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Writing-Intensive: Becoming W-Faculty in a New Writing Curriculum

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 290
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In one of the few book-length studies of a major post-secondary writing-across-the-curriculum initiative from concept to implementation, Writing-Intensive traces the process of preparation for new writing requirements across the undergraduate curriculum at Simon Fraser University, a mid-sized Canadian research university. As faculty members across campus were selected to pilot writing-intensive courses, and as administrators and committees adjusted the process toward full implementation, planners grounded their pedagogy in genre theory-a new approach for many non-composition faculty. So doing, the initiative aimed to establish a coherent yet rhetorically flexible framework through which students might improve their writing in all disciplines. Wendy Strachan documents this campus cultural transformation, exploring successes and impasses with equal interest. The study identifies factors to be considered to avoid isolating the teaching of writing in writing-intensive courses; to engender a university-wide culture that naturalizes writing as a vital part of learning across all disciplines; and to keep the teaching of writing organic and reflected upon in a scholarly manner across campus. A valuable case history for scholars in writing studies, WAC/WID, and curricular change studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-704-9
    Subjects: Education, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Dennis Krebs

    What exactly is a good education and how can universities best help students acquire one? These were the questions that guided a committee struck by the Vice-President, Academic, of Simon Fraser University to evaluate the undergraduate curriculum and make recommendations to improve it.

    Following extensive reading and consultation, this committee, which I chaired, decided that the essence of a good education lies in the acquisition of the ability to write well (which entails thinking clearly and communicating one’s ideas in ways that can be understood by others), the acquisition of quantitative abilities (which implies an appreciation for logic), and exposure...

    (pp. 1-4)

    An itinerant, a scholar gypsy with “one aim, one business, one desire” (Arnold, The Scholar Gypsy) I wandered into international schools in thirty-five countries, over a twenty year period. I met with teachers of children learning their letters and with teachers of teenagers puzzling through Shakespearean plots or the mysteries of photosynthesis. I was the “expert” on writing, a consultant and director of National Writing Project sites. I went by invitation to do weekend workshops and teach alongside faculty from across the disciplines in their K-12 classrooms. I drew teachers to three-week summer programs in the Philippines, in Greece and...

    (pp. 5-16)

    The title of this monograph, Writing-Intensive: Becoming W-Faculty in a New Writing Curriculum points to what is clearly not a modest undertaking. We were latecomers, like most others in Canada, to the institutionalizing of writing at our university. But we gave serious attention to the reports of colleagues in other institutions, mainly American, which made it clear what would be involved if we also became serious about investing in student writers. Like others, we had noticed an increase in student literacy problems, and also like others, had begun to realize that laying the blame elsewhere, on the parents, the kindergarten...

  4. 1 FORTY YEARS ON: An Old Mission in a New Context
    (pp. 17-38)

    Historically, complaints about the quality of student writing have been as common and widespread at Simon Fraser University (SFU) as at any other university. Faculty responses to what are perceived as problems with students’ abilities and performances have, also historically, tended to be piecemeal, intermittent, and often based on somewhat outdated ideas about writing, discourse acquisition, and learning. Instituting an in-the-disciplines writing requirement for all undergraduates suggested that the university was now ready to address systematically students’ academic and professional literacy. It also created the opportunity to encourage discussion of writing development in more positive ways, as a desirable attribute...

    (pp. 39-65)

    The introduction of an in-the-disciplines writing requirement for all undergraduates created an opportunity to encourage discussion of writing development as a desirable attribute of graduates, in contrast to a writing-as-remedial approach to address the concerns of faculty and the university administration. The W-initiative invited a shift away from the complaint of, “why hasn’t someone taught them this before,” which tends to reflect a belief that writing is only or mainly a matter of learning transferable generic skills. The concept of writing in the disciplines held out a promise that could transform such perceptions: it presented the possibility of understanding writing...

  6. 3 IN DEFENSE OF STUMBLING: The Map is Not the Territory
    (pp. 66-86)

    “So, we’ll see what the new TA (teaching assistant) is like. If I don’t think he can handle it, we’ll have to drop the idea. I’ll call you right after I see him.” I nodded. “Okay, let’s hope it works out. Talk to you later.” I sighed and left Don DeVoretz’s office. It was August 20th and classes in economic development were to begin on September 3, 2003. Don was still not able to confirm that he would experiment with making his third-year economics course a pilot W-course. He was willing. We had first met earlier in the summer and...

