I wasn’t able to attend the event at Literati bookstore (what a shame, I heard the topic and felt SO FOMO), so I listened to one of the other episodes in the Sweetland Center’s Topics in Writing Podcast. I listened to the episode with Elizabeth Wardle, Professor of Writing at Miami University, discussing the topic “Teaching to Encourage Transfer Across Courses and Context”.
I chose this podcast because I was curious what professors of writing think about how writing classes are supposed to build “general writing skills” even though writing anything is always so specific to the rhetorical situation! I guess it is something we discussed earlier in the course but I just wanted to come back to this idea and reflect, especially in light of the fact that we are almost done with the Gateway course and I am wondering how this class has changed how I approach writing from here on out. Moreover, I have plans to be an English teacher after graduation, and I also just want to think about how I might teach my students to be effective writers beyond the classroom.
Something in particular that struck me when listening to the podcast was when she talked about how students and instructors may approach the same genre with very different ideas of what it encompasses. She mentioned that an instructor may assign the same “write a journal” assignment semester after semester, but every student comes to it with their own different idea of what it is, and that could be a huge stumbling block in the student’s ability to write what the instructor is looking for. I think it is so important then, to think about how individual experience informs their conception of particular genres, and how crucial it is to bridge any gaps in conceptualization between instructor and student, so as to prevent frustration on both ends.
Another point she brought up was about “meeting requirements”. Often, in writing assignments, it is easy to fall into the “fulfil the set requirements mindset”, which is basically follow numerical requirements set on an assignment. Easy right? 10 pages, double spaced, font size 12, 3-5 academic sources. I found it really enlightening when she talked about how she felt that requirements really depended on each student and their individual topic and admire how she could individually discuss with them what they might need, and make them aware of it themselves. As a student, it would probably be frustrating to get the answer “it depends” all the time, but it is so true! There is an ideal number of [insert item] for every writing assignment, but it is so dependent on context, topic, rhetorical situation etc., and I agree with her that it is a more valuable learning and growth experience for the student to wrestle with what their specific writing needs are.
If I had been present, I really wish I could have asked how she might encourage students to apply their writing knowledge beyond classroom settings, such as writing for non-academic purposes, and what she thinks of teaching transfer, not just across academic disciplines, but also making connections to how they and their writing might function in the world.