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by: Sadie Wolf

TheoriesofComposition ENGL833

Sadie Wolf
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This 0 page Class Notes was uploaded by Sadie Wolf on Sunday November 1, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to ENGL833 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania taught by ClaudeHurlbert in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 30 views. For similar materials see /class/233522/engl833-indiana-university-of-pennsylvania in Foreign Language at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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Date Created: 11/01/15
Mulally l Dauvan Mulally Dr Hurlbert ENGL 833 July 3 2007 Converging Worlds in FirstYear Composition Spheres of Self the Academy and the Future Since its inception in the early nineteenth century the firstiyear composition course has had little real 567156 afplaee While it may technically be located in the English department it is not truly situated there At most it is an unwelcome visitor Tagged as a service or fix it course freshman composition lacks a true aeadeinii dt in the university Like many college freshmen composition continues to search for itiplaee in academia It s this sense ofplaeelemnem that makes the writing classroom the ideal space for students to develop a 567156 ofahere It is here where students can or might begin to grapple with who they are and where they fit into the academy and life beyond college Firstiyear composition is a place where three worlds converge the self the academy and the future This dizzying geagrapbie abpbaria begins when freshmen are asked to leave the familiar behind and aeate themselves within the realms ofuncertainty and ambiguity The composition classroom is a natural setting for the rgraibianing reshaping and renegotiation students experience as they struggle to engage with and find real meaning in these overlapping spheres It is within this cartographic context that composition finds its true location and purpose on the university map For years composition studies has resisted the service title attached to its firstiyear writing classes It s as though we are shying away from the primary purpose ofa firstiyear writing coursei to make students aware of their own development as writers so they can continue developing as writers in their academic careers and in their future careers and lives In order to carve out its own intellectual niche in the academy firstiyear composition must begin to accept its service mission This can only happen if the field of composition owns its service label and transforms it into something far more signi cant Compositionist Roger Gilles believes The successful English department of the twentyifirst century will embrace its service role and work to prepare student Mulally 2 writers for the expectations of faculty across the disciplines and the demands of democratic citizenship In the best sense then a composition program serves its students the faculty throughout campus the institution itself and the larger democratic society Roen 8 In this context the label of service is not placing composition faculty in a subservient role to all other disciplines but instead is serving students in a time oflife transition We can no longer dismiss the fact that freshman writing courses provide many lifeishaping opportunities for students from identity exploration and acclimation into academic culture to future roles in civic and work life It is the service aspect of our composition courses that help students become more critical and intellectual to deepen their interest in the workings of the world and to encourage their active participation in the construction of that world As composition teachers we can use firstiyear writing as a transformational service course to meet student needsi taking students from where they are the amelemz39e threshold guiding them over the amelemz39e korderland into the academy and bringing them into a newfrorttz39er the future by providing a space for the development of their academic civic and personal literacies Composition studies particulary firstiyear writing must continue to reinvent relomte and rexz39tzmte itself on behalf of its students Confronting Composition s Ethic of Service Despite the fact that firstiyear composition remains at the center and heart of composition studies that most teachers teach it most students study it most textbook writers write for it and most thetoricians theorize about it freshman writing remains a center of contension Roemer et al 377 Respected compositionists such as Lil Brannon Robert Connors Sharon Crowley and Charles Schuster do not believe students should be required to study composition in the form ofa firstiyear writing course In her essay Composition s Ethic of Service the Universal Requirement and the Discourse of Student Need critic Sharon Crowley argues that composition teachers should drop outmoded requirements such as firstiyear writing courses that perpetuate the discourses of hierarchy and exclusion lnstead instructors should articulate the study practice and teaching of writing devise curricula in writing that aim at the achievement of critical public literacy and Mulally 3 abandon the institutional discourse of student need the service ethic of remediation and the universal requirement 2277228 In her journal oonlmmeol Composition article A Personal Story on Freshman English Crowley portrays the composition classroom as an oppressive space where students are forced into a remedial curriculum to learn substandard skills taught by underisupported adjunct faculty and graduate students 1557156 What she fails to see is the studenticentered teaching and emancipatory learning that often mkes place in the firstiyear writing environment This negative perception leads many to view the freshman composition course as merely a service activity rather than a class that is part ofa larger professionally legitimate academic discipline Some compositionists believe adopting a service label automatically downgrades composition to a marginal