My two cents: from the realm of engineering writing --> no essays.
I have witnessed the process of killing a major technical report
situated within the engineering curriculum, that was written over a
whole term through in-class feedback sessions, on-line discussions, peer
consultations, and so on, and turning it into a note taking in-class
exercise because of the fear of plagiarism. So, I am adamantly opposed
to any justifications based on plagiarism.
The question about essays is an old one. I don't think essays are
useless. The question is, with what purpose and for whom are those
essays written? If one can situate a research essay within the
disciplinary field and give students enough time, tools, and assistance
to do a good research and to properly adjust it for the reader, what's
bad about it?
I am a bit wary of the argument that essays are not useful because
people don't write them at work. After all, I hope that universities do
not ONLY prepare students for work, they also help people to learn how
to learn and understand the world. Being able to collect relevant
information, understand it, synthesize it for a particular purpose, and
write it for a particular reader is important no matter where one works
after school. The point is, this research/writing work has to be meaningful.
My major concern is that students are so used to writing for the sake of
writing that they sometimes refuse to see any other purpose. If we
confide their writing to a classroom two times a week, we will only
reinforce their view of writing as something useless that is done only
Russ Hunt wrote:
>Well, Marcy, come the spring and the crick don't rise, I _will_
>be at Inkshed, and I hope we all (except Marcy) get to talk
>about this. If anybody hasn't read my piece in the last Inkshed
>Newsletter about this (shame on you), have a look. And have a
>look, maybe, even if you did read it, because it may read a
>little differently in the current context. It's here:
>What Marcy says is worth considering, I think.
>>. . . but I have to ask: What's "right" in this context? We've gone
>>around and around about how the term paper - school writing - is an empty
>>exercise, devoid of real purpose and audience. So what's the loss?
>>I think I'd make the argument that the loss may be the experience students
>>get with synthesizing different authors' arguments, and making an argument
>>of their own. But there are other ways to do this besides the term paper.
>Yep yep yep. Well, and I'd add that another part of "the loss"
>may be the chance to acquire the ability and disposition to
>include other people's language in your own.
>But I don't think this is mainly true in "content-heavy
>disciplines." And the conventional term paper is, in fact, a
>pretty poor way to give folks this experience in any discipline.
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