Chair: Graham Smart, Purdue University
At the Canadian Caucus in Chicago, participants realized that most of them taught writing outside of the common American tradition of multiple sections of freshman composition courses. They elected to propose a Canadian roundtable for Atlanta to explore the ways in which writing is central and visible throughout the curriculum in Canadian universities and colleges, although the methods of delivering writing instruction are extremely diverse. From the proposals received, the editorial committee has selected speakers whose ideas and experiences reflect this diversity. Two speakers will present research which examines whether new Writing in the Disciplines programmes have increased students' awareness of the different genres and conventions of disciplinary writing. One speaker will present evidence that the two second-year writing courses offered in her department attract students from a wide variety of disciplines and add to the effectiveness and the visibility of the English department. A team of three speakers will describe a new programme that introduces non-traditional students to academic discourse through a course integrated into the first-year curriculum. And finally, one speaker will argue that Canada should have more writing programs that teach basic composition courses to first-year students.
Carleton University's Enriched Support Program:
Academic Discouse for Open Admission Students
This presentation will report on the Enriched Support Program (ESP) at Carleton University. Initiated in 1996, the ESP offers students whose high school performance precludes admission to university an opportunity to "prove" themselves within the university context: that is, they take regular university courses (selected for emphasis on close textual reading and written expression) alongside regularly admitted students and are evaluated according to the same standards; but their performance in these courses is "scaffolded" by means of piggy-backed disciplinary workshops which are tied to the program's foundation course, "Academic Discourse and Culture" (ADC).
Framed within current genre theory and Bakhtinian notions of discourse, the ESP offers an environment that integrates generic academic strategies with discipline-specific concepts and patterns of thinking. Integration of the ADC course and the workshops ensures authentic writing tasks, demonstrating the interplay between reading, writing, listening and talking as students acquire the new language of academic discourse. The ESP model also allows students to develop and demonstrate mastery of academic strategies at an individual pace, through flexible modes of instruction that respond to changing needs. A mix of expert and peer consultation and feedback helps students to become aware of their own learning and of the expectations of the academic community.
Defending First-year Composition Programs in Canada
The fact that a course like Comp 101 has not been taught in Canada lies rooted in the disdain of rhetoric in Canada rather than in a concern that rhetoric be taught within a disciplinary context. As Roger Graves's 1994 study shows, and as many of us have experienced, composition is often taught in the disciplines because of the refusal of English departments to teach it in courses like Comp 101.
Comp 101 can be of inestimable value if students in their first year learn the principles of writing as a process rather than product and of the classical writing triangle. These principles are relevant in virtually all writing, and can be adapted to virtually all disciplines. Of course, these principles can be taught in Writing in the Discipline programs, but comprehensive Writing in the Discipline programs are certainly not hallmarks of academic study in Canadian universities. On the other hand, Comp 101 programs generally reach huge numbers of students, so teaching basic rhetorical principles in such a context can add immeasurably pto students' success in Canadian universities.
Jean Guthrie, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Writing, Comprehension, and Prose Style I and II
These courses were invented in the seventies in response to larger participation rates, perceptions of plummeting standards in schools, and the sense (in some quarters anyway) that our compulsory first-year comp-lit offerings were not serving the students as writers. This debate goes on sporadically yet, but we still require the comp-lit courses of all incoming students. Meanwhile it will come as no surprise that some of us much prefer the non-compulsory writing courses.
Over the years the students from these second-year courses have gone into education, law, university teaching, journalism, creative writing, business, and engineering. Sometimes the courses have actually served to attract students back into English who had been disenchanted with the first-year comp-lit program -- though this was never a goal. Looking back over the years during which the courses have kept the same calendar descriptions but altered in emphasis, I think the diversity of the groups and the fact that all were there primarily to write outside a strictly disciplinary context account for the relative longevity of the courses.
Students discover autobiographical writing, many for the first time; they try satire and other forms of persuasion; they test the ideas of texts they are reading by library research and other investigative procedures and present the results of their labours for the class; they keep reading logs, analyze assumptions and styles, wrestle with difficult texts by writing about them, and so on. And they groan about the workload and revisions but most hang in and see themselves grow in confidence and authority as writers.
W. B. Macdonald,University of Toronto
The Evolution of a Graduate Course in Communication
For the past two years I have been one of a team of writing instructors teaching a graduate course called "Communication for Engineers" in the University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. Developing this course has involved dealing with a number of challenges, challenges that exemplify or bring into particularly sharp focus the question of teaching writing without first-year comp courses. The Master's and Ph.D. students who take the course have not only never had first-year composition, most of them have done very little writing of any kind in their university careers. The theses they must produce are not only the largest and most complex writing tasks they have ever undertaken, in man cases they are close to, if not literally, their first such tasks (or at least the first such tasks they must undertake without collaborators). Complicating the situation further is the fact that many of them are L2 students and newcomers to Canada.
In my presentation I will review the problems and the successes of our work on this course to date, outlining the evolution of our curriculum and the outcomes we have achieved.
Natasha Artemeva, Carleton University
Situating Writing in an Engineering Classroom:
A Teacher-Researcher Perspective
Recently, many Canadian universities have responded to the needs of professions and to the requirements of professional organizations by introducing discipline-specific communication courses for science and engineering students. Such courses, differently organized in different universities, usually include a significant writing component.
According to Berkenkotter & Huckin (1995), understanding the genres of written communication in one's field is essential to professional success as "genres are inherently dynamic rhetorical structures that can be manipulated according to the conditions of use, and . . . genre knowledge is therefore best conceptualized as a form of situated cognition embedded in disciplinary activities" (3). This paper will present the results of research conducted in the context of the Communication Skills for Engineering Students course recently introduced into the Engineering Curriculum at Carleton University for first and second year students. The course pedagogy is grounded in genre studies as well as notions of situated learning. The philosophy of this course is based on the premise that engineering communication courses closely linked to the engineering curriculum can provide settings that enable students to learn (a) how to perform different discipline-specific tasks by picking up authentic cues in their environment and (b) how to make transitions to the practices of the workplace.
The results of the research will include the analysis of a variety of student writing samples produced in the context of the communication course described above. Using this analysis, I will attempt to trace the process of students' acquisition of written genres characteristic of the academic engineering discourse community.
Berkenkotter, C., & Huckin, T. N. (1995). Genre knowledge in disciplinary communication: Cognition/Culture/ Power. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.