Thursday April 7, 10-11am: Meet the authors coffee hour: Chris Feak and I will be on hand to drink coffee and talk about our textbooks and graduate student education in general. At the University of Michigan Press booth in the exhibit hall.
Friday April 8, 1:00-2:45pm: Getting on the Same Page — transitions from IEP to First-Year Composition (panel).
The State of L2 Graduate Writing Support (with Michelle Cox): Friday 3:15-3:40pm (Gold Room) — preliminary results from our survey of members of the new Consortium on Graduate Communication.
Joint Construction: Collaborative Scaffolding and Cognitive Apprenticeship: Saturday 9:00-10:30am (Arizona Room) — part of the TESOL/SWLIS invited colloquium, “The Benefits of Genre-Based Pedagogy for Second Language Writing Development” starring Silvia Pessoa, Maria-Estella Brisk, and Luciana de Oliveira.
Talking about the five-paragraph essay (as I so often seem to be), there was a great article in Slate recently denouncing the (five-paragraph) essay component of the SAT (one of the standardized tests taken by American high-school students as part of their university application). The title says it all: “We are teaching high school students to write terribly.” The article quotes Professor Anne Ruggles-Gere of the University of Michigan writing center:
“For those trained in the five-paragraph, non-fact-based writing style that is rewarded on the SAT, shifting gears can be extremely challenging. “The SAT does [students] no favors,” Gere says, “because it gives them a diminished view of what writing is by treating it as something that can be done once, quickly, and that it doesn’t require any basis in fact.”
The result: lots of B.S.
As Professor Gere says elsewhere in the article, the result is that college writing teachers like me have to un-teach what students have “learned” about writing — and it’s not just American students. International students trained to pass the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or other English language proficiency tests also arrive with what Linda Flower has called a “limited literacy.”
Lest you think we exaggerate, here is a horrifyingly amusing blog post by Jed Applerouth, a teacher and doctoral student who takes the SAT regularly to help him tutor high school students to ace/beat the test. Since SAT essay raters are explicitly trained to ignore the veracity of the writing, here’s how to get a top score:
I stuck John Fitzgerald Kennedy in a Saxon war council during the middle ages, grappling with whether to invade the neighboring kingdom of Lilliput. Barrack Husein Obama shared a Basque prison cell with Winston Churchill, and the two inmates plotted to overthrow General Franco. Cincinnati’s own, Martin Luther King Jr. sought out a political apprenticeship with his mentor, Abraham James Lincoln, famed Ontario prosecutor.
Finally, an example of writing with absolutely no communicative value whatsoever. The SAT essay as anti-genre?!
(Hat tip to my Facebook friends and friends-of-friends for these links.)
I just returned from a wonderful few days in the beautiful Hungarian capital for the European Association of Teachers of Academic Writing (EATAW) conference. And congratulations to the organizing team for such an interesting and well-run event.
Many papers at the conference considered the relationship between English and other languages in higher education and (especially scientific) publishing. This put my contribution in an interesting light: I argue that the genre-based pedagogy we use gives students/scholars access to “cultural capital” that will enable them to participate in the knowledge-making work of their disciplines. But it could be argued that we are instead spreading the hegemony of English and forcing writers with their own cultural and rhetorical traditions to subjugate themselves to anglo-saxon domination. I still think that you can’t change a system — or even participate in it — until you can speak its language. What do you think?
I’ve just finished polishing my presentation for my first conference across the pond: the European Association of Teachers of Academic Writing (EATAW) in the beautiful city of Budapest, Hungary. My presentation, developed with Chris Feak, is University English is no-one’s first language: Learning the genres of postgraduate writing. You can see the abstract and PowerPoint slides (to follow) on this page.
You can find all the PowerPoints and handouts from my sessions at TESOL 2013 in Dallas here. To recap, they were:
Teaching the Genres of Graduate Writing
with Christine Feak, University of Michigan
Writing is both essential and challenge for graduate students. This hands-on workshop demonstrates a toolbox of techniques for teaching the genres of graduate writing. Learn how your students can identify and analyze genres, build a mini corpus, and benefit from collaborative writing. Adaptations for participants’ teaching contexts will be discussed. (PowerPoint and references)
Roundtable Discussion: Supporting ESL Graduate Students
Notes from the discussion will be published here soon. We had a great discussion with colleagues from around the country and as far away as Ukraine. If you’d like to be part of the ongoing conversation about supporting (ESL) graduate students, please contact me; I’m going to set up a listserv.
Every academic discipline has its place of origin. For genetics, it’s the Eagle pub in Cambridge, where Watson and Crick allegedly doodled the first double helix over a tepid pint (at least that’s what a plaque on the wall claims). For second-language writing, it’s Purdue University, home of the founding fathers/mothers of the field, and I’ll be making my first pilgrimage there in a few weeks for the Second Language Writing Symposium.
My paper is called “Collaborative Writing in the Preparation of Graduate Writers” (which I now realize is an irritatingly repetitive title), and I’ll be talking about the research I’ve been conducting into the technique known as joint construction with my pre-MBA students at UD. Sorry, at a mid-Atlantic research-intensive public university. PowerPoint and references will be posted here soon.
And in case any readers are still following the gestation of Grammar Choices, it is now at the printers and will be unleashed on the world in September.