Composition research consistently demonstrates that the social
context of writing determines the majority of conventions any
writer must observe. Still, most universities organize the required
first-year composition course as if there were an intuitive set of
general writing "skills" usable across academic and work-world
In College Writing and Beyond: A New Framework for
University Writing Instruction, Anne Beaufort reports on a
longitudinal study comparing one student's experience in FYC, in
history, in engineering, and in his post-college writing. Her data
illuminate the struggle of college students to transfer what they
learn about "general writing" from one context to another. Her
findings suggest ultimately not that we must abolish FYC, but that
we must go beyond even genre theory in reconceiving it.
Accordingly, Beaufort would argue that the FYC course should
abandon its hope to teach a sort of general academic discourse, and
instead should systematically teach strategies of responding to
contextual elements that impinge on the writing situation. Her data
urge attention to issues of learning transfer, and to
developmentally sound linkages in writing instruction within and
across disciplines. Beaufort advocates special attention to
discourse community theory, for its power to help students perceive
and understand the context of writing.
Subjects: Language & Literature, Education
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