if not noniacademic standing Many faculty members connect the service ethic of composition to its failure to achieve disciplinarity David Bleich notes The teaching of writing is not considered to be a subject with a scholarly literature and a body of knowledge but a service and training area a staging area perhaps for the real work in science and technology qtd in Crowley Composition s Ethic 232 Blanket statements like this discount the pool of scholarship and research in composition studies generated through firstiyear composition It seems as though many compositionists overlook the fact that firstiyear writing is our primary field sitei the place where composition truly began Composition directors Marjorie Roemer Lucille M Schultz and Russel K Durst collectively affirm that freshman composition generates the bulk of the scholarly work and serves as the training ground for future teachers and scholars It is where we do our most visible work and where others learn from us How could it be possible that in upperilevel courses the field of composition is sophisticated and politically aware but in the introductory courses it is narrowly locked into a repressive paradigm of 19th century correctness Roemer et al 385 It is extremely troubling to me that firstiyear composition is being accused ofintentionally trashing the rest of the field by its mere existence These negative depictions of firstiyear composition only seem to divide the field further and strain an already tense relationship with literary criticism These inaccurate portrayals also intensify firstiyear composition instructors Mulally 4 feelings ofinferiority and noniacceptance from their literature counterparts Again certain names in the field are taking the role of service out of context and distorting it into something ugly and unworthy of our attention Regardless of these negative observations many compositions support maintaining the first year writing requirement and its service orienmtion toward its students In their coiauthored essay RefraIning the Great Debate on FirstiYear Writing Roemer et al argue for the value of the course as a pedagogical site with the potential to in uence very large numbers of students and for its importance as a site of struggle and change within the institutional hierarchy of academia 378 To put that into perspective my home institution Grand Valley State University GVSU alone offers nearly 130 sections of firstiyear composition each year That means we are annually teaching composition to over 3500 freshmen GVSU s firstiyear writing program interfaces with more students per year than any other branch of English or discipline on caInpus Since composition programs are so conscious of their service mission they tend to work harder than other English department prograIns to develop clear course goals and consistent valuable pedagogical practices Roen 9 Despite its neigh sayers composition continues to alter and transform its service image by aligning its goals with liberal education and democratic values to provide students with liberal habits of mind The FirstYear Debate A Historical Perspective A historical review of the firstiyear debate which dates back more than 100 years puts the ongoing firstiyear composition debate into perspective Reading excerpts from Alvin C Eurich s 1932 Should Freshman Composition Be Abolished and Oscar James CaInpbell s 1939 The Failure of Freshman English Englin journal articles and Warren G Rice s 1960 A Proposal for the Abolition of Freshman English as It is Now Commonly Taught from the College Curriculum and Leonard Greenbaum s 1969 The Tradition of Complaint College English pieces conteXtualized the argument for me Many past and current reviews of firstiyear writing focus on the more negative perceptions attached to the course students teachers and those who advocate on its behalf More Mulally 5 specifically the articles alluded to a lack of faculty desire to work with this particular student population due to its disinterest in improving writing and thinking skills and a faculty preference to teach more advanced upperilevel courses in subjects more suited to their personal interests Abolitionist arguments against the mandatory requirement of freshman composition come across as elitist at best Early opponents such as Hurlbut Sampson and Loundsbury viewed students as crude immature incompetents and contended that college was not the place to teach basic literacy skills that students could not learn to write or that students have nothing interesting to say Other abolitionists disliked composition teaching being linked with firstiyear writing s curriculum Roemer et al 379 Rhetorician Sharon Crowley laments This is unfortunate since the traditional pedagogy of this course firstiyear composition maintains and promulgates a definition and ideology of writing instruction that is quite narrow configuring it as a series of exercises in formal fluency plus instruction in usage grammar spelling and punctuation Composition s Ethic 231 As someone who is an advocate of the freshman composition course on many levels I find these observations disturbing I question the last time Crowley actually taught firstiyear writing let alone stepped foot inside a composition classroom Their comments marginalize not only the students and teachers but deflect attention away from the transformational education occurring in freshman writing courses on a daily basis This negative rhetoric deflects from the needs of the students and does not acknowledge the reality of their personal lives academic roles or future hopes converging each time they enter the composition classroom The Discourse of Needs One of the main justifications for not eliminating the firstiyear writing requirement in colleges and universities is based on the inherent belief that students actually do need and kem t from what we teach in firstiyear composition This ideology based on the discourse ofneed is the backbone ofmy convergent sphere theory that theorizes firstiyear composition is a space where students are able to develop multiple literacy approaches to the multiple