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CCCC 2004: Review

Review: AW 3 Working with Adult Writers: Cross-Institutional Approaches to Serving a Growing Demographic
Reviewed by: Sharleen Dickinson, Tafdali@aol.com
Posted on: April 17, 2004

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Chair: Herbert Shapiro, Ph.D., Presenter: Barbara Gleason, Ph.D.

This was the first CCCC activity I attended.  Our workshop group (about 10 of us) met at 1:30p.m. in the Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas.  We sat around a table and shared information about our experiences with adult learners in the writing classroom.  We noted that the differences between adults and “traditional age” students are significant.  One person spoke about such “dispositional barriers” as adults thinking they should have finished college at a “traditional” age.  Since they have not, these adult students often feel like failures.  We agreed that part of our responsibility as teachers is to assure adult students that they bring a unique level of wisdom through their experienced presence in our writing classes.  Dr. Shapiro, who directs the Writing Program at Empire State College, said his school even offers adult learners “Life Experience Credit”.

Another member of the group brought up the fact that adult learners were often technology-phobic.  They are often reluctant to use the computer’s word processor or access the Internet.  Dr. Gleason suggested that this problem, as well as many others, is made manageable through one-on-one conferencing.  Dr. Gleason works with adult learners and adult ESL students at the City College Center for Worker Education in lower Manhattan. Her students produce “authentic writing” as class assignments.  Such writing as letters to the editor of newspapers and letters to store managers concerning customer service issues give adult learners confidence and help ESL students learn how to express themselves in our culture.

Dr. Gleason has her students read College Survival Strategies for Adult Students by Frank J. Bruno, Ph.D.  She said it was so well-received by her students that she asked them to respond directly to Bruno.  Since the Conference, my students at Gateway Community College in New Haven, CT discussed a book they read in my African American Literature class--The Color of Water by James McBride.  I suggested that they e-mail their responses to the author.  They seem enthusiastic about this idea. Dr. Gleason’s approach to using email as a way to bridge the literacy gap between student and text seems to offer a useful method for teachers to help students situate their learning encounters with texts and authors more confidently.

This workshop was a great way for this reviewer to begin her first experience at a 4C’s Convention.  I’m older than most graduate students attending their first conference and the ideas in the workshop were applicable to the conference as well. The people in the group were friendly, the topic was pertinent, and the chair and the presenter were extremely informative and outgoing. The session ended with some text recommendations, and the promise that Dr. Shapiro would keep in touch with all of us – and he has.  I received an e-mail from him, with the e-mail addresses of all the educators who attended that session. Many of the sessions that followed for me continued in a similar way. My 4C’s experience has been all about meeting people, making connections, and learning to stay in touch through the new ideas I teach with and even through this review.


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