Demythologizing Language Difference in the Academy: Establishing Discipline-Based Writing Programs

Demythologizing Language Difference in the Academy: Establishing Discipline-Based Writing Programs

Demythologizing Language Difference in the Academy: Establishing Discipline-Based Writing Programs

Demythologizing Language Difference in the Academy: Establishing Discipline-Based Writing Programs

Synopsis

In this volume, Mark Waldo argues that writing across the curriculum (WAC) programs should be housed in writing centers and explains an innovative approach to enhancing their effectiveness: focus WAC on the writing agendas of the disciplines. He asserts that WAC operation should reflect an academy characterized by multiple language communities-each with contextualized values, purposes, and forms for writing, and no single community's values superior to another's. Starting off with an examination of the core issue, that WAC should be promoting learning to write in the disciplines instead of writing to learn, Waldo proposes: housing WAC in comprehensive writing centers independent of any other department; using dialogue and inquiry rather than prescriptive techniques in the WAC program's interaction with faculty in other disciplines; and phasing out writing assessment that depends on one test measuring the writing abilities of students from all disciplines. In the process of making his case, Waldo discusses tutor training, faculty consultancy, and multilayered assessment programs. In addition to presenting the theoretical and practical advantages of discipline-based WAC programs, he also offers clear and compelling evidence from his own institution that supports the success of this approach to writing instruction. Demythologizing Language Difference in the Academy: Establishing Discipline-Based Writing Programs will be of interest to writing program and WAC administrators; writing center administrators; graduate students studying composition; and educators and graduate students involved in WAC initiatives, research, and study.

Excerpt

This study in writing across the curriculum (WAC), writing centers, and writing assessment was mostly initiated by failures. In 1983, I was a first-year assistant professor and writing center director responsible for WAC at Montana State University. I brought a bulging box of tools, collected as a 10year teacher and student of writing, to my first “how to use writing in your classes” workshop with Montana State's faculty. And I brought those tools with an evangelical fervor to use them.

During the early and mid-1970s, my thinking about how to teach writing was shaped by the work of Peter Elbow (1970), Ken Macrorie (1970), Donald Murray (1968), and Janet Emig (1971). My students grew and cooked their writing, understood and avoided “Engfish, ” conferenced with me and each other on their papers, and wrote “authentically” on topics of real interest to them in voices genuinely their own—not from “school” topics and voices. They shared their mimeographed work with their classmates and others outside the classroom to positive effect. The 1970s were heady times in composition, and so much of what these scholar/teachers were writing fit with obvious and intuited power into my own composition classes. As I grew as a composition teacher, many others became important, including James Britton (1972), Georges Gusdorf (1965), James Moffett (1968), Stephen Tchudi (then Judy, 1976), Ann Berthoff (1978), Mina Shaughnessy (1977), Jean Piaget (1959), and Lev Vygotsky (1962), to name a few. Many readers will acknowledge how these scholars have shaped their teaching and confirm their immense, continued influence on the way in which writing is taught. (Note the number of times they are cited as influences in Living Rhetoric and . . .

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