Two readings by Nelson and Shipka made me think about differences between traditional university writing courses and a so-called “ideal” composition course. In my opinion, ENGL 130 classes and ENGL 30 workshops are somewhere in between. It seems like the course instructors and mentors more or less understand the necessity to change the existing writing practices and actively work at this by creating digital culture and multimodal writing oriented syllabi and assignments versus grammar/style instruction. It is obvious that students want this change as well. One of my ENGL 30 students showed a video about correlation between education, success, and creativity. The video conclusion was that the majority of successful talented people (numerous examples of famous persