Perhaps never is history has there been such a disconnect between what schools teach and what students need to know. “Students in first-semester composition classes are routinely assigned to write a research paper, but this exercise rarely succeeds because they do not yet grasp how to analyze their sources, say the chief researchers of a multi-institutional study of college students’ citations,” Dan Berrett reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education on March 30, 2012.
“We need to be teaching analysis, and a lot of it,” Rebecca Moore Howard, professor of writing and rhetoric at Syracuse University and co-principal investigator of the Citation Project, told Berrett.
They’re not likely to get it from the folks who teach college freshman composition classes. “As part of a larger study, I am surveying students about writing apprehension using Daly-Miller, self perceptions of their cognitive abilities, and speaking apprehension. I am collecting data at several points, first at the beginning of their first year and then a few times later,” Cynthia Cochran of Illinois College revealed in an e-mail in a list-serve that I am on.
“Although I don’t know of current work regarding writing apprehension (except the talk I just attended; see a few lines down), I remember that when I did research on basic writers and considered various self-belief constructs, I became aware that writing apprehension had less predictive value of students’ performance than Bandura’s self-efficacy construct,” Ed Jones of Seton Hall wrote.. “Self-efficacy in a sense incorporates writing apprehension as one element in a larger psychosocial construct.”
“As a result, I’d suggest looking into using a writing self-efficacy instrument.”
Here are some of the topics that composition teachers like to look into at conferences:
- “Exploring Transfer of Learning in Higher Education: A Cross-Institutional Study. Our project collects data on the following four phenomena: (1) student knowledge about writing; (2) student beliefs, perceptions, and dispositions about writing and writers; (3) textual performance, and (4) progress over time on items 1 – 3.”
- “Affordances, Constraints, and Roadblocks: A Study of Writing Transfer” This involves “Longitudinal case research looking at constraints and affordances in rhetorically challenging moments; we are co-researching with our participants, who are directly guiding what data we collect, how we collect it, and they may participate in data analysis with us”
- “Introducing Writing Studies”
- “Practical Perspectives of Writing about Writing”
- “Assessing Writing Studies 101: Introducing Reflective Practice through a Writing Strategies Inventory”
Composition professionals from coast to coast attend these “educational summits.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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