We’ve all returned from CCCC with minds full of ideas and phones full of new contacts. This year’s was an excellent conference, with thought-provoking panels, and I came home ready to begin work on some new projects with various colleagues.
One of the biggest surprises to me at this year’s Cs was the number of panels directly or indirectly related to writing about writing. Some were led by people I knew, but many were not. Many included students, which seems quite in line with the underlying philosophy of the approach—to value what students know and can do. I didn’t have the chance to attend most of these panels, but I’m told that several were concerned with issues of reading in a writing about writing class. Yes, reading the material in Writing about Writing is difficult. Doug and I like to remind people in the many workshops we give that teaching these articles to first-year students is not like teaching them to graduate students. We have to teach reading strategies, definitely, but we also have to focus on the larger picture: why are we having first-year students read these materials? Not to analyze every nuance of the underlying theories or methodologies, but to begin to think about writing, and their own writing, differently, and to begin to ask and answer their own questions about writing.
This year at Cs we also began a conversation about whether we should pursue a journal or edited collection or a special journal issue devoted to writing about writing, and whether it is time to begin to plan semi-annual conferences. Many people argued that it is time to have a space to talk with one another and our students about pedagogies and research projects and strategies. We have been thinking about planning such initiatives in concert with people working on writing majors around the country. This might help us answer lingering questions, for example, about what threshold concepts should be taught in gen ed composition courses versus in upper-level courses for writing majors. If this is something you’re interested in, let me know; we’d like to start planning.
As usual, post-Cs is a busy time with a lot of catch up. But thinking about how to move forward with undergraduate writing research seems like a worthwhile use of time.
Tags: CCCC, composition, Elizabeth Wardle, pedagogies, student view, student view on writing, teach reading strategies, threshold concepts, undergraduate writing, undergraduate writing research, writing about writing, writing class, writing majors