Dirk

“Bergmann and Zepernick argue that ‘the primary obstacle to such transfer is not that students are unable to recognize situations outside FYC in which those skills can be used, but that students do not look for such situations because they believe that skills learned in FYC have no value in any other setting’” (139).

I read the whole of Dirk’s essay as pointing out the discrepancy between the actual curriculum of what is taught when the research paper is taught (writing for the instructor) and what our expectations are (writing for some other ambiguous audience). I found the analysis of prompts representative of the kinds of artificiality that exists in writing assignments, and I’m guilty, as I’m sure many of us are, in putting in some artificial constraints in an assignment prompt, such as “you must a certain number of sources and quotes” and whatever. These kinds of constraints in an assignment are determined by the professor and the students do them because they are required to. We might ask ourselves why we make these kinds of moves. Perhaps, we need to see, for instance, evidence that a student has learned how to quote and incorporate outside research into an assignment, and so we force the issue through the prompt. This kind of forced and artificial situation is highly problematic in that while students may do it, they perceive it as not useful beyond the writing classroom, as the quote above states. To correct this problem, then, requires us to think our own way of designing our curriculum in a way where students are able to see that the work they do has relevance beyond FYW.

I would just add that in addition to designing curriculum that has relevance to students’ perceptions beyond FYW, that students begin incorporating research from the beginning of the semester and in virtually every assignment so they get accustomed to reading and thinking with others and learning the technical skills of quotation and citation from the beginning of Comp 1. The “research paper” shouldn’t be a set of new skills that they have to dive into, but should be an extension of the work that they have been doing all along.

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