  7. 4 WHAT HAPPENED IN THIS COURSE? Reflections from Three Perspectives
    (pp. 87-119)
    Joan Sharp, Erin Barley and Wendy Strachan

    “I’ve been doing this for years,” said Joan Sharp at one of our first meetings, reminding me that she had introduced an essay assignment into the first-year biology course in the early 1990s and had given students feedback on drafts if they submitted them early enough. An enthusiastic and dedicated teacher, Joan is the sort of person who sends you e-mail messages at 1:00 in the morning, who is constantly on the move from one appointment to another across the wide range of her activities both at the university and outside it, and whose passion and fascination for all living...

  8. 5 TAKING A GENRE APPROACH TO TEACHING WRITING: The Consulting, Collaborative Process
    (pp. 120-138)

    Our roles as CWIL consultants to faculty and our pedagogies grounded in new rhetorical genre theory were at once both visible and invisible. We engaged with faculty to help open up their thinking about writing, about teaching, and about pedagogy, to reveal new understandings. We used genre theory, broadly defined, as our text. From that text and the principles it embodied, we created scripts that would serve to interpret genre to faculty with whom we worked and whose performance in the classroom we wanted to affect. Theatre director Jerzy Grotowski speaks of an author’s text as being “for both actor...

  9. 6 VOICES OF EXPERIENCE: Reflections from the W-Faculty
    (pp. 139-168)

    In my role as director of CWIL, I knew my own motives and biases; I was ambitious. When I thought about the place of writing in the university, I envisioned a transformation of the university culture of teaching and learning. I envisioned a writing environment that apprenticed all students as writers, an environment where writing and teaching writing were so fully integrated into learning that the fact of teaching writing would no longer attract bewildered critique or opposition. In embarking on the W-strand of the curriculum initiative, I knew that as consultants, we in CWIL needed a certain passion and...

  10. 7 THE INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT: How is it Helping or Hindering the Writing Curriculum Initiative? A Faculty Forum
    (pp. 169-190)

    In Spring 2005, when I met to interview the ten faculty members who had early on decided to modify their courses to include more writing and writing instruction, we reviewed the pilot phase together. Their analyses drew attention to elements at the department and university levels that were framing and in some respects constraining their work in the classroom. These elements included the political, economic, historical, intellectual, and simply bureaucratic realities that necessarily constrain individual efforts in a large institution and perhaps become particularly visible when changes are being attempted. Such constraints cannot be overlooked but also need not be...

    (pp. 191-234)

    In the first two chapters of this book, I traced the path by which the Administration, the faculty on broad-based committees, the deans and departments, and CWIL worked both together and alongside each other to develop a plan instituting new undergraduate writing requirements and to define how those requirements would be met in designated W-courses. Those two chapters set out the institutional context. The image of ‘tracing the path” through the complexities of competing and contentious priorities mainly at the administrative level is rather tidier than the reality, of course. The reality was at times a bit more like uncoordinated...

    (pp. 235-235)

    Chris Anson’s comment on “how easily all the things that have taken so much negotiation, planning and hard work are dismantled” goes on to qualify the sense of “heartbreak” with the reminder that “in spite of the politics and hierarchies in which we work as administrators of writing programs, it is the human moments, the connections we make and the lives we touch and improve, the ways we live and work in and through our places in higher education that really matter” (Anson 2002, 168). He is quite right, of course. Those of us who had the pleasure of working...

  13. Appendix 1 A Proposal for the Development of Undergraduate Writing-Intensive Courses at Simon Fraser University
    (pp. 236-240)
  14. APPENDIX 2 Pre-Course Questionnaire
    (pp. 241-242)
  15. APPENDIX 3 In-class Memo Assignment and Peer Review Guide
    (pp. 243-245)
    Don DeVoretz
  16. APPENDIX 4 Econ 355 Assignment Questions Summary
    (pp. 246-249)
    Don DeVoretz
  17. APPENDIX 5 Survey Data from Third Year W-Course, Economic Development, Economics 355
    (pp. 250-259)
  18. APPENDIX 6 Categories for Analyzing Students’ Written Responses
    (pp. 260-261)
  19. APPENDIX 7 Questions for structured interviews
    (pp. 262-265)
  20. APPENDIX 8 Arts Faculty Survey
    (pp. 266-269)
  21. APPENDIX 9 Post-course Questionnaire
    (pp. 270-272)
  22. APPENDIX 10 Draft: CWIL Mandate, January 2004
    (pp. 273-274)
  23. APPENDIX 11 Constitution for the Proposed Schedule A centre
    (pp. 275-277)
  24. APPENDIX 12 Stages of Writing Program Development—Notes from a Presentation at Simon Fraser University, June 6, 2006
    (pp. 278-280)
    Bill Condon and Carol Rutz