Research Methods


In a discussion of Electronic Communication Across the Curriculum (ECAC) in Academic.Writing, Susan McCleod (2000) says, "I think it is vital that those of us interested in pedagogy across the curriculum get involved in designing ways to use technology, so that we can ensure that technology is enabling learning in the disciplines rather than returning us to the 'delivery of information' model of education." My research into WebMC supports this argument that it's critical for WAC to focus on electronic communication. It's important for WAC practitioners to discuss websites, electronic discussion boards, and listservs in WAC workshops; to become actively involved in the teacher training for electronic pedagogy, and to research and report on WAC and technology. Just as early WAC practitioners such as James Britton, Elaine Maimon, Toby Fulwiler, Art Young, and Barbara Walvoord fought against the passive, "banking" model of education and tried to persuade faculty across disciplines to see writing as an active, meaning-making activity, it's critical that WAC practitioners now argue for active-learning on-line. My research leads me to believe that instructors who lecture in the traditional classroom will just continue to "lecture" on-line, even given course-in-the-box communication tools such as discussion boards and listservs.

Of course, becoming involved in electronic communication presents WAC practitioners with new kinds of hurdles. At Florida State, Academic Computing controls the training involved with WebMC, and they are more interested in the nuts and bolts of technology than electronic pedagogy. Because WAC is not well established at Florida State, it's difficult for me as a WAC practitioner to become involved in the training for WebMC. However, I have included more discussion of electronic pedagogy in the faculty workshops I give on assigning and responding to student writing. I discuss the advantages of informal, exploratory writing in discussion boards and listservs, and suggest ways instructors might use these communication tools for prewriting, reflection, and collaboration.

As more and more institutions push for computer-assisted and distance learning courses, WAC practitioners need to be active participants in both helping to choose technology and helping train teachers to use the technology effectively. As Anne Herrington (2000) argues, "Participants in WAC programs need to keep informed of new technologies, have occasions to discuss their capabilities and impacts, and participate in shaping them." I don't think WAC workshop leaders need to necessarily become computer wizards, but they do need to stay familiar with effective ways to use tools such as chat rooms, discussion boards, and listservs to help instructors across the curriculum improve communication as they move on-line.