Author Archives: Lisa Cole

Reflections on Research

A few years ago, after hearing family stories, I got really interested in doing some research on my great-great-great-grandfather, who was one of the founding members of the Tailor’s Union here in NYC.  It began with my interest in leaving a detailed record with pictures of my family on  I began my research with the notes left behind from my great aunt, which included a photocopy of a booklet published on his professional life, but it was in pretty bad shape.  I went online and much to my surprise, The reminiscences of Robert Crowe, the octogenarian[!] tailor by Miss Helen R. Burns, Principal of the Cooper Settlement in NYC, was available for purchase from the University of Michigan’s Library! I wrote an article about his professional life, and intertwined some personal details, which the booklet was devoid of.  He had a very prolific life here in NYC not only spearheading the Tailor’s Union with his excellent oratory skills, but in England as well (Queen Victoria had him imprisoned for his union activities there).  I shopped it around various newspapers and it was eventually published in the Irish Echo for their St. Patrick’s Day issue, with a picture of him taken around the time the booklet was published in 1902 (he was born in 1823 in Dublin).  It was an extremely exciting research adventure that in many ways helped me to connect more intimately with him and my family.

Curiosity and delight in Kynard and Graff

These are fun, pieces to read, relying on personal classroom experience to explore alternate ways to research as well as write the research paper.  Carmen Kynard’s experiences at the beginning of her article bemoans the lack of variety of imaginative source material in the production of the standard research paper based on textbook examples, library websites, or unfortunately, some of my own handouts.  Why not explore (or even require) the use of some of her suggestions, such as “autobiographical accounts”  (as I frequently use for my own research, but usually discourage students from using for theirs, oddly enough; I have to think about this), “poems, interviews, and survey data.”  Certainly, incorporating these formats would reduce reliance on secondary sources that sometimes lead to unintentional plagiarism created by plugging into a format.  Kynard’s “jam” assignment, asking students to respond to a controversial subject by gathering three types of appropriate materials: imaginative writing, a visual/verbal text and a verbal text, analyzing each text for style, comparing and contrasting the texts, and possibly using the texts in a final research paper sounds fascinating and would certainly avoid the miasma of standard research and the paper that results from it.

Thinking about Kynard and Graff, I’ve come up with a few more ways to possibly add “curiosity and delight” to research and research paper writing, and I’m anxious to try some of them out:

  • What about changing the audience? In other words, not having the students write for me as the teacher but, for example, imagine themselves as journalists reporting on a major event for a newspaper, or a lawyer arguing an unsolved murder from history.
  • Changing the character of their narrative: become a Jewish immigrant who comments on her/his memories of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, a Japanese survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima on its 85th
  • How about deliberately and dangerously, writing a research paper designed to propagandize for a particular cause?

These assignments can be argued to change the purpose of the formal research paper that is commonly taught, but expand the concepts of audience and purpose, encouraging students to learn that research papers don’t all look alike, and that the writing skills learned in an English classroom can be utilized in other classes.





Reflection for First Meeting on August 5th

Introduce yourself! Who are you, what is your teaching experience, how do you feel about teaching online?

Hi, I’m Lisa Cole, an adjunct lecturer with the English department at both City Tech and LaGuardia Community College.  I have been teaching since January 2011, primarily composition l & ll, as well as basic writing and The Research Paper courses.  Additionally, I’ve taught upper-level courses such as The Woman Writer, The Novel, Intro to Poetry, The Short Story, and Cultural Identity in American Literature.  Teaching is a second career for me.  My first career was as a legal secretary for 25 years.

I’m currently teaching on Blackboard, and given the choice, I would prefer to teach F2F.  Teaching F2F is a totally different experience for both me and my students.  I can get to know my students better.  With online learning, the whole vibe and energy of the classroom is missing.  Students learn quicker and have a more intense experience live.  It feels like there is a wall between us even during synchronous class meetings as I can’t see everyone.  Nothing can replace the classroom when it comes to learning.  We learn so much by interacting with each other in a classroom environment.  We learn so much just by listening.  I feel students are more inspired to contribute to live classroom conversations than on a discussion board.  Although I must say, having to type up responses on the discussion board helps students to generate lengthier responses than in the classroom and sharpen their writing skills.

Tell us one thing you do in the first weeks of online class to create a sense of engagement and community. 

One of the things I do in the first weeks of an online course to create a sense of engagement and community is to have a synchronous class meeting for the first class meeting to introduce themselves and discuss what their major is and why.  I let them know that I am a graduate of the CUNY, discussing my major/graduate degree and why I decided to major in English.  We also go over the syllabus and course description where I have an introduction to the course and why this particular course is important to their success in college and beyond.  I also say that I am available via Zoom or email to discuss any problems or concerns they may have during and outside of the official office hour.

What is a genre of writing you know well? What are the rules of that genre? How did you learn them?

The genre of writing that I know well is essay writing.  The rules for this genre are easily understood as Dirk details on page 258 of her essay, and even though the rules turned out badly for Dirk, these rules actually turn out to be the perfect vehicle for my students in English 1101 to begin to understand just how an academic essay should be structured.   My students have expressed that once they get the basic structure down, they feel they are free to explore variations in form and style in more advanced writing.

I learned this structure as an undergrad in CUNY (LaGuardia, and Hunter) and it has served me well because by knowing this structure, I was able to write essays on the spot for midterms and finals in class (and beyond), and that is what I tell my students they can do too.  I think it helps that I came through CUNY even as they are going through it now.  I suspect it shows them that someone who began in CUNY taking courses similar to theirs, can become an English professor and writer.  While the essay has only recently gained prominence as one of the major literary genres (following poetry, drama, and fiction), it can be used for the exploration of a variety of ideas.  This can be shown with increased interest in collections of essays as well as magazines like The New Yorker or The Sun, which predominantly use essay form.

Having started by modeling examples in rhetorical textbooks that I was given, as I went further in my student experience, I found myself more involved in reading longer essays for pleasure.  I was enamored with Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman as well as Woolf’s musings on “Shakespeare’s Sister.”  Readings such as these led me into my specialization in Victorian Literature with a focus on women writers.  Presently, I am catching up on the essays of James Baldwin comparing them to the essays of Ta-Nehisi Coates, which are incredibly relevant in considering the racial unrest that presently faces our country and which I comment on in my classes (utilizing some of the essays) in order to make the classes both contemporary and involving for my students using issues that concern them.