worlds they encounter Mulally 6 during their freshman year of college Firstiyear writing often borrows from cultural studies ecology service learning multiculturalism etc The richness of firstiyear writing as a site has been its openness to new possibilities because its content is not prescribed many avenues toward critical literacy can be explored The site becomes then context speci c it arises out of discrete institutional histories Not only is there not just one freshman course but we could never wish that to be the case Sullivan et al 387 In the essay Student Needs and Strong Composition The Dialectics ofWriting Program Reform five Temple University writing faculty revisit the questions they raised during the institution s curricular reform of the writing program What do we Inean h need Who is it that requires sewtee afns What does it Inean to speae afsainethz39ng hez39ng eeanz39red afanrselves and our students Probing the terms need and service allowed them to own the terms and transform them into something fruitful for students the program the teachers and the university as indicated in the passage below If our desire is to intervene strategically and effectively in the struggle over literacy it would be strange to throw away that term and institutional space firstiyear writing that lets us practice our discipline and affect the literacy oflarge numbers of students Rather than imagining a sphere outside institutions where writing is pure purer purest our efforts are put into conceiving strong composition an emancipatory and re exive composition Sullivan et al 380 Educational studies indicate that firstiyear programs such as freshman composition that feature small classes individualized attention and a supportive environment does increase students chances of remaining in college Again firstiyear writing is responding through service to student needs Nationally approximately oneiquarter of all new college students do not return for their sophomore year ACT Statistics Grand Valley State s retention of firstiyear students is at about 75 percent While this was not excessively low there were a number of institutions comparable to GVSU that had higher retention due to their wellidesigned firstiyear experience programs Moreover such institutions reported students had a greater understanding of the university s mission the meaning ofa liberal education and what it takes to be successful as students First Year Retention Committee A purposeful firstiyear experience that includes a strong freshman writing program can provide a Mulally 7 structured introduction to the value ofa liberal arts education In addition it can enhance clarity on the expecmtions of faculty for student academic success and offer a clear understanding of the over arching theme oflearning as a foundation for completing an undergraduate education and for life after college To fully realize the vision of the convergent spheres theory and to truly transform composition s service label into something more positive and even noble we must keep the discourse of student need intact mainmin our service ethic and continue offering firstiyear composition to students Personal Discourse The Sphere of Self Through the lens of the convergent spheres theory we come to understand how the personal sphere of self reinforces the need for firstiyear composition I begin by examining the pivotal role freshman writing can play in helping students transition into college It is within this world that composition instructors are able to employ progressive teaching tactics such as seeing freshman as writers and critical thinkers who are able to acquire new discourses including disciplinary specific ones and then use them to effect change Sullivan et al 381 This sphere begins to take shape when college freshmen leave home and begin a real life epic journey College provides more than just a traditional education it affords an unforgettable experience in life and serves as a significant right ofpassage enabling individuals to cross barriers into true adulthood However many incoming students are not academically and developmenmlly equipped to handle the responsibilities and pressures associated with this newfound autonomy They often find themselves trapped inside a quotdisorienting vacuum of expecmtionquot qtd in Boyd et al 155 Students are faced with the tasks of esmblishing an identity including renegotiating relationships with parents and expanding and deepening their sense of context culture and community To better undersmnd how we move students beyond the academic threshold it is important to conceptualize the space they experience the geographic dysphoria previously mentioned Freshmen must not only learn to negotiate the new plyrim and 505m surroundings of the campus environment but the madam andsmpe as well Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is finding the Mulally 8 necessary support to help undersmnd and respond to these dramatic changes and lofty expectations As Nancy Sommers and Laura Saltz s CCCs article The Novice as Expert Writing the Freshman Year affirms the story of the freshman year is not one of dramatic changes on paper it is the story of changes within the writers themselves 124 Missing too often from the discussion of college writing is the experience of students and the role freshman writing plays in their relomtion and integration into college life Firstiyear writing serves not only as an introduction to the ways ofwriting but the ways of thinking and learning Freshman composition provides a safe learning neigbkorbood for students to articulate what they think feel and believe and in the process discover who they are as individuals Offering identityiaffirming opportunities in the composition classroom can encourage selfiexploration and cultivate independent thinking in our students The central role writing plays in helping students make the transition to college is far more significant than most critics realize We learn much from firstiyear students about their common struggles and abilities beyond our classrooms For freshmen who change rapidly writing is a