Re: Re[2]: Reassessing our practices

Nick Carbone (nickc@MARLBORO.EDU)
Tue, 13 Feb 1996 11:00:03 -0500

On Tue, 13 Feb 1996, Michael Hamende wrote:

> Greg,
> You said:
> The solution? Provide freshmen with real writing situations? Make them
> write for publication, make them write letters to the editors, op-ed
> columns, etc.? But if we do this what will we do when they get to
> History 201 or Psych 376 or even English 420 where they're expected to
> write a good "undergraduate academic essay" and not an op-ed position
> piece?

The choice doesn't have to be between 'real world' and 'academic';
there's room for both in a composition class. A colleague at UMass, Zan
Meyer-Congalves, combines I-search of an agency or non-profit group with
writing for that group as well as writing traditional academic essays. I
have a class this semester titled "Literacy Project" where students are
doing commmunity service work, some involves writing for agencies, some
about agencies; they are also reading Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater's
_Academic Literacies, the Public and Private Discourse of University

One of class projects is writing a student's survival guide to writing
requirements in classrooms. Students need to learn how to ask questions
of teachers because teachers often forget that their assumptions about
what makes writing 'correct' is not universal. For example, some
teachers don't allow the first person in an academic essay; others might
insist that the thesis statement must be in the first paragraph; yet
others might declare that a paragraph cannot be more than 5 sentences

Since every composition class is taught from a particular teacher's
understanding of what is acceptable (academic or other) writing,
students will learn to negotiate the thicket of future expectations.

What's nice about writing in computer mediated communication is that
students usually receive direct feedback, and quick feedback, about
what's working because the context of the remarks is livelier. Printed
and handed in (or published in print or on-line) essays that require
writers to invent their audiences and to assume that they have only one
shot at saying what they want to say or else they will lose or confuse
their audience are different kinds of performances. The skills learned
in writing for real world audiences, which can be just as 'imagined' as
an academic one for students (How's the audience of a letter to an editor
different from the audience for a paper on archetypes in Homer?), can be
transfered to writing for academic audiences.

There are so many ways we can emmerse students in language and in
writing; teaching them to stay afloat after the course, when we're not
around to toss an occassional life-saver or putting them ashore to catch
their breath, is the trick.

Nick Carbone, Writing Instructor
Marlboro College
Marlboro, VT 05344