Genre-Crossing Writing Assignments Fifth Annual CEIT Instructional Innovation Conference David Larson & Sarah Madsen Hardy
Motivating questions • Why do students write fluently and correctly in some writing situations and not in others? • Can we draw on writing skills students already have to help them write better papers in our writing classes? • How can we best position students to draw on the skills developed in our writing classes in the future, when they are tasked with writing something quite different?
Scholarship • Perkins and Salomon’s distinction between low road and high road transfer • Genre and transfer: Barwashiand Reiff on boundary guarders vs. boundary crossers: “Reformulating and transforming existing resources may serve students well in accessing and adapting to future writing contexts. In other words, ‘crossing’ may be a key element of transforming knowledge and learning.”
Genre-crossing assignments • Enhance WR students’ awareness of the similaritiesanddifferences between thesis-driven, source-based humanities arguments and other genres of writing. • Help students realize the need to transfer skills and strategies they learn in one context to another
Teaching students to be boundary crossers 1. David Larson’s genre-crossing assignment for WR 150 Writing and Research Seminar “Fear in Society: Political Philosophy and Monster Movies” Purpose:This assignment provides practice with one “creative” aspect of argumentative writing: entering into another author’s mindset and imagining an issue/theme/source from their perspective. Assignment:Write a 700-750 word critical review of Dawn of the Dead from the Marxist perspective. Then, write an 800-1100 word explanation of why this review reflects the views of Marx, whether “his” argument is correct, and what we can learn (if anything) from “Marx’s” interpretation of Dawn of the Dead regardless of its accuracy.
What students learned • To argue such a point, students must initially withhold their judgment. This critical conclusion can only come into focus once the legitimacy of a view the student rejects has been granted. • Students clearly build from their comfort with film analysis and interpretation. This allows them to find an interesting angle from which they can critique a challenging text.
Teaching students to be boundary crossers 2. Sarah Madsen Hardy’s genre-crossing assignment for WR 150 Writing and Research Seminar “The Language of Illness and Healing” Purpose: This assignment will help you transfer what you learn in this class to other writing contexts. It will help you become more aware of the other genres of writing you are familiar with and more aware of the humanities research paper as a genre Assignment: Write up your current thinking about the argument you plan to make in Paper 3 in a genre of writing other than the one that this class is dedicated to, the humanities research paper.
What students learned Teddy Meagher on presenting the shape of an argument as a card trick: “This genre translation project was very helpful for me. I wrote it as an explanation of a magic trick, which allowed me to visualize my paper developing. It helped me see the beginning with the background information like having the audience select a card and become familiar with it. Then I could see how in the middle I would take the two ideas in my paper and mix them together, which was like mixing the cards in the card box. Finally I could see the end result were there were new ideas after mixing the two starting ideas, which were the two new cards that changed in the box.”
What students learned Paige Coles on presenting a humanities research paper as lab report: “The introduction and discussion sections of the scientific paper version of my paper were most similar to the introduction and conclusion of my humanities research-based paper, which allowed me to draft these areas early on. The results section of the scientific paper was also helpful in identifying which evidence from my sources supported my thesis. The language of a scientific paper is different than that of an academic paper, so in the final version of my paper there are changes to word choice and sentence structure.”
Uses beyond the WR classroom • Ask how the “WR paper” students were taught is similar and dissimilar to writing in your discipline. • Draw on familiar genres rather than working against them. • Teach disciplinary style in relation to genre, drawing on what students have already learned or intuit about more familiar genres. • Help students break up “blocking concepts” into their component parts.