Re: Reassessing our practices

Greg Ritter (gritter@FELIX.VCU.EDU)
Tue, 13 Feb 1996 20:01:00 EST

Beth said:
> But isn't it ironic that even
> though we start focusing on "content" rather than "form," the
"form" still
> ends up being the essay (some kind of EDNA or EDNA hybrid). We
have our
> students work on getting that content up to snuff and then have
them stuff
> it into an essay. "Snuff-n-Stuff" -- I like that!

But that brings us right back around to the other end of the
vicious circle--we have to teach them the form because they're
going to be expected to "stuff" that content into the form in
much of the rest of academia.

I think the solution that would get us out of this vicious circle
is twofold:

(1) encourage WAC programs that make a process-based approach to
writing and revision more common in the disciplines

(2) encourage (perhaps through the WAC program) the disciplines
to assign writing that emulates the forms of writing students in
that discipline will be expected to do after they graduate (&
keep communication open with comp instructors so that we will be
able to better promote these forms in *our* courses)

I think we keep addressing this issue as if it's only a challenge
of composition pedagogy when actually I see at as an issue of the
problematic place of critical writing & thinking in universities
that prefer to evaluate students on quantitative test-taking
skills than on qualitative critical abilities.

This isn't solely a composition problem; this is a university-
wide problem.

The question then becomes what can we do as "authorities" in
writing to promote a better understanding of critical, process-
based writing throughout the university?

Some suggestions:
--invite other faculty from the disciplines into our class to see
what we do
--set up a bi-weekly roundtable meeting for faculty from across
the disciplines to come and discuss issues of writing
--At Drake U. in Iowa they've mandated that all full-time English
faculty teach composition at least once every so many semesters
(which gave former comp-only instructors the chance to teach some
other classes, too). Tom Swiss from Drake spoke about this at the
MAACW class this past weekend.
--Have a comp instructor & a disciplines instructor team-teach a
composition course or an introductory discipline course
--set up a listserver or newsgroup on your computer system
explicitly for students and faculty to discuss issues of writing
--have tutors from your university's writing center visit intro
classrooms in the disciplines to talk about (a) process-based
writing and (b) the writing center services
--how can we get the *students* involved in changing the system?
Maybe (as someone suggested) have them collaboratively work on a
Writer's Survival Guide. Maybe assign them a project where they
interview various professors about writing and writing evaluation
practices in their disciplines. Maybe assign them a project where
they re-write the syllabus from one of their other classes to
make it more writing intensive (ooh, yeah, just what they'd want
to do).
--set up writing workshops for faculty in the disciplines
--print out and photocopy posts from this thread and anonymously
stick it in the mailbox of every professor on campus :)

uhhh...I'm starting to slow down here...someone else take over
and add to the list!

(The nice thing I noticed about this list while I was writing it
is that you don't have to be tenured faculty or an administrator
or head of the comp program to do most of the above things...)

Greg Ritter