Monday, September 28, 2009

Topic: First-Year Composition (FYC) Courses

Topic: First-Year College Composition Courses

10-second review: First-year college composition courses promise to teach students how to write. It’s a promise that is not fulfilled. The generalized nature of the course does not help students to write for specific disciplines.

Title: “ ‘Mutt Genres’ and the Goal of FYC [First-year composition]: Can We Help Students Write the Genres of the University?” E. Wardle. College Composition And Communication (June 2009), 765-789. A college-level publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: Eliminate first-year composition and require the separate disciplines to teach students how to write the genres of each discipline.

Comment: The content usually taught in first-year composition(FYC) includes description, narrative, personal expression, process, cause and effect, classification, illustration, definition, comparison and contrast, analogy and the research paper. In my opinion, these are isolated skills, except for the research paper, out of context of the genres actually required in science, history, sociology, etc.

I propose that students in FYC be taught to write in a variety of genres, especially reports, since reports cross all disciplines and are required in the real world of business and professional writing.

For example, The Business writer’s Handbook [Fourth Revised Edition, CT Brusaw, CJ Alred and WE Olin. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993] provides models for a variety of types of letters, executive summaries, journal articles, minutes of meetings, newsletter articles, news releases, policies and procedures, proposals, annual reports, feasibility reports, formal reports, progress reports, trouble reports.

I suggest that these genres replace the standard first-year college composition program.

One way to teach these genres is to study models and have the students produce a how-to-write publication by analyzing the models. Teachers of other disciplines could give the English department models of the types of writing used in their disciplines. RayS.

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