Postdoctoral Seminars

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The Brittain Fellowship program offers four seminars:

  • Lauren Curtright (2010-2013) discusses teaching with Twitter in the Digital pedagogy seminar. Photo by R.E. Burnett
    Digital pedagogy. This fall seminar is required of all new Brittain Fellows. Members of this seminar often voluntarily extend their discussions in the spring.
  • Technical communication. This fall seminar is required of all new Brittain Fellows teaching LMC 3403/3431/3431. Members of this seminar often voluntarily extend their discussions in the spring.
  • Research methodology. This spring seminar is optional for all Brittain Fellows. It is a requirement, however, for the D-Ped and Technical Communication certificates.
  • Professional development. This fall and spring seminar is optional for all Brittain Fellows.

All of the postdoc seminars presume active engagement (planning, participating, leading). In general, seminar sessions includes these components:

  • Examination of leading-edge practices via lecture, PointPoint, and demonstration
  • Discussion of issues and problems
  • Suggestions of print and online readings

Seminar members each week are responsible for reading the assigned material prior to the seminar meeting and coming to the seminar ready to engage in a lively discussion.

The d-ped, tech comm, and methodology seminars have assigned reading, most of which is selected by participants. Each week discussion leaders are responsible for these activities:

  • Carefully reading and analyzing the assigned material
  • Posting before the seminar (on TECHStyle), which may include (1) the recommended reading/viewing, (2) summary of key points from the reading/viewing, (3) identification and commentary about selected issues and arguments—for example, what’s noteworthy, what’s impractical, what’s dated, what’s naïve, what’s insightful, what’s worth testing in practice; pithy and perhaps admittedly biased comments are encouraged——as long as they’re distinguished from summary), (4) recommendations for further selected reading (print and digital), and (5) especially important, provocative questions for seminar discussion and follow-up online reflections that encourage colleagues to form interesting arguments
  • Offering a lecture, PowerPoint, activity, and/or demonstration and then leading a lively, relevant 30-minute discussion during the seminar
  • Synthesizing one or two particularly interesting issues/questions from the seminar discussion and posting it/them to TECHStyle for extended conversation.


Sample Seminar Schedules

The image above is a copy of sample syllabi for two of the postdoctoral seminars offered by the Writing and Communication program. A version of this table in Word, along with other sample syllabi, is available on T-Square for inclusion in your course syllabus.

Guidelines for D-Ped and Technical Communication Certificates

Kathryn Farley (2007-2010), Photo by R.E. Burnett
The D-Ped Certificate and the Technical Communication Certificate provide opportunities for you to explore substantively issues related to digital pedagogy or technical communication — and, ideally, situate this work in your own disciplinary arena. Lots of ways exist for this exploration to happen. Ultimately, you want to be able to demonstrate critical involvement with digital pedagogy or technical communication in ways that benefit your career.

Earning a D-Ped Certificate or a Technical Communication Certificate has several steps:

REQUIRED: Select. Decide your purpose and focus. Your goal is to build on what you're doing in your pedagogy or service or to create something new—in any case to demonstrate a pedagogical innovation in multimodal composition or technical communication or within your discipline. How? You select the demonstration that best meets your professional needs and interests (perhaps conducting a series of local presentations and workshops, writing a peer-reviewed article for others, creating a database, developing a podcast series, developing pedagogical resources, participating in curricular change, etc.). The deliverable should be public-facing and professional.

REQUIRED: Propose. Submit a memo (1-2 pages) to Andy and Rebecca, proposing your D-Ped or Tech Comm project.

  1. What’s your focus? Explain why it’s interesting for you and what’s pedagogically innovative.
  2. How is your work situated? Provide an abbreviated lit review that situates your project theoretically and pedagogically.
  3. What are you planning to do? Be specific about the particular steps you need to take.
  4. What the basic background information will make your project easy to understand?
    1. Do you expect to use classes, student work, or student qualitative or quantitative data for this project? If so, please describe.
    2. What’s a realistic, workable schedule?
  5. How will you demonstrate your pedagogical innovation in multimodal composition, technical communication, and/or your disciplinary field?

REQUIRED: Reflect. Decide on the most productive way(s) to create a reflection that argues for the importance of your innovation—how and why it's changing available pedagogy. This reflection will be submitted to Andy and Rebecca.

OPTIONAL: You may need IRB approval for this project, depending on the work you're doing. If your project involves students or colleagues as subjects of your research (e.g., analyzing work they produce, interviewing them, taping them working, etc.), you need to have IRB certification. If you plan for your demonstration deliverable to include the work of students or colleagues to be presented or published in a public forum, you need to have an IRB protocol submitted and approved.

OPTIONAL FOLLOWUP (after your certification): Draft an article to submit to a peer-reviewed print or digital/electronic journal.