mirror that helps reflect who they are as students allowing them to see themselves in their own words Sommers and Saltz 129 In a time of chaos and confusion the firstiyear writing class enables students to develop a sense ofwbma In order to get students to locate themselves within the university setting it often helps if teachers create assignments that allow them to write from a locus of authority For exaInple in my Writing 098 Writing with a Pnijjoie course students are asked to write a story about a place where they spent a significant amount of time growing up For many this means their immediate neighborhood For others it could be a place where they spent their summers a series of baseball or soccer fields where they spent long hours practicing and playing a shopping mall or some other space where they spent time hanging out Cast in the role of expert students are able to use the assignment to explore the cultural significance of the place they call boine Students write about quaint treeilined suburban neighborhoods the edginess ofa skate park the hot floodlights ofa football field and the seedy side ofurban dwelling In writing about a unilim omtion students are able to reflect on a place that gave them a real sense of kelonging Such discussions often segue way Mulally 9 into how students atelirnate and amtltnrate themselves into university life In his book Composition and thainaailiy Teaebing fora Threatened Generation writer Derek Owens asserts A first step is to create susmined classroom spaces where students can think critically about the past present and future of their communities and where we not only listen to their narratives but also imagine ways in which our pedagogies and curricula can facilitate the redesigning the revimlization and the preservation of these local environments 76 Such assignments can assist students in making sense of where they come from and conceptualizing where tbg are going Engaging students in personal expressivist discourse such as narrative writing provides an opportunity for students to see the world through stories and recognize their own meaningimaking powers When asked about the value of narrative writing my firstiyear students often respond with the following types of answers it allows them to discover their sense of self to release complex emotions by naming them to work through the manychanges in their daily lives to clarify a personal experience find meaning and at times make avaluable social contribution For freshman writers narratives serve as opportunities to develop and utilize critical skills such as selfidiscovery inner reflection knowledgeimaking and critical thinking In his book Living the Narrative Life Xtoriex a3 a ToolMeaning Maeing author Gian Pagnucci reinforces the importance ofintroducing students to narrative ideology in the classroom setting Offering students a narrative understanding of the world shows them how meaning can come through stories Students often do not realize the meaning behind the story until it is put down in their own words on paper I witnessed a powerful example of this when a student in my class was able to finally realize that being raped was not her fault Writing the narrative enabled her to see her experience from a new perspective which allowed her move on with her life Narrative writing offers students multiple possibilities for understanding events One studenfs essay explored a dysfunctional fatheridaughter relationship from her angle She sent a copy ofit to her estranged father who then called her By opening up a dialogue with her dad she was able to learn where he was coming from In the narrative world stories swiftly change and truth is often fluid Narratives also reinforce the notion Mulally 10 that life is messy Pagnucci 4853 Students not only learn about who they are as people but who they are as writers The composition classroom can shape the madam world into a place where students feel they t in by welcoming and valuing their experiences The Discourse of the Academy An Alternate Universe Of the three spheres students embody composition s service mission is called upon the most in helping students learn the discourse of the academy College students sometimes perceive this new language as a secret code they must crack in order for their writing to find acceptance with their teachers readers or themselves For students the sphere of the academy is like an alternate universe with composition teachers as their Martian guides The concept of the academy is often highly intimidating for freshmen because ofits connection to words like higher learning research and honorary membership In the text Engaged Writer and Dymmm Dz39mplz39nex authors Chris Thaiss and Terry Myers Zawacki acknowledge academic writing is a complex unstable term Many professors outside of composition and rhetoric commonly view academic writing as student training in response to an academic assignment or professional writing that trained academics such as teachers and researchers do for publication and conferences Some even see academic writing as the writing students will do in the workplace Many teachers in the composition and rhetoric field perceive the current definition of academic writing as narrow and uninterested in alternatives as ways to acknowledge and honor diverse voices Despite the dissimilarities Thaiss and Zawacki also found commonalities What these two groups have in common is their concern for student writers for giving them an accurate sense ofwhat they need to know in order to succeed as writers in school and the broader community writers who can meet others expecmtions and also articulately express their individual and communal identities desires and understandings 2 Some critics of firstiyear composition claim that teaching students the discourse of the university puts them in the role of needing the course even more In a way we are saying You need this course to write better to survive in the academy to get a better job and to have a voice in society Opponents of freshman composition often make teachers sound like we are taking a skills Mulally 11 and