Wednesday, December 07, 2005

What comes first-the introduction

A writing class is never just about learning the mechanics of writing. For decades now, the field of rhetoric and composition has espoused a number of practices embedded not just in learning grammar and paragraph structure, but also in theories of learning. As writing is closely linked with thinking and learning, writing becomes a way to represent how one thinks. The process of writing involves much more than simply getting some words onto a page in a certain structure. It requires reflection, analysis, and synthesis. Teaching this process is much more difficult than simply teaching grammar rules, and composition teachers continue to struggle with ways of teaching writing that take this complex process into account.

[here, I need a brief overview of research in comp. pedagogy; i have something lying around somewhere.]

At smaller colleges like Bryn Mawr College, first-year writing classes purport to do more than simply teach writing. In a way, they put this concept of writing as learning and thinking out front and emphasize critical reading and thinking as much as writing. Writing is more a way to learn than something that is learned. Two quotes from the College Seminar web site illustrate the way that the writing for the course is closely tied to reading, thinking, critiquing:
"To make sense of the ideas, stories, arguments and images we encounter in readings and discussions. 'Making sense of' means explaining and connecting what we read and see and hear with our own response. This kind of writing is what allows us to enter the Grand Conversation that defines us as thinking human beings."

"The purpose of the writing is to give students the opportunity to respond in creative and critical ways to a variety of texts and to develop their own writing voices (a process inseparable from their development as thinkers, readers, and listeners). We want students to develop fluency with expected modes of academic discourse but also learn to be present, creative, and engaged."
The second passage parenthetically states that the process of writing is "inseparable" from thinking and reading. [something more here]

Blogging, or the process of writing in a web log, can facilitate the kinds of learning expected in a writing class not just because it involves writing, but also because it can encourage the kinds of processing, thinking, analyzing and critiquing required of student writers. [maybe this last sentence, a kind of thesis?]

[Introduction to what blogs are--add to what's below, ending/transitioning to blogs in education]

A class blog, then, provides a rich environment for students to explore the process of writing and learn how to write authentically, to develop their voice and thus, their ways of thinking. In this dissertation, I will examine the writing of two sections of a freshman writing class at Bryn Mawr College who used a blog to develop their writing skills. I will look at how the writing developed over time in the blog and how the blog writing was transformed into more formal assignments, exploring the way the revision process works when students have a wide range of feedback. I will also examine whether the educational theories which formed the foundation of the structure of the class were worthwhile and what aspects of the class might need to be revised. Finally, I will suggest ways that blogs might be implemented in other kinds of classes to encourage more writing across the curriculum.

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