E.06 Reframing Basic Writing and Sites of Transfer

Joyce Inman, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg
“Basic Writing Programming: Gateways to Access Accompanied by Institutional Whispers”
Inman argues that it’s essential to liberate basic writing programs from the ghettos of institutional discourse and of special programming: “We want you, but not really.” She compares basic writing program descriptions posted on university web sites to review how the students are stigmatized by standards-based discourse, or better served by other approaches in the descriptions. Inman discussed the failure of her own efforts to market an expanded Comp I program to students. The students were preconditioned to see the program as “dummy English” – separate, different, and unequal. She is currently working on a redesign!

Paula Patch, Elon University, NC
“Fluid Boundaries: Constructing a Meaningful Assessment of a Basic Writing Workshop”
Patch teaches at Elon University, which is private with competitive admissions. Elon offers a writing workshop in a co-enrollment format with the regular fycomp course. Students are invited to enroll based on SAT verbal and high school GPA. Students who elect the course may have a range of special factors affecting their readiness for fycomp. The workshop course supports the fycomp course with additional workshops, shorter preparatory assignments, and conferences. Instructors found that assessing the workshop course according to the same objectives and in the same format as the fycomp course did not work – they tended to teach to the fycomp objectives rather than meeting what they knew were the real needs of the students in the workshop. Thus the assessment objectives for the workshop course were partially changed. Students submitted assignments they completed in other courses and reflected on how what they had learned in the workshop course had helped them. A remaining challenge is to capture what students learn in the workshop course that is different or separate from what they learned in fycomp; these tend to be conflated.

Ellen Schendel, Grand valley State Univ, Allendale MI
“(Re)Conceiving of the Writing Center as a Site of Transfer”
What would a writing center look like, if it were organized to promote transfer? Tutors would have to take more of a guiding role to help students see the implications for transfer. “High road transfer” requires a lot more teaching (more dissimilar tasks) than “low road” (more similar). Tutors might alsomhave to be able to “unsettle” some students who are comfortable in a particular genre, rather than simply encouraging/building confidence. Discipline-based tutors or centers, drawing beyond English majors, can help students see differences and similarities among disciplinary discourses. Notes from the writing tutorials could be used to better inform instructors in different disciplines what students are bringing to the writing center and what they are taking away. Faculty and tutors would be more discipline based and thus more aware of “threshhold concepts” for a discipline or course.

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