Faculty Spotlight: Professor Heather Lindenman

Our Faculty Spotlight for the month of October is shining on Professor Heather Lindenman. She is an Assistant Professor in the English department and teaches classes that span from ENG 110 to a Teaching and Learning Apprenticeship. If you haven’t seen her on campus for the last few months, it’s because she’s been on maternity leave spending time with her newborn baby boy! That being said, Professor Lindenman is keeping busy and has accomplished quite a lot in the past year, with three published articles and another one set to come out in November. I managed to catch up with her during a brief visit to campus and got the scoop on what she’s been up to lately.

Last spring you said you were doing research regarding the outcomes of your community-engaged writing classes and the consequences of a community writing partnership that links college and high school students. Are you still working on that or have you started something new?

I’m still working on them! Much of my research is based on different types of community-engaged classes and what students take away from them. I just wrapped up studies on a high school-college partnership where college students went to high schools and worked with students to use writing for social change. I’m also conducting research on Elon student’s non-academic writing including what students do outside of school and what they learn from that. A third project I’m working on concerns Elon alumni and explores what types of writing they do, which turns out to include a lot of emailing. I’ve also found a skill that they feel is really important is the ability to write things concisely and quickly. Overall, we’re hoping to learn how to better writing instruction here based on what alumni are actually doing in their careers.

Why did you choose that area for your research?

My interest in community engagement stems from my high school teaching experience. I spent five years teaching in low-income high schools, starting with Teach for America. My teaching has been really affected by that and it’s hard for me to do anything without thinking about how to bring what we do in college back to the community. As for my alumni research, I am concerned with what students learn in college and how that information transfers into the working world after graduation. What use is it to teach writing if it’s not helpful? The big-picture is how students transfer their learning from college to life beyond the university.

So I read that you’ve recently had two articles and a book chapter published that focus on teaching writing. Would you give a brief description of these publications?

  • One of them is about how a university faculty member can best manage a high school and college partnership and ways to help such a partnership develop organically.
  • Another article is about the assessment of writing partnerships like that and thinking about their consequences. It asks about the responsibilities of a high school-college writing partnership. Should it be helping students develop academically to help them in their high school classes, should it be about social justice, or should it be about advocacy? The question I answered there is, “What are the consequences of this program?”
  • The last one is unrelated, and it’s about students’ revision practices, what people tend to do when they revise, and how we can teach revision better.

What inspired you to write about these topics?

Well, I already covered the community writing partnerships, but for the revision article, I was inspired by my teaching experience at University of Maryland, where we realized that when students were asked to revise, many would often only make superficial edits. And that was really different from what happened when professionals revised, when they often made substantial changes. So we were trying to figure out ways to bridge that gap and help students revise more like professionals.

What was the most surprising thing you learned when writing these publications?

How long it takes, seriously! The whole process took me years with the insane revisions and research. The most frustrating part of it all is that I would spend hours and hours doing research, including reading 15 sources from cover to cover, and the outcome might’ve been a footnote on page 12.

Are there any other publications in the works?

Yes there are. I just finished an article that comes out in November! It’s about how written advocacy projects can get people to listen better. How do you get people to listen in an empathetic way that promotes action? I still don’t fully know the answer, but I did write an article about it!

Lastly, how has your experience been with teaching in the College Fellows?

Enjoyable! I teach the College Fellows intro seminar for first-years every winter, which delves into the paths to research in the arts and sciences. It’s interesting to think about what makes arts and humanities research different from social sciences research, because my own research kind-of spans fields, so to have to distinguish them is a good exercise. Plus College Fellows are awesome because the questions people are asking are really interesting. I like helping people refine their writing inquiry.


Make sure to check out Professor Lindenman’s enlightening articles and chapter, “Revision and Reflection: A Study of (Dis)Connections Between Writing Knowledge and Writing Practice,” “What Changes When We ‘Write for Change’?’: Considering the Consequences of a High School-University Writing Partnership,” and “From the Center to the Sidelines: Responsive Leadership in a High School-College Writing Partnership.”

Thanks, Professor Lindeman, for taking time out of your busy schedule and good luck with everything!

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