drills approach to teaching The Writing 150 classroom like virtually all general education classrooms represents a broad crossisection of students ranging from skilled writers and incisive thinkers to those who are struggling with command of collegeilevel language conceptualizing and organizational skills Some students are being asked for the first time to move away from a cut and paste approach to research that has become familiar to them and to develop original ideas of scope and scale appropriate to papers just four to seven pages long They are being asked to enter into an ongoing dialogue or eonvemation as others have termed it This can be terrifying to them Students can and do become frustrated with their freshmen biology and math courses but beyond the nuts and bolts ofgraInmar effective and engaging writing has few absolutes or totally correct or incorrect component As faculty we can help them grow more comfortable with ambiguity and with the process of exing new academic muscles Russel K Durst s book Collision Course Co7y7iet Negotiation and Learning in College Composition discusses how teachers try to draw students into the conversation of the academy As he observes it On the one hand teachers must hope that students can somehow be persuaded to adopt the values attitudes the habits of mind that underlie the curriculum and they must work hard to convince students of the advantages of critical literacy 61 In order to accomplish this goal though students must learn to appropriate this specialized language and make it their own Often though students have not been exposed to or accepted as part of such a discourse community Compositionist Susan Miller posits that the service ethic of composition is held in low repute based on social reasons such as class bias She bases her assessment on the belief that American universities after the Civil War used composition as a way to create a privileged discourse that forced unentitled students to conform to a certain smndard qtd in Crowley Composition s Ethic 238 known today as academic discourse Sharon Crowley sees the instrumental service ethic of the required composition course as making the student writing available for surveillance until it can be certified to conform to whatever smndards are deemed to mark it and its authors as suitable for admission to the discourse of the academy Composition s Ethic 229 To a certain eXtent she Mulally 12 places composition instructors into the role ofgateke em or kroeem of the dominant culture rather than facilimtors oflearning In the essay Students Goals Gatekeeping and Ethics writerJeff Smith states composition faculty are not obliged to bring students writing in line with a service model imposed by corporate America Rather we are ethically bound by students own aims even if those aims seem uncomfortably close to elite values Our distrust of such values does not permit us to tell students what they really want or should want Smith 31 A large majority of firstiyear writing syllabi promise to prepare students for collegeilevel writing As employees ofa university composition instructors should anticipate participation in an organization that prepares students for both professional and social roles If we don t teach students the skills necessary to succeed in college and other classes then who will Writer David Bleich sees teaching undergraduates to write for their other courses as an obsolete goal qtd in Crowley Composition s Ethic 232 while many college teachers expect students to write in the mother tongue of the academy Peter Elbow states lfwe don t prepare them for these msks we ll be shortchanging themgand disappointing our colleagues in other departments Discourse is power Not to help them with academic discourse is to simply leave a power vacuum 135 Many students become stifled because they feel that they have nothing of value to add to the ongoing academic conversation Critics of firstiyear composition continually push the notion that students enrolled in the course are Jukmz39mz39ve rem39wm ofpredetermined services rather than tofam39njmntx in the educational process As Crowley positions it This massimught course firstiyear composition also positions students as people who have no culture no history that might distinguish them in any way from the thousands of their peers who are also writing about abortion or capiml punishment or their most moving experience Required composition in other words configures students as people who exist only in the institutional present and who perform exercises that meet institutional needs to rank and exclude Composition s Ethic 236 Her personal critique is based on the reproductive theory of schooling where schools replicate the values social practices and skills needed for the dominant culture Viewing education as a oneiway exchange where students do not also transform is insulting to say the least Mulally 13 Firstiyear composition can become a place where students learn how to empower themselves as writers and human beings and have their voices heard often for the first time For insmnce last semester a WRT 150 student came to me frustrated that she could not come up with a topic for the persuasive essay I proceeded to question her What are you interested in Athletics What is your major Nursing When you watch the evening news or read the paper what headlines tend to catch your attention Health care Hey we just had a dietician come talk to the volleyball team about eating disorders A few ofmy teammates are currently struggling with anorexia and bulimia This saIne confused student went on to write a compelling persuasive paper on how collegiate athletic prograIns are not doing enough to help educate female athletes about the dangers of eating disorders This eXaInple clearly shows that given the right tools students can Midge their real world with their dmdemz39t world and learn some powerful lessons As teachers we need to reappropriate the term academic discourse for students so they begin to see it as the standards of the community they are preparing to join By altering the word we are able to help students