To investigate issues related to the teaching and learning of writing, and to assess the effectiveness of our First-Year Composition curriculum, we regularly conduct various kinds of program research.
Past studies include a cross-institutional inquiry with the University of Washington into college students’ transfer of prior genre knowledge into FYC; the Embodied Literacies Project’s two-year investigation into first- and second-year students’ transfer of rhetorical knowledge across academic writing situations and media (Fishman et al.); and a document analysis study of 102 student writing to analyze their acquisition of disciplinary research methods (Benson and Reiff).
These studies suggest various areas of success in our curricular revisions:
- Survey results indicate a majority of students chose their English 102 section based on their interest in the topic and whether they feel engaged in the course.
- The “Embodied Literacies Project” findings suggest students do carry knowledge across different media and assignments and from course to course.
- The findings from an initial document analysis of students’ 102 writing suggested they needed more help with how to conduct and write up historical and qualitative research, which we reported to instructors during workshop sessions. Analysis of papers written in the following semester showed noticeable improvements in students’ mastery of these types of research in our curriculum (Benson, K., “On the Verge of Inquiry: A Research Remix for First-Year Composition,” CCCC, Louisville, KY, 2010). In addition, the study led to insights regarding the ways students acquire new research skills; findings that have been shared locally with our teachers and with others in the field (Benson, K., “Investigating the Development of the Student as Scholar: A Writing Center/Writing Program Research Collaboration.” The European Writing Centers Association Conference, Paris, France, 2010).
In addition to the studies above, several Rhetoric, Writing, and Linguistics graduate students investigate student writing and the teaching of writing here at UT. Many of these projects began in a graduate seminar and continue as theses or dissertations; some have already been presented at national conferences.
Some studies include:
- Cope, E. The Academic Writing of Evangelical Undergraduates at Public Universities (PhD dissertation, planned).
- Sceniak, L. Bridging the Gap: Understanding the Skills and Writing Knowledge of Entering College Composition Students (MA thesis, completed).
- Wisniewski, C. “Writing, Talking, Writing: Effects of the Whole-Class Workshop on Student Composing Practices.” CCCC, Atlanta, GA, 2011.
- Wisniewski, C. How First-Year Teachers Understand, Communicate, and Enact Writing Knowledge in First-Year Composition Classes (PhD dissertation, in progress).
- Woldruff, R. “The Teacher’s Role in Building a Workshop.” CCCC, Atlanta, GA, 2011, and “Workshopping the Composition Classroom;” CCCC, San Francisco, CA, 2009.