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College Writing and Beyond

College Writing and Beyond: A New Framework for University Writing Instruction

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    College Writing and Beyond
    Book Description:

    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 settings. 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-663-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Education

Table of Contents

    (pp. 5-27)

    This book has two stories to tell: the story of Tim’s somewhat limited growth as a writer (from this researcher’s perspective) between the time he started a freshman writing class at a major US university until two years after he had graduated from school; and second, more argument than story, a case for a re-conceptualization of writing instruction at the post-secondary level. In an earlier ethnography, I examined the struggles of four writers to acclimatize themselves to the demands of writing in college and then in the workplace. Out of that work came a beginning articulation of the nature of...

    (pp. 28-58)

    Like the playwright who gives stage directions so that the reader can imagine a living, breathing experience, or the composer who begins an opus with a prelude, I begin this chapter with excerpts of field notes and other documents gathered at the site of this case study—an English department at a prestigious private university in the South. These bits and pieces, together, form a backdrop to the discussion that follows.

    The heavy wood door to English, in the middle of the quad, is like all the other nondescript doors on the quad—dark brown, with the department name in...

    (pp. 59-68)

    The details of Tim’s writing experiences as he progressed through the coursework for a major in history will be given in the next chapter, but here I hold up for the reader’s view the parallel (“parallel” in the sense of being “simultaneous”) experiences Tim was having in his first year in his writing courses and in his entry level history courses—History 101 Western Civilization, and History 185 History of Islam.

    I begin with several charts that juxtapose freshman writing and Tim’s experiences in his entry-level history courses.

    As Table 2 (next page) shows, in freshman writing Tim was asked...

    (pp. 69-105)

    This comment, about history writing, was made after Tim had completed the requirements for a major in history and had started his second major in engineering. So in part, it is a reflection of his understanding of writing in history, and in part a reflection of the differences he perceived between writing in history and writing in engineering. The comment was made “off the cuff.” It is glib and cursory. And yet, there is truth to the comment as well: it represents the limited knowledge and skill Tim gained in history writing as an undergraduate and suggests the road to...

  5. 5 SWITCHING GEARS: From History Writing to Engineering
    (pp. 106-141)

    Junior year of college did in fact bring a “sea change” for Tim as a student and emerging professional engineer. While completing the last few requirements for his history major, he resumed math and science studies and began core courses for a major in mechanical engineering. Spurred by practical concerns—what his livelihood after college would be—he admitted to trepidation when faced with switching from history to the more exact, technical courses in math and science which he had not taken since high school. But he pulled the transition off successfully, in part because of his awareness that what...

    (pp. 142-158)

    As I begin this final chapter, I wish first to honor the acts of courage and integrity of all of Tim’s teachers to teach him well, as well as Tim’s own dedication to learning and to making a meaningful contribution to society. I am privileged that these individuals have allowed me to get to know them and to try, through this research, to provide suggestions for how we all might teach writing better. And to all who read this for the sake of this same enterprise of teaching well and learning well, I say, we are in this inquiry together....

  7. EPILOGUE: A Conversation Ten Years Later
    (pp. 159-176)

    I sweated through the work of this research project alone. But I always knew I must go back to Carla, Tim’s freshman writing teacher, for two reasons: Her read of the manuscript would be another means to triangulate the data, and I owed her the right to comment on my analyses and interpretations of her courses. So I sent her the manuscript when it was a solid second draft. What resulted was a five-hour conversation that we agreed to tape and use as the basis for this epilogue. Here, you may read the edited version of the transcript, which we...

  8. APPENDIX A: From Research to Practice: Some Ideas for Writing Instruction
    (pp. 177-206)
  9. APPENDIX B: Samples of Tim’s Essays
    (pp. 207-214)
  10. APPENDIX C: The Research Methodology
    (pp. 215-222)