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«ANNE BEAUFORT U TA H S TAT E U N I V E R S I T Y P R E S S Logan, UT (c) 2007 Utah State University Press. College Writing and Beyond is available in ...»

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A New Framework for University Writing




Logan, UT

(c) 2007 Utah State University Press.

College Writing and Beyond is available in ebook edition at www.usupress.org.

Utah State University Press

Logan, Utah 84322–7800

© 2007 Utah State University Press All rights reserved Manufactured in the United States of America Cover design by Barbara Yale-Read Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data ISBN-13: 978-0-87421-659-2 ISBN-10: 0-87421-659-1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Beaufort, Anne.

College writing and beyond : a new framework for university writing instruction / Anne Beaufort.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-0-87421-659-2 (alk. paper)

1. English language--Rhetoric--Study and teaching. 2. Report writing--Study and teaching. 3. English teachers--Training of. I. Title.

PE1404.B37 2007 808’.042071173--dc22 (c) 2007 Utah State University Press.

College Writing and Beyond is available in ebook edition at www.usupress.org.

CONTENTS Acknowledgments 1 List of Tables and Figures 3 1 The Question of University Writing Instruction 5 2 The Dilemmas of Freshman Writing 28 3 Freshman Writing and First Year History Courses 59 4 Learning To Write History 69 5 Switching Gears: From History Writing to Engineering 106 6 New Directions for University Writing Instruction 142 Epilogue: Ten Years Later 159 Appendix A: From Research to Practice: Some Ideas for Writing Instruction 177 Appendix B: Samples of Tim’s Essays 207 Appendix C: The Research Methodology 215 Notes 223 References 230 Index 240 (c) 2007 Utah State University Press.

College Writing and Beyond is available in ebook edition at www.usupress.org.

APPENDIX A From Research to Practice: Some Ideas for Writing Instruction Here I briefly lay out a few of the teaching strategies I and my graduate student and collaborator, Dana Driscoll, have developed and tested in the classroom to put into practice the principles laid out in Chapter 6—principles that enable writers to become more flexible and learn writing requirements in new contexts more readily. I also draw on the excellent work of Amy Devitt, Mary Jo Reiff, and Anis Bawarshi in Scenes of Writing: Strategies for Composing with Genres (2004). And if ideas I think are mine were in fact borrowed from others but I no longer remember, I trust those individuals will let me know so that I can express gratitude and give proper acknowledgement.


As I explained in Chapter 6, writers will not automatically bridge, or bring forward, appropriate writing strategies and knowledge to new writing situations unless they have an understanding of both the need to do so and a method for doing so. In other words, writers, if they want to gain expertise in multiple genres and discourse communities, have to learn to become lifelong learners. The developmental process for writers never ends.

So teachers and tutors who teach for transfer are doing a great service to their students. I would encourage all to read the articles I have cited by Perkins and Salomon (1989) for a deeper understanding of the research on transfer of learning. Keeping in touch with one or several students over the course of the students’ education and entry into the work world to see what writing situations and difficulties they encounter and how they handle them can also enrich one’s perspective on teaching writing. The ideas presented here will also guide teachers and tutors to aid their students in developing what Smit (2004) calls “rhetorical flexibility” and I would refer to as multiple writing expertises.

1. Teach learners to frame specific problems and learnings into more abstract principles that can be applied to new situations.

Expert knowledge is not just a head full of facts or patterns, a reservoir of data for the intellect to operate upon. Rather, it is information so finely adapted to task requirements that it enables experts to do remarkable things

–  –  –

with intellectual equipment that is bound by the same limitations as that of other mortals (Bereiter and Scardamalia 1993, p.30).

The model of writing expertise (see Figure 1, page 18) as well as the concepts within the framework that are specific to writing situations—discourse community, genre, and rhetorical situation, are the kinds of “


principles” that can be taught explicitly and may help writers to frame their knowledge in ways that aid transfer to new writing situations. Generally, I begin with the concept of genres, and then, after students have read, discussed, written in several genres and we have talked about the nature of each, I bridge to the discourse communities students know and participate in. These “meta” discussions and activities are interwoven with the normal course activities of reading, discussing, and analyzing core readings and working on writing projects. Here are

just a few of the ways these concepts can be introduced:

Ways to Teach Genre Awareness

• Type up a horoscope in poem format (short lines/verses). Ask a student to read this “poem.” Ask for comments on the features that make it a “poem.” Then reveal the true genre and discuss how one’s mental schema for a genre influences the way one reads and interprets texts.

• Ask students to make a list of 10 genres they regularly read. Have them pick three and describe how they read them differently. Do the same exercise with 10 genres students regularly write. Then hypothesize how the genre prescribes or influences the processes entailed in reading or writing them (from Scenes of Writing).

• Collect multiple samples of a short, simple genre: for example, obituaries, wedding announcements, news briefs, postcards, abstracts of journal articles. Using a matrix like the one on the next page (acknowledging its simplified format for describing genres), ask students to identify key genre features. Then discuss the social actions and values represented in these genre features.

• Give students a short reading selection without disclosing the source. Ask them to infer the genre, then discuss its properties and how that influences the meaning of the text. Some possible sources: newspaper or magazine editorials, song lyrics, advertising copy.

(c) 2007 Utah State University Press.

College Writing and Beyond is available in ebook edition at www.usupress.org.