begin to view themselves as legitimate memkem of a learning mmmmtz As teachers we seek to sensitize student writers to the values and practices of particular genres of writing The overall goal is to develop in students the ability to write well in a variety of contexts For the past three years the GVSU Writing Department has published the WRT 750 Guide to Writing in an effort to educate students on the program s goals and to model academic writing In each edition actual student portfolios are included to help students understand what collegeilevel writing is Students read and discuss the portfolio samples in an effort to model strong student writing and reinforce the expecmtions of writing in the academy Taking a communal approach to writing lets students know that we re in this together College then changes from the adversarial dmdmy to a tolldkomtz39w dmdemy where we share some of the same values Whether we are teaching a technical or conceptual course or some combination of both we have the opportunity to challenge students to recognize the power of these tools and consider how they can be used to affect positive changes in some aspect of life Moving student writing beyond academic discourse and into larger public Mulally 14 spheres is a more difficult ask The reienvisioning of the puklie sphere expands current conversations in composition concerning public discourse Public and Social Discourse The Sphere of Work and Civic Life Many individuals have come to view the world of higher education as just another quotindustryquot in the nation s increasingly productidriven economy Students have become customers and colleges have become vendors Increasingly class participation and attendance are voluntary arrival and departure times selfidetermined and a passing grade is a studenticonsumer expectation Now more than ever before students believe the chiefbenefit of a college education is to increase their earning potential in the work world A growing number of students view postsecondary education from a consumer standpoint with a focus on convenience quality service and cost As a result the sphere ofwork can often be foremost on students minds Firstiyear composition is often the primary space where students begin to question if what they are learning in lass is relevant to the world ofwore According to Arthur Levine and Jeanette Cureton authors of Collzgiate Life39An Okituay they students want their colleges to be nearby and to operate at the hours most useful to themi preferably around the clock They want convenience easy accessible parking at the classroom door would not be bad no lines and a polite helpful efficient smff They also want highiquality education but are eager for low costs The perception of students as consumers and the push to run colleges like businesses tend to promote quantity over quality The quotproductionquot of degrees and credit hours soon mkes precedence over more difficultitoimeasure efforts by firstiyear teachers to encourage their students to think in ways that will help them value education as a lifelong quest and not simply as a ticket to employment or status Making students undersmnd this significant concept is probably the most challenging task composition instructors face in the work sphere In response to these growing trends several educational organizations have developed some recommendations For example Greater Expectations A New Vision for Learning as a Nation Goes to College the 2002 report from the Assoiiation ofAmeiimn Colleges and Universities AACampU recommends outcomes which weave together both academic and employer expectations for student Mulally 15 accomplishment call for students to develop analytical and practical skills ethical and social responsibility as well as deep understanding of the social and natural worlds and ways ofgaining knowledge about them The AACampU reported that collegeibound students have barely heard of liberal education and even advanced college students associate it mainly with study in selected disciplines The students least likely to know about liberal education are from groups that historically have been least likely to attend college at all Schneider Practicing To further enhance its commitment to liberal education colleges must provide students with broad educational experiences that integrate liberal learning with preparation for a career or profession As a community of educators we can promote the ideals of liberal education while preparing students for the woreforee and grelong learning As Schneider suggests universities and faculty need to seize this opportunity and make a real commitment to the reinvigoration of the undergraduate experience and potentially seed a new owering ofliberal education Practicing All three spheres the personal the academy and workcivic life are all sites where the reblossoming ofliberal education and democratic can take root via rstiyear composition As composition instructors we play an integral role in helping rstiyear students not only nd their plate in tbe universiy but in the world ofwo e and eiin zfe as well While we are teaching skills grounded in the liberal arts we are actually preparing students for the world ofwork lt s impormnt to make students see that skills taught in the classroom actually translate directly into the workplace We know that an increasing number of students come into the academy with a consumer mindset Even vocationally they do not know what is relevant what is applicable and to what degree employers demand analytical and problemisolving abilities As educators we see that as students move and mature through their college years many begin to de ne an educated person along somewhat classic lines As Kurt Spellmeyer states in his article Can Teaching Of All Things Prove to Be Our Salvation Certainly the writing classes taught students how to write but more important these classes taught them how to use academic knowledge xed and formalized as it Mulally 16 probably has to be in order to make sense ofa perpetually shifting realiworld terrain Gohnson 109 As an affiliate faculty member I teach primarily Writing 