CCCC 2001 in Review: S1.10 MFA Special Interest Group

David Starkey: Chair, presented "Pedagogy and the MFA."

In response to concerns about pedagogy that seem to foreground this SIG, Starkey announced that the low-residency MFA at Antioch College in Los Angeles (where he teaches) has added a strand that leads to a certificate in writing pedagogy and distributed materials describing it.. Discussion followed about the benefits of this certificate and the extent to which other MFA programs dealt with "the pedagogy issue," that is the preparation, or non-preparation of their students in the teaching of writing in general and creative writing in particular.

Will Hochman presented "Crossover Pedagogy: Using Multigenre Writing and PostProcess Theory to Ensure that Creative Thinking Innovates First Year Literacy."

Hochman made a rather strong case for using "crossover" pedagogy to teach first year composition and "for more equally synthesize(ing) creative and critical thinking into our notions of academic discourse." By releasing students to write in multiple genres, writing teachers may "deepen literacy and engage more components of language learning," in first year students. "Critical thinking," Hochman cautions, "is not enough to teach writing."

Stephanie Vanderslice presented "Talking So the Programs will Listen, Listening so the Programs Will Talk."

Returning to the "pedagogy issue" again, Vanderslice introduced a resolution, for consideration by the 4Cs committee on resolutions in 2003, that asks MFA programs to take more responsibility for professionalizing their students through teacher-training and for mentoring their students on navigating the difficult terrain that is the career of the writer-teacher in academia. Discussion centered on whether MFA programs should fashion themselves after Ph.D programs in comp/lit or whether MFA programs should simply work harder to illuminate the unique qualities an MFA degreed writing teachers bring to the writing classroom and/or tutoring situation.

Steven Krause presented "Leading a Double Academic Life: The Creative Writing MFA as Preparation for the Composition and Rhetoric."

Krause examined the choice to move from MFA to Ph.D. and explored the pluses and minuses of fully entering the rhet/comp/academic sphere. He admitted that this transition necessitated all but completely giving up time to write creatively, but emphasized (and many SIG responders agreed) that the training he received in his MFA program, specifically in attending to the daily act of writing, prepared him extremely well to keep up with the writing demands of a Ph.D. program and ultimately, the professional life of a compositionist. Moreover, he noted that MFA experience in the writing workshop also enhanced his ability to respond to student writing. [SV]

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