Monthly Archives: December 2013

Essays and Pedagogy

The discussion started with the article:

and evolved into a fun discussion about pedagogy in English classes.

I was reminded of:

and how it talked about (amongst many things) how learning how to write was combined with the study of literature in a more or less default way.

As a significant part of my background is running a teaching lab, I immediately thought of a similar process for teaching people how to write. You might have 10, maybe 20, maybe 30 students in a room with an instructor/teaching assistant for a few hours, writing on a topic or topics. They could have a computer with internet access if the topic required moderate levels of research. Ideally, the topic would be chosen where the writers could write something interesting, but not have to access primary source materials which were not on-line (this is becoming less and less of an issue, as more materials are digitized).

The student to teacher ratio would have to be a balance of keeping the students and the instructor engaged, and affordable to the students and worth it for the teacher.

As I say this, I can’t be the first person to think of this, and:

“2787 Weekend Intensive: Fiction Workshop”

Which is 24 hours of sessions over 4 weeks, for $650.

The caveat is that this is for “A workshop for aspiring writers with short stories and novels they want to improve”, and you have to already have some writing. But there’s no reason this couldn’t be adapted for students at an earlier stage/lower level.

I would guess that the only thing stopping this is university budgets and classroom ratios.

I see a parallel between this sort of writing workshop and parts of a computational biology course I took a number of years ago. To fully express your ideas and explore them in computational biology, you want/need to have command of computer programming, in perhaps a similar way that to fully express your ideas in Literature, or Theory, or the any of the other myriad disciplines of English, you want/need to have command of writing in English. So, what was done, as it was an interdisciplinary course, for those who needed programming training, there were intensive how-to-program lessons (and the same for those like myself, who were weaker on the Biology side).

All this is a very long-winded way of saying that there are solutions to the problems that the original author faces, and they do not necessarily lie with reducing standards in English/Literature/etc. classes. (From the comments in the conversation, it seems as if the actual issue is more one of Universities and other educational institutions not being interested in applying the resources required to actually solve the problem of people who cannot write…)