Authority, Collaboration, and Ownership
Sources for Critical Writing and Portfolio Assessment
HECTOR J. VILA
One of the single most effective ways to have students realize their learning strategies and achieve authority over their work is through writing. Writing, as we have seen in the past twenty years or so, has been used creatively across all disciplines; however, though Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) programs have helped raise our consciousness concerning writing and learning, there has been backsliding—a nomore-writing backlash, a less-writing backlash—affecting English departments out of which WAC programs sprang. This has been caused by many factors, ranging from the increase in class sizes, to an attitude suggesting that some courses require less writing than others, thus relegating a larger burden of responsibility for writing to traditional composition courses.
Consequently, many English courses, but particularly Introduction to Literature, require very little or no writing; and the writing that does take place is for closure to assignments, an assessment of restated facts “picked up” along with the reading. English departments, then, are not far from counterparts across the disciplines still reluctant to examine curriculum in new and refreshing ways, remaining attached to industrialized—and hierarchical—notions of the teacher as the sole purveyor of knowledge and the classroom as the space for merely receiving, for “the getting of information”—a system for processing not learning. We are therefore conflicted by notions of developing assessment models that will more realistically determine the student's use of knowledge attained. And we are still reluctant to experience the classroom as the place for