of us perceives writings importance in different ways. Some see it as
the end result of critical thinking. Others perceive writing as the means
of clarifying if not actually discovering what one thinks. Some see the
student's capacity to connect herself with the world at large in a personal
way as a primary goal of writing. Others see writing instruction as paving
the way for proficient use of a myriad of discourses, the outfitting of
an intellectual toolkit. Some emphasize analytic writing; others would
insist that persuasive writing is central. Given such varied emphases,
it should come as little surprise that ways of teaching writing vary widely
among FYS instructors. This diversity of approach is healthy, allowing
us to tap each other for ideas and gain insights from our discussions.
students moving between instructors at midterm of their first year have
every right to expect that the writing expectations are sufficiently congruent
among all sections that they will be able to perform adequately with a
new instructor. One way to make sure that all sections meet this expectation
would be to teach from a uniform syllabus. As a teaching cohort we deemed
this unnecessarily constrictive. In the alternative we adopted certain
expectations for each term and left the means of reaching those goals
to individual instructors. Such an approach produces the necessary similarity
among sections while at the same time guaranteeing instructors the greatest
By the end of the term:
Students should have the ability to use the language correctly (mastery
of all the spelling, punctuation, and grammar conventions). These are
conventions and students should be expected to observe the conventions
that educated people have agreed on and that readers expect. If they ignore
the conventions, they won't appear as educated people themselves and readers
will tend to dismiss their work out-of-hand.
Students should be able to structure an essay with a clear thesis (not
necessarily stated in the paper, but a clear and obvious thesis) that
is supported by evidence. Such a paper will require an introduction and
a conclusion which open the topic and provide closure to the essay. It
will also require support or body paragraphs which are indeed paragraphs,
i.e., units which have some reason for being what they are.
Students paper's should utilize transitions, both within paragraphs and
Students should be able to respond to a work of literature, sometimes
in terms of interpretation and analysis, sometimes in terms of relating
that work to their own lives, an understanding of where they are in the
process of composing themselves.
Ability to see relations between and among various works of literature.
How, for example, do both Twelfth Night and Great Expectations
embody some of the ideas about friendship that we find in the Nicomachean
Ethics? How does an understanding of the account of paradise lost
in Genesis lead us to appreciate what is going on in Great Expectations?
And so on.
3. Ability to find and use material that will help them understand what they are reading. Le., they need to use the library and the Internet, newspapers and television. They need to understand the obligation to use such sources responsibly. They need to know how to incorporate into their writing the ideas of other people, giving credit when and where credit is due. This can probably be done informally just as effectively as through formal documentation. In other words, students should not necessarily be expected to write full-blown research papers until second term.
Fundamental: All of the above, only more so. Substandard usage, carelessness in spelling and proofreading should not be accepted.
Attention to style: things like word choice, sentence structure and variety.
Students should begin to realize that they have a voice and that they
can choose to modify that voice for effect.
2. A careful use of and integration of sources into a more formal researched paper than students have to do in the fall semester. The particular orientation of this paperwhether it is analytic or persuasive, for example; or what variety of source material it utilizesis the instructor's decision. Nevertheless, students should learn how to evaluate and use source material and how to document their sources. The standard documentation style for FYS 101 and FYS 102 is that found in the MLA Handbook
The need to rewrite and revise should be emphasized. Early drafts should rarely ever be the final word on a topic. The idea that we re-visit a paper, and maybe do so often, as we re-think a topic is crucial to the learning process. There are various ways this can be done, of course. Drafting workshops, peer-editing, portfolios all contribute in one way or another to the goal. Professors and students should work together to find a procedure that works for individual sections and, ideally, for individual writers.