150 as well as 098 and some sections of 305iWn39tz39ng in the Dz39mplz39nex l have writing editing communications marketing and public relations experience outside the academy a perspective that I bring to my teaching and to my liberal arts bridging and selling efforts I recognize that students do not yet see the benefit of the ability to think broadly and creatively an ability to remain exible in unpredicmble situations and an ability to communicate clearly that employers are seeking Higdon They do not see that these abilities will be called into play in theirfntnre roles as doctors teachers and accountants Student expecmtions especially freshmen expecmtions of the professional workplace are largely imagined andor hypothetical Students base what they know of the work world on their parents perceptions because they have not yet experienced firsthand contemporary workplace realities It is no surprise then that they cannot fully see how a liberal education with its broadibased foundation equips them with the skills to effectively respond to realiworld realities As faculty we can find ways to engage all students in their lives and the world around them and to bring immediacy and relevancy to coursework Owens sees a necessary first step is to at least listen to what our students have to say about their often crummy jobs and then gradually introduce the idea of more enriching and susminable employment opportunities 104 My freshman writing students desire to discuss their future careers and Michigan s poor economy has inspired me to assign Mike Rose s The Mind at Wore Valuing the Intelligenee of the Ameriean Woreer in an upcoming course The entry level composition classroom can begin to initiate some early conversations with these future workers Nowhere can a simpler more direct relationship between academics and the workplace be drawn than through attendance and deadlines in the composition classroom Creating a woreplme dj d ttt in the elamrooin helps students establish a sense of accountability When it comes down to student absences or missed deadlines faculty should frame questions from a workplace perspective What would happen you missed two weeex ofwore Wontolyon tmn in a ateprojeet to your hon Mulally 17 Incorporating reading assignments into the academic curriculum is also a great way to foster not only liberal education skills but reinforce relevancy Today s students as tomorrow s employees will be asked to frequently collaborate with their peers superiors and subordinates whatever their field and do so respectfully and thoughtfully That collaboration may be in the form of committee work process evaluation project management or creative brainstorming Therefore professors need to design and facilitate active and collaborative learning activities In the creation of iollooomtive learning environments Freire suggests The teacheriofi theistudents and the studentsiofitheiteacher cease to eXist and a new term emerges teacheristudent with studentsiteacher The teacher is no longer merely the oneiwhoiteaches but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students who in turn while being taught also teach Gohnson 98 In my WRT 150 course students work in peer review groups workshopping their writing and participating in group discussions In an effort to provide students with realiworld skills we do a class session on giving feedback to peers They gain experience in teamwork communication and interpersonal skills Again whether they enjoy it or not collaboration and peericritiquing is commonplace in today s jobs across disciplines Activities such as the ones previously mentioned illustrate how faculty can help students connect the liberal learning from firstiyear composition with the work world Of all the worlds within the convergent spheres theory the sphere of civic life has the most farireaching implications in the academy and beyond In the realm of social discourse the firstiyear service course can be harnessed for social action and increased connection between the university and the broader community Composition s service mission connects well with the world of civic engagement Through freshman composition students can begin to view discourse as aviable intellectual and social vehicle for change In his book Teoibing Composition in o Xoiiol Proton Bruce McComiskey states Most writing teachers agree that their courses prepare students for life in the real world but few teachers have theorized what sort of life they wish for their students and even few describe the condition of this real world Yet these are crucial tasks that those in academia Mulally 18 cannot ignore qtd in Owens 77 I do not want my students to be merely spectators in the world but rather active participants in their future roles as workers and citizens The promotion of a civil society and active citizenship in our students can encourage engaged involvement in the democratic process a sustained focus on solving public problems using academic intellectual and technical skills a commitment to effective leadership and collaborative work to promote the public good and recognition that we all have an obligation and an opportunity to work collaboratively to improve our communities In her manuscript Living Rooin Teaibing Pnklii Writing in a Privatized World social activist Nancy Welch discusses the revitalized interest in teaching public writing Firstiyear composition teachers such as myself have a strong desire for our students to make effective public arguments to influential audiences For insmnce in my WRT 150 course students are asked to research write and reflect on an issue that matters to them and that is impormnt to their local community This assignment asks the student to begin with a problem in their community either a need for some researchstudy or a need for some changes in action or policy They must perform field research such as interviews andor surveys that help them better understand this need for study or change more fully Students become informed citizens who are able to effectively problemisolve On the other hand real life events frequently seem irrelevant