Assignments across the Curriculum

Assignments across the Curriculum: A National Study of College Writing

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Assignments across the Curriculum
    Book Description:

    InAssignments across the Curriculum, Dan Melzer analyzes the rhetorical features and genres of writing assignments through the writing-to-learn and writing-in-the-disciplines perspectives. Presenting the results of his study of 2,101 writing assignments from undergraduate courses in the natural sciences, social sciences, business, and humanities in 100 postsecondary institutions in the United States,Assignments across the Curriculumis unique in its cross-institutional breadth and its focus on writing assignments.

    The results provide a panoramic view of college writing in the United States. Melzer's framework begins with the rhetorical situations of the assignments-the purposes and audiences-and broadens to include the assignments' genres and discourse community contexts. Among his conclusions is that courses connected to a writing-across-the-curriculum (WAC) initiative ask students to write more often, in a greater variety of genres, and for a greater variety of purposes and audiences than non-WAC courses do, making a compelling case for the influence of the WAC movement.

    Melzer's work also reveals patterns in the rhetorical situations, genres, and discourse communities of college writing in the United States. These larger patterns are of interest to WAC practitioners working with faculty across disciplines, to writing center coordinators and tutors working with students who bring assignments from a variety of fields, to composition program administrators, to first-year writing instructors interested in preparing students for college writing, and to high school teachers attempting to bridge the gap between high school and college writing.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-940-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
    (pp. 1-19)

    In “The Future of Writing Across the Curriculum: Consensus and Research,” Chris Anson (1993) traces the history of research in Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), from early evidence of writing across disciplines that was mostly anecdotal to current research that emphasizes case study and ethnographic methods. Anson approves of the recent qualitative WAC research that has moved beyond “anecdotes, testimonies, and reports from colleagues,” but he also calls for more large-scale research into disciplinary writing (xvi). Elsewhere Anson (1988) has argued for “larger scale measures of belief and practice” (24) that will explore questions such as, “What does it mean...

  4. 2 LIMITED PURPOSES, NARROW AUDIENCES: The Rhetorical Situations of College Writing
    (pp. 20-40)

    Stephen Wilhoit argues, “at the heart of every assignment is the rhetorical situation—someone writing to someone about something for some purpose” (Wilhoit 2002, 62). From Lloyd Bitzer to Wayne Booth to James Britton, compositionists have focused on the composer and the audience as fundamental components of rhetorical acts. Although I also consider the broader contexts of genre and discourse community in my framework for analyzing the 2,101 writing assignments from across the curriculum in my research, the starting point for my analysis and the focus of the present chapter involves the rhetorical situation of purpose and audience.

    This chapter...

  5. 3 SOCIAL ACTION, SOCIAL INACTION: The Genres of College Writing
    (pp. 41-52)

    The discussion in chapter 2 of the rhetorical situations in the 2,101 writing assignments I collected provided a sense of the primary purposes and audiences students are asked to write for in academic discourse. I discussed the ways instructors in my study utilized mostly limited purposes and audiences in their writing assignments, with the exception of courses connected to a Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) initiative. But focusing primarily on purpose and audience only begins to tell the story of college writing, and in the chapters that follow I broaden the context of my analysis to rhetorical situations that have...

  6. 4 EACH COURSE IS A COMMUNITY: The Discourse Communities of College Writing
    (pp. 53-70)

    In the discussion of genre in chapter 3, I expanded my analysis of the writing assignments in my study beyond just the rhetorical situation of purpose and audience, and considered the social action of typified rhetorical situations—the genres of college writing. But a complete analysis of writing genres must move into even broader contexts for making meaning in the disciplines. In college writing, genres do not stand in isolation, apart from the context of wider disciplines and sub-disciplines. Genre theorists argue that genres are constituted by and, at the same time, help to constitute discourse communities (Bawarshi 2000; Miller...

  7. 5 THE POWER OF WRITING ACROSS THE CURRICULUM: Writing Assignments in WAC Courses
    (pp. 71-100)

    Thus far the story of my research into writing assignments across the curriculum has been, for the most part, a story dominated by informative writing to the teacher-as-examiner, in the form of the short-answer exam. Although I’ve discussed some significant positive patterns across the 2,101 writing assignments in my collection—the valuing of alternative research writing, the strong presence of exploratory writing in the form of journals, the number of instructors who ask for drafts—overall the limited purposes and audiences for writing in my study are similar to the limited purposes and audiences found in studies of secondary school...

    (pp. 101-132)

    This book has aimed to begin to address Chris Anson’s call for more large-scale research into writing across the curriculum: research focused on “larger scale measures of belief and practice” (24) that will explore such questions as, “What does it mean to write in a particular academic discipline? How do the criteria for good writing differ among diverse disciplines? What sorts of instructional beliefs about writing do scholars in different academic disciplines hold?” (1988, 3). Other than a handful of researchers in the 1980s who conducted surveys or collected undergraduate assignments from faculty at a single institution or a small...

    (pp. 133-136)
    (pp. 137-140)
    (pp. 141-146)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 147-148)