an accompanying essay, and he has recently published a photographic essay on the Passaic River. His recent photography exhibitions include shows at the Paterson Museum, the Main Street Gallery’s "Juried Competition" and the Salmagundi Art Club's Juried Graphics and Photography Competition, and a one-man show titled “Parts of a World” at the Hamilton Club Art Gallery, and at the Ben Shahn Gallery at William Paterson University.

View of the Paterson Great Falls by Mark Hillringhouse

View some Hillringhouse photos at

January 25, 2009

The Writing Center Is Officially Open!

After some delay in construction, the PCCC Writing Center has officially opened!

Writing Center work began in Fall of 2008, with consultations occurring in various places around campus, including in the library and Hamilton Hall.

The new Writing Center in located in PCCC's Learning Resource Center on the main campus. On the Wanaque campus, sessions are available on a limited basis in the testing room. Students are encouraged to make appointments for writing consultations, but may also do so on a walk-in basis.

The Writing Center currently employs 5 writing consultants to help students in Writing Intensive courses with their assignments. In addition, the Center offers sessions to students who are preparing to take the College Writing Exam and general writing workshops open to all PCCC students.

For more information about the Writing Center or to make an appointment, go to our website at or email

January 11, 2009

Two-Day Faculty Seminar For New WI Faculty

We have split our 4-day Faculty Institute into two 2-day sessions this year in an effort to reach more faculty and make the experience more of a seminar-style event.

During the January break, we will hold a seminar with faculty who are piloting courses in spring or fall 2009. The second 2-day session will be held in May.

Both sessions will focus on the goals and methodologies of the Initiative, and hands-on creation sessions for faculty developing a writing-intensive course.

January 14 -  8:30 - 3:30
  • An Introduction to the Writing Initiative Goals
  • The role of the PCCC Writing Center
  • What is a writing-intensive course?
  • Best Practices from Fall 2008 with faculty fellows Randy Jenkins, Alan Mitnick, Petar Drakulich and Anita Kumar.
  • Creating WI assignments
  • Incorporating critical thinking in writing

January 15 - 8:30 - 3:30
  • The requirements for teaching a writing-intensive course as part of the Writing Initiative grant.
  • An overview of the technologies & tools being used in WI courses to help generate writing and support students: WCOnline, LibGuides, Blackboard and the PCCC portal, ePortfolios, streaming media and eTutoring.
  • Working with the design template to create a WI assignment.
  • An introduction to the standard writing rubric and using it for assignments and assessment.

January 5, 2009

The PCCC Writing Center Will Open This Month

Construction on the PCCC Writing Center on the Paterson Campus was finally completed during the December break and will open for students with the start of the spring semester this month.

Originally slated to open in fall 2008, construction issues delayed the opening by one semester.

The facility is located within the Learning Resource Center and is open weekdays. Check the Writing Center LibGuide for the current operating hours.