Authentic Alternatives to Accountability and Standardization
Edited By Joe Bower and Paul L. Thomas
Chapter Sixteen: De-grading Writing Instruction: Closing the “Considerable Gap”
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De-grading Writing Instruction
Closing the “Considerable Gap”
P. L. THOMAS
After 18 years teaching high school English in rural Upstate South Carolina, a career that was deep in my heart and bones as a teacher of writing, I moved to higher education in part as an act of professional and scholarly autonomy. Teaching education courses, however, has proven to be less fulfilling and off-kilter to my central concerns with directly addressing developing critical literacy—fostering writers.
After being allowed to teach one section of my university’s introductory English course during my first years as an assistant professor, I was fortunate that my university reimagined its curriculum, replacing the two required first-year English courses with two first-year seminars designed to inspire and fuel student engagement in learning. One of the first-year seminars is writing intensive, and the seminars are taught by professors across departments—not just the English faculty.
This curriculum change has afforded me a unique opportunity to teach writing-intensive first-year seminars each fall as part of my small administrative role as Faculty Director, First Year Seminars. In those courses, I have the autonomy to implement writing workshop and, most significantly, to de-grade the feedback process of my students drafting their essays. In that context, this chapter opens with a brief discussion of how the writing curriculum has suffered a failed history in formal education—almost completely disconnected from the research...
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