CCCC 2006 in Review
Perhaps a better title for this panel would have been "Integrating Writing into Campus Culture," since all three panelists presented talks on the ways that writing informs work throughout the disciplines. The relevance of this topic for all practitioners of writing, whether from the perspective of Writing instructors, Writing center tutors, administrators, or faculty within the disciplines, was immediately apparent. Writing affects all corners of academic life, and with attention to the cultivation of successful relationships between writers, their professors, and the services that support both, all members of the academic community stand to benefit.
In her talk, Blakeslee identified seven strategies for the successful implementation of a WAC program within a university setting. Having worn many hats as administrator and professor, Blakeslee had first-hand experience addressing many of the issues from both sides. Among the seven factors required for the "Cultural Shift" on campuses that would make WAC programs successful, were faculty and institutional "buy-in," a flexible outcomes-based approach, a supportive community that recognizes the need to cross disciplinary boundaries, and a commitment to on-going research and assessment. All of these factors point to the need for an institutional change for the successful integration of a WAC-based program.
Cogie examined the potential benefits of integrating writing center tutors within both composition classes and classes within the disciplines. Along the way she also considered some of the drawbacks. Writing Centers, with their focus on peer-to-peer facilitation of writing tasks, offer a unique resource for composition courses; by shifting the focus in the classroom away from the primary instructor to peer groups or tutor-led editing, new possibilities for peer-based learning emerge. In addition, being exposed to writing center staff within a classroom setting can make students more aware of the value of the writing center's function and its services. Concerns for the writing center include the fear that the authority of the tutors will be undermined if they have to answer to the goals or desires of the course instructor, and that a lack of planning or clear-cut session goals can lead to confusion for both students and tutors. Once the writing center tutors attempt to integrate sessions into disciplinary classes (those other than composition), a few more complications can arise.
A study conducted to determine the efficacy of Cogie's program showed that many professors felt that devoting class time to writing instruction would detract from time that could be devoted to "content." Luckily, these bumps in the road (like most addressed) were significantly improved with communication. Of course, communication between faculty and between departments takes time. But, as Cogie's paper showed, it would be time well spent.
Mataway began her presentation, and her study, with an assumption that many writing instructors surely share. Given the complaints often heard from other professors about their students' writing, one may gather that for instructors in the disciplines, good writing means solid grammar and syntax. In fact, the results of a study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh show that professors across the university viewed solid writing skills as requiring far more than simply technical competence. The study, conducted by Mataway and David Bartholomae, sought to document how different departments were fulfilling the campus's writing requirements and what kinds of writing different disciplines were privileging both in and out of the classroom. Twenty-seven faculty members, identified as being "invested in writing," were interviewed, and the results demonstrated that while conceptualizations of writing differ, nearly every person surveyed agreed that what was at stake in good writing is far more than grammar. Mataway identified three primary trends in the responses: first, writing was seen as a means to communicate information gathered from research; second, writing could function as a tool to generate thoughts in addition to documenting thoughts; and third, writing was a necessary tool to develop and sustain the discourse within a discipline.
All three panelists' work shows the necessity for open communication between disciplines. Being open and willing to accommodate the needs and methods of the other can be beneficial to faculty, to the quality of work produced, and ultimately, to students.
— Rebecca Mitchell
For more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.