Appendix A: From Research to Practice: Some Ideas for Writing Instruction 179

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Structural features Linguistic features

• Assign a brief topic and a genre students will use to write on the topic (for example, an ad to sell something in the newspaper).

Then assign the same topic to be written in a different genre (a bulletin board notice? a listing on eBay?). Compare treatments of the subject in the two genres and how rhetorical purpose, content, structure, and linguistic features change (or not) in each genre (from Scenes of Writing).

• After students have collected multiple examples of a genre, analyzed the genre, and have written in that genre, have small groups write a “how to” guide for composing in this genre that other writers can use (Coe 1994).

Ways to Teach the Concept of Discourse Community

• Introduce the concept with a definition such as this: “A discourse community is a social group that communicates at least in part via written texts and shares common goals, values, and writing standards, a specialized vocabulary and specialized genres.” Then present numerous examples of texts from very divergent discourse communities and ask students if they can discern which discourse community “owns” or uses the text (for example—the baseball scores reported in the daily newspaper, or lyrics from a rap song). Based on these text samples, students may speculate on what the features of the discourse community are, using the definition as a heuristic.

• For a given discourse community the students know (one’s major, or a social group one is associated with), brainstorm a list of all of the genres one uses in the discourse community.

(c) 2007 Utah State University Press.

College Writing and Beyond is available in ebook edition at www.usupress.org.

180 C O L L E G E W R I T I N G A N D B E YO N D

–  –  –

• Ask students to bring to class sample texts from discourse communities they are members of. Remind them of the definition of discourse community. Have them do a brief freewrite on the ways that discourse community defines itself via its shared texts.

Discuss their examples.

• Do a matrix such as the one below for the discourse communities of different academic disciplines. Have students who are familiar with (or majoring in) the different disciplines complete the matrix for their discipline. Have a whole group discussion of similarities and differences in the features of different academic discourse communities.

–  –  –

• Show students two texts on the same topic, but written for different discourse communities (for example, a science report in The New York Times and one on the same topic in a scientific journal such as Nature). Ask them to list the differences they see. Refer back to the definition of discourse community and ask students to infer what the discourse community that “owns” each text values, based on features of the sample genres.

• Have students join a listserv or newsgroup and “lurk” for two weeks (a virtual discourse community). Observe special terminology used, or common terms that are given special meaning.

(c) 2007 Utah State University Press.

College Writing and Beyond is available in ebook edition at www.usupress.org.

Appendix A: From Research to Practice: Some Ideas for Writing Instruction 181 Observe who the members are. Answer these questions about the discourse community: What do you think the goals of the community are? How do the community’s goals and values shape what they write? What else do you notice about the writing of this group? What content is important to this group?

What themes are expressed across multiple texts? Are there dissenting voices? (from Scenes of Writing)

• Assign an ethnography of communication for a discourse community of the student’s choice (an academic community, a social organization, a volunteer group they work for, a workplace setting, etc.). Teach the skills for taking field notes and conducting interviews and gathering written artifacts. Assign a library research component as well—what others have written about this discourse community. Discuss ways of parsing the definition of discourse community for analysis of the data. Have students prepare a final report on their research to describe the discourse community to an outsider. For examples of ethnographies of discourse communities, see Beaufort (1991), Fishman (1988), Heath (1983).

2. Give students numerous opportunities to apply abstract concepts in different social contexts If knowledge is just items in a mental filing cabinet, then it is easy to acknowledge that an expert must have a well-stocked filing cabinet, but that is like saying that a cook must have a well-stocked pantry. The pantry is not the cook, the filing cabinet is not the expert. What counts with cooks and experts is what they do with the material in their pantries or memory stores (Bereiter and Scardamalia 1993, p.45).

Once students understand the frameworks for analyzing writing in different social contexts, they can be given tasks that invite comparisons, and using the concepts to “decode” what is happening in new writing

situations. For example:

• Have students compare texts assigned in a given course they are taking for genre features and relationship to the discourse communities represented.

• Ask students to collect writing assignments from different

–  –  –

courses and different professors. Students can analyze the assignments for genres assigned and inferences in the assignment about the discourse community represented.

• Assign students a writing task in a given genre for a given discourse community. Then ask them to write about the same content for a different discourse community. Afterwards, ask them to reflect on the differences in how they approached the tasks (writers’ roles), what values and goals of the discourse communities they had to keep in mind, and what norms for genres they needed to change for a different discourse community.

• Assign a community service project or an internship in a field related to the subject matter of the course. Prepare students to analyze the social context using the theoretical lenses of discourse community knowledge and genre knowledge and rhetorical situation as they are working on the assignment. Bridge back to the academic context with a discussion of differences between the academic discourse community and the discourse community of their field work.

3. Teach the practice of mindfulness, or meta-cognition, to facilitate positive transfer of learning In its fullest sense progressive problem-solving means living an increasingly rich life—richer in that more and more of what the world has to offer is taken into one’s mental life. But that increasing richness, because of its time and cognitive demands, requires the judicious reduction of peripheral problems.

Sages like Henry David Thoreau have been telling us that for a long time (Bereiter and Scardamalia 1993, p. ).

This principle is an extension of the familiar step in the writing process of reflection after the project is completed. What is important for transfer is constantly connecting new and already-acquired knowledge.

Here are some suggestions for fostering meta-cognition about writing knowledge that will also aid transfer of learning.

–  –  –

(c) 2007 Utah State University Press.

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