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
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.