Tuesday, November 05, 2013

English Composition in the Dark Ages

I seem to be missing a couple of blogs, and I think I skipped the one about reminiscing about our own English 1010 experience because, let's be honest. I don't remember much of it. 

When I wrote my 1010 paper, but I think it was 201 at anther university because I tested out of the 101, we were still using electric typewriters. Students had to ask if it was okay to use a computer for writing.  However, as I recall, the professor taught very much in the manner we are taught today. Class was structured around smaller assignments, but we did not write every day. We had to complete a 12-page paper, where citations and references were strongly suggested, but no strict style (MLA, APA) was followed. In my entire undergraduate career, in two majors, references and citations were, shall we say, lackadaisical at best. A lot of plagiarism went on, and I’m glad to see that proper citation is now actively taught across the disciplines here at Weber.

Looking back, I was probably fortunate to encounter a professor who let us discuss writing, and who looked to engage us as active learners. So many other, lower-level classes at this time were massive, auditorium filled classes (100-300 students), where we scribbled notes, and then took tests. Essays and papers took too long to grade, and besides, what could an undergraduate possibly have to say?

Almost all of the classes I have encountered at Weber (outside of math and the hard sciences), at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, emphasize thinking, discussion, and writing. I see the undergraduate writing classes as an improvement in pedagogy, where students are part of the learning. I believe there is more writing, and more feedback than when I was a starry-eyed freshman.Tutoring and writing centers are now widely and readily available which was not the case when I got my bachelor’s degrees. Technology has also improved and helps students in ways once unimaginable. (A machine that corrects your spelling?! I don't believe it!) Computers are universally utilized, and available to everyone. We even have cheap, reliable printers, and not the old dot-matrix printers.

In short, teaching methods and technology have changed since I took my first English Composition course. What hasn’t changed, however, is the need for good teachers / tutors who know how to work, compassionately and effectively, with students of varying levels of expertise. So, yay for us as tutors and the work we do. It really does help students.


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