Help with a research paper
A second pair of assignments bore a similar relationship. For one task, students interviewed a classmate about his or her literacy in preparation ERIC 39 Teaching and Literacy in Basic Writing Courses for a later interview, a more substantial assignment that required more research and asked students to investigate the literacy of someone in their family. The first interview and write-up clearly offered students prac- tice with the processes and techniques of interviewing and re- presenting information. But the two interview assignments are in fact such different tasks that teachers should hesitate to see too - great a transfer from one assignment to the next.
I originally noticed this potential problem with transfer because the first in- terview write-ups were weak whereas the subsequent literacy bi- ographies often resulted in stronger writing and strongly positive student perceptions of doing the assignment. Certainly the form of the tasks — generating questions, asking them, probing for additional information, culling and sort- ing information, interpreting it, and reconstructing it into an es- say — is the same for both assignments. The sequence also offered the opportunity for students to deepen their knowledge of literacy by conversing about it with someone they knew well — that is, by help with a research paper using it in a new but familiar rhetorical - 9 - 40 COURSE DESIGN and emotional context. This sequence also exemplifies a cycle — or a spi- ral — of interrelated tasks. First, the course taught literacy (as a content) by teaching about the subject.
Some of the readings, for example, explored race, class, and gender in relation to literacy. But the course also asked stu- dents to enact literate processes at the same time they were asked to become more consciously aware of them. Most obviously, it asked them to undertake recursive reading and writing tasks. More specifically, it led them through language-based inquiry, mean- ing-making processes based on the concrete data the class gener- ated, interpretation in the context of competing interpretations, and more. In such ways, we can offer basic writing students the opportunity to succeed in the academy by doing its real work, not watered-down versions of it. We can also responsibly bal- ance our commitment to basic writers against fiscal pressures. Georgia Southern, for example, the university where I now teach, disbanded its developmental writing pro- gram last year in concert with rising admission requirements. I should note that this particular course is one I team-taught with Kay Halasek.
Kay help with a research paper and I adapted a generic, collaboratively developed course.
Facts, Artifacts, and Counterfacts : Theory and Method for a Reading and Writing Course. Urbana, IL: Na- tional Council of Teachers of English. Language Development: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve.
Urbana, IL: National Coun- cil of Teachers of English. Mainstreaming Basic Writers: Politics and Pedagogies of Access. Put another way, to teach people to read and write is to teach them a way of experiencing the world, and this is the guiding principle of the course and assignments described here.
By teach- ing reading and writing as acts of knowledge making about them- selves and everyday life, we engage students in critical reflection of the social, cultural, and material forces influencing who they are and how they live. And we promote in students the possibil- ity of shaping, instead of always being shaped by, these multiple influences. The world where I teach is the branch campus of the Penn- sylvania State University in Altoona, and the assignments I de- scribe here are from my syllabi for English 15, titled Rhetoric and Composition, which is the writing requirement for all in- coming Penn State students.
As one of the goals of my first-year composition course states, by the end of the course, students will have developed a keener understanding of the role of technology in many aspects ERIC - 13 - 44 COURSE DESIGN of their lives so that they can become more responsible technol- ogy consumers and technology critics. Developed by Ira Shor and pro- moted by James Berlin (cf. Why should we care so much about examin- ing the habits or routines we barely notice in our daily lives?
Giddens argues that it is routines that help us maintain a conti- nuity of social action between individuals because they speak to our human need for connection to others. Consequently, by deroutinizing social behaviors, we uncover the values undergirding them and can begin reflecting on what these values mean — how they shape our sense of self and our conceptions of the commu- nities of which we are a part. Particularly in this course, we focus on going beneath the surface of, or deroutinizing, our technol- ogy use in order to uncover those values and their influences on us.
The course is organized around an examination of the rhe- torical codes surrounding technology use in our lives. Each unit begins with readings dealing with competing notions about the topic of the unit. During each unit, students typically write a couple of one- to two-page mini- essays or short responses and three drafts of an essay assign- ment. I grade using a portfolio system, in which students submit their work at the end of each unit as well as at the end of the semester. The Assignments The following descriptions outline three assignments from the course just described.