IRB Certification

  • “Although it seemed to me that my study should be exempt from the approval process (I was simply writing up an analysis of the way blogs functioned in my classroom), the IRB disagreed [because] they were concerned that there might some bias in grading the students... [and] that my study and the ensuing article might pose a privacy risk if it revealed information about the students’ blogs.”

—Katy Crowther, Brittain Fellow, IRB Survivor

  • “Understand that your students are ‘human subjects’ involved in research. As such, they must be ‘consented’ in an ‘informed’ manner… ‘Informed’ is the name of a tricky and nebulous path.”

—Jo Anne Harris, Brittain Fellow, IRB Survivor

Individual Certification All Brittain Fellows receiving D-Ped or Technical Communication certificates must be IRB certified by Georgia Tech (or have a current, active certification from another university). This is a straightforward process intended to ensure researchers working with human test subjects are aware of their ethical obligations. Certification can be pursued online via the Office of Research Compliance (

Project Certification Any study drawing data from human test subjects falls under the purview of Georgia Tech’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). To conduct such a study, both the researcher certified and the study must be IRB approved. The IRB submits each prospective study to a rigorous process. Thus, each proposal will encounter its own unique set of hazards and speed bumps. Here are a few guidelines to help you troubleshoot the certification process:

  1. Start early. It is not uncommon for a proposal to require numerous revisions over multiple months before receiving certification. Thus, it is best to set things in motion during the semester preceding the semester you seek to study.
  2. Work with the system. Perusing the necessary paperwork very early in the process will help you anticipate IRB concerns and address them. Regular, friendly dialogue with Kelly Winn, Tech’s IRB Compliance Officer, will also serve you well.
  3. Be specific. The IRB process is crafted by and for the sciences. As such, some humanities scholars may not be accustomed to the binary style of reasoning it entails. Clear statements of objectives, protocols, and justifications are imperative.
  4. Be mindful of your students. The IRB exists to protect human test subjects from any adverse consequences. This means that you will need to craft specific consent forms/waivers of consent and prepare a policy for dealing with underage student subjects. Additionally, those consent forms may need to be held by a third party until grading is finalized in order to prevent any participation from influencing grade decisions.

FAQ: IRB Protocol Approval

Where should I start?

  1. Get Certified. Complete the Human Subjects course offered online through CITI ( Without it, you can’t pursue research with human subjects.
  2. Make a Plan. The IRB must certify every element of your study, so you can leave no question unanswered. You must develop documents and/or procedures for everything from recruiting subjects for your study to assessing whether you have met your clearly-stated research objectives. Your plan will include:
    1. A title
    2. A plain English statement of your research objective, independent of methodology
    3. A description of subjects you intend to include or exclude from your study; a common concern in this area is disqualifying under-aged subjects to avoid having to get parental consent (and closer oversight from the IRB throughout the study)
    4. Any procedures or documents to be used for recruiting subjects
    5. Informed consent documentation; templates for consent/assent documents can be found at
    6. Methods to secure collected data and subjects’ identities; if your own students are to serve a s subject pool, then this may include protecting yourself from learning subjects’ identities until grading is complete
    7. Whether you seek exempt, expedited, or full review status (If you don’t know already, you’ll learn about these categories when you to the certification course)
    8. Any surveys or questionnaires to be implemented
    9. A concise research proposal describing its objective, methodology, size, significance, resources, and procedures for recruitment and informed consent
  3. Submit Your Protocol. Georgia Tech uses a web-based service for submitting research protocols. Instructions for accessing this system are available at

What are these questions about medical procedures? The IRB system is standardized for all human subjects research. Thus, it addresses a number of medical concerns extraneous to pedagogy, social science, or the humanities. Simply confirm your intentions not to radiate your subjects, draw their blood, or otherwise expose them to potentially harmful procedures.

How should I address using students as subjects? Because your students are a vulnerable population, their viability as subjects for exempt or expedited studies requires some extra effort.

  1. Examples of common concerns include:
    1. Get Help. Principal investigators are disallowed from recruiting their own students as subjects. One way for studies involving only materials and activities administered through class to proceed is to have recruitment administered and consent forms collected and held by a third party until semester grades have been finalized.
    2. Avoid Impropriety. The potential for participants to be favored over non-participating students would appear to infringe upon the necessarily voluntary nature of participation. If students who elect to participate are to be rewarded with course credit, for instance, then an option providing similar credit for a comparable time commitment must be made available to non-participants. Such activities might include ungraded papers or attendance of pertinent events beyond scheduled class meetings.
    3. Check IDs. Students who haven’t reached the age of majority can’t legally consent to be research subjects. You will need to (1) develop a protocol for gaining parental consent, (2) eliminate minors explicitly from participation while observing the equality concerns mentioned above, or (3) qualify for a waiver of parental consent.

Should I apply for waivers of consent or other measures that may be unnecessary? It’s best to have your bases covered, but inconsistency is a red flag. If you are preparing for a contingency, then complete your research application with the assumption that such contingency will occur.

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