First let me say that I have no answers to the many excellent questions
that Aviva proposes. But, I am in the position of teaching generic
writing courses -- and as I like University teaching, and as my family
likes to eat, I try to imagine that what I'm doing is useful . . .
My goals for my students are pretty modest, I think. I really have only
three. First, I want people to have some experience writing a text that is
a move in a conversation; that is, I want them to get responses to what
they write, and to learn to shape what they write in anticipation of
their readers' response. (Along the way, it would be nice if they
learned to value -- and I try to give them opportunities to learn to
value -- things like grammatical correctness, accurate text attribution,
spelling, style, etc., etc. I'd be lying if I said I was always
Second, I want people to learn to find and then to read scholarly texts of
their own choosing. Again, I hope that they move past declaring
everything "boring" to some understanding of what sorts of arguments and
evidence the university (inasmuch as it's a monolith, and distinct from
other pseudomonoliths such as "the media") values, as opposed
to what the editors of the _National Enquirer_ or _People_ magazine value.
Finally, I want people to become reflective learners. I build in a
self-reflection component that I hope encourages people to think of
learning as development over time, and to become aware of those moments
when they _are_ learning (as opposed to those moments when they get As on
tests). Ideally, I'd like people to be able to reflect on experiences,
whether they were successful or not, and to devise strategies for dealing
with similar experiences later.
You can see my & my students' latest efforts at all this at one of the
following web pages, btw (I can't resist a commercial; sorry):
As for what transfers from this context to another, I'm not sure. I'd
like to think that all of my goals involve helping students to develop
transferable skills: writing for actual people will, I hope, better
equip students to write for that irascible professor down the road; I
think that it's true that the discourse of the university is sufficiently
different from popular discourse that generalizations can be made; and I
cling persistently to the belief that reflective learners learn better.
But again, I have no empirical evidence for any of this. On my more
cynical days, I think that the best part of our mandatory freshman
writing class is that it allows people to be in the only small class
they otherwise encounter during their first year at the university.
University of Michigan-Dearborn
4901 Evergreen Rd.
Dearborn, MI 48128
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