Note: This it the third in a series of blog posts chronicling the piloting of the new ENG 1020 Curriculum. You can find all entries in the series here.
I come to the reflection upon the new ENG 1020 objectives and revisions from a different position. I have not taught ENG 1020 for quite a few years. As the director of the writing center and an instructor of ENG 3010, I have, what one might consider, the role of an outsider looking in (and attempting to foolishly suggest changes or suggestions for teaching ENG 1020). However, my “outsider role” actually may provide some useful insights. I admit that my initial ruminations upon implementation of new assignments and the challenges many will face in doing so will be will be just that initially, ruminations. Yet, as the semester progresses, as I see students coming into the writing center with assignments from ENG 1020, and as I hear, collaborate, and discuss the new ENG 1020 assignments with fellow instructors and new GTAs, I hope that I will be able to account for the successes and challenges which present themselves throughout the semester and offer a more situated and helpful response to our ongoing discussion.
At this point in time, then, I will attempt to connect the new ENG 1020 objectives to that of our aspirations to mesh ENG 1020 with the goals and objectives of ENG 3010. Both courses ask students to reflect. And this reflection is not one dimensional, but multifaceted. In both courses, we are asking students to engage with discourse communities, genres, research and writing in advanced and nuanced ways. For example, Jeff’s first assignment which places students into the role of a reflective researcher of memes appears very useful for an opportunity to look at genre in far more nuanced manner than that of the ad analysis previously assigned. His assignment follows both ENG 1020 and ENG 3010 objectives of research, genre analysis, connection of genre/writing to particular discourse communities, and finally (and in my mind, most important) to a production of those genre conventions. It is through this multi modal type of an assignment that students will begin to not only interact and reflect upon new modes of writing, researching, and analysis, but also begin to connect, transfer and retain the information through doing. Transfer is predicated upon the claim that learners must recognize common features among concepts, principles, or skills; consciously link the information in memory; and see the value of using what was learned in one situation to another (Schunk, 1996).
What is exciting for me when reflecting upon the new ENG 1020 course objectives is the strong opportunity for transfer-not only within ENG 1020, but also within ENG 3010. I often felt that students came from ENG 1020 having rhetorical analysis skills, advanced writing and research skills, and so on, but often a limited understanding of how those skills applied to different contexts or even to ENG 3010. Student’s cognition as to how ENG 1020 had provided them with the skill sets to meet the ENG 3010 objectives appeared narrow. When asking students how they could draw upon knowledge acquired in ENG 1020 for my main ENG 3010 project, a sustained genre analysis and research project within one’s academic field, students seemed at a loss. I would often hear “Well, I analyzed texts and I know what ethos, pathos, and logos is, but that doesn’t help me understand how I should research and write for my particular field, does it?” I am certainly not indicating that this is in any way a reflection upon the syllabus or instruction the students were receiving. Instead, I think students were/are unable to make clear connections and apply learned skill sets unless they are asked to constantly reflect upon the purpose of those skill sets and begin to apply them in a variety of context and for a variety of purposes. While each ENG 1020 class may attend differently to the new course objectives, it appears that the overall approach will show students the value of assignments and skills learned by asking students to recognize, reflect upon, and apply common features among concepts/skills; link those concepts/skills to future assignments and courses; and eventually apply those concepts/skills in a variety of ways, both personally and academically.
Jule Wallis is a full time lecturer and Director of the Writing Center. She teaches ENG1020, 3010, and 6010. Her area of study is Rhetoric and Composition with an emphasis on Writing Center Theory, Affect Theory, and Popular Culture.