Panel discussions and my humbling colleagues

Though I say it myself, deciding to organize a series of informal panel discussions about writing may have been one of the best ideas I’ve managed to cook up in the past couple of years. Distinctly better than setting too many assignments last semester; better even than my sugarfree oatmeal cookie recipe. This experiment sounded good from the beginning: what better way to flush out and corral the scattered, diverse, busy people who teach writing in disciplines across this university? What better way to harvest all that wisdom or to build community?

My colleagues, as it turns out, are brilliant and deeply experienced teachers of writing–and they’re very generous people. In batches of four, they graciously accepted my invitation to steal time from their teaching prep, committee work, and their research time, their office hours, email hours, and commute hours, or, sadly, their scrounge-some-food minutes, family time, or discreet, exhausted, between-classes naptime, and to offer their perspectives on thorny issues to do with writing for 6-8 minutes in turn.

What they had to say was always thoughtful and on-point. And the diversity of their responses to the problems they addressed, well. It showcased precisely the diversity of the field of writing and composition studies; it indicated the independence of mind and, happily, the academic freedom exercised here; it pinned to the wall how very complex and thorny the problem of teaching writing is.

So far, the panel discussions have addressed the following questions:

  • what’s the big picture, when it comes to teaching writing?
  • how are we to evaluate student writing?
  • how can we teach reading in the writing classroom?
  • how should we approach teaching writing in a university context?

See the following posts for accounts–very partial, sketched from my faulty memory–of the conversations that unfolded .

And stay tuned! There are more panel discussions to come, and there’s more conversation to be had here, on this blog.


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