to the students dayitoiday lives Undoubtedly they also seem beyond their control or comprehension Thafs why we also begin or supplement these assignments described as well as others by engaging students in discussion of news headlines ranging from the localized or idiosyncratic to the international This particular assignment motivated several students to write about the unfair regulations attached to students university meal plans and proposals to fix them Other students wrote pieces on social issues such as WaliMart moving into a small town violence in a local city high school rising tuition costs teen drug abuse and many more Once students began writing they actually became excited at the prospect of entitling ibange Listening to them share their stories in their workshop groups I knew that for a moment they realized that they were not alone in their worries and hopes and also for a moment they were Mulally 19 visible to each other with each other in shared difficulties and also shared potential Xelch 34 Some students saw viable results fairly quickly After eimailing a batch of these papers over to university dining officials they decided to host open forums to discuss the problem Because these are all issues students can relate to discussing them provided an opportunity for a meaningful civics lesson Students were also able to develop critical thinking abilities lend immediacy and relevancy to academic inquiry and realize that while they may not be able to change the world over night they can participate in it in a meaningful way Converging Worlds A Theory in Transition The service roots of my course inspire me to theorize what kind ofworld I want for my studentsi ifI have done my job none ofmy students will ever again be free from knowing the unfinished business of their society its unfulfilled promises And beyond knowing they will feel responsible for addressing those issues in their own lives Robert Sholes concludes Now more than ever the graduates of our schools and colleges will live in worlds different from those in which they were born and went to school A discipline called English must help them prepare for unknown conditions The best preparation we can give our students will be the highest level of competence as readers and writers producers and consumers of the various teth they will encounter qtd in Owens 130 As composition teachers we can use firstiyear writing as a transformational service course to meet student needs by providing a space for the development of their personal aacademic and civic literacies The convergent spheres theory coupled with composition studies particularly firstiyear writing must continue to reinvent relomte and resitnate itself on behalf of its students To fnlb realize the vision of the convergent spheres theory and to tmb transform composition s service label into something more positive and even noble we must keep the discourse of student need intact mainmin our service ethic and continue offering firstiyear composition to students Mulally 20 Works Cited ACT Statistics American College Testing 2003 19 Jun 2007 ltwwwactstudentorggt Boyd Vivian S et al Relationship Between Identity Processing Style and Academic Success in Undergraduate Students journal of College 1 tndent Development 442 2003 155 Campbell OscarJames The Failure of Freshman English Englisbjonrnal 28 1939 77785 Crowley Sharon Composition s Ethic of Service the Universal Requirement and the Discourse of Student Need journal ofAdraneed Cornposition 15 1995 2277239 7quot A Personal Essay on Freshman English PreText 12 1991 1557176 Durst Russel K Collision Course Con iet Negotiation and Learning in College Cornposition Urbana IL NCTE 1999 Elbow Peter Reflection on Academic Discourse How It Relates to Freshmen and Colleagues College English 532 1991 1357155 Eurich Alvin C Should Freshman Composition Be Abolished Englisbjonrnal21 1932 2117219 First Year Retention Cornrnittee Final Report Grand Valley Smte University May 2004 Greenbaum Leonard The Tradition of Complaint College English 31 1969 1757187 Higdon Leo 1 Liberal Education and the Entrepreneurial Mindset A TwentyiFirst Century Approach M Education 91 2005 Proguest Proquest Information and Learning Company Grand Valley Smte U Lib Allendale MI 19 Jun 2007 lthttpwwwproquestumicomgt Johnson TR ed Teaebing Cornposition Bataground Readings Boston Bedford St Martin s 2005 Levine Arthur and Jeanette Cureton Collegiate life An obituary Change 1998 Proguest Proquest Information and Learning Company Grand Valley State U Lib Allendale MI 19 Jun 2007 lthttpwwwproquestumicomgt Owens Derek Cornposition and 1 nstainaoiliy Teaebing fora Threatened Generation Urbana IL NCTE 2001 Mulally 21 Pagnucci Gian S Living the Narrative Lye 1 tories as o Tool Meaning Moeing Portsmouth NH BoytonCook Heinemann 2004 Rice Warren G A Proposal for the Abolition of Freshman English as It Is Now Commonly Taught from the College Curriculum College English 211960 3617367 Roemer Marjorie et al Refrarning the Great Debate on FirstiYear Writing College Composition and Communimtion 503 1999 3777392 Roen Duane ed Xtrotegies for Teoibing FirstiYeor Composition Urbana IL NCTE 2002 Schneider Carol G Practicing Liberal Education Formative Themes in the Reinvention of Liberal Learning 90 2004 Proguest Proquest Information and Learning Company Grand Valley State U Lib Allendale Ml 17Jun 2007 lthttpWwwproquestumicomgt Smith Jeff Students Goals Gatekeeping and Some Questions of Ethics College English 59 1997 2997320 Sommers Nancy and Laura Saltz The Novice as Expert Writing the Freshman Year College Composition and Communimtion 56 2004 1247149 Sullivan Francis J et al Student Needs and Strong Composition The Dialectics ofWriting Program Reform College Composition and Commnnimtion 48 1997 3727391 Thaiss Chris and Terry Myers Zawacki Engogeol Writers Dynamii Disnplines Reseorib on the Amolemii Writing Lye Portsmouth NH BoytonCook Heinemann 2006 Welsh Nancy Living Room Teaching Public Writing in a PostiPublicity Era College Composition and Communimtion 563 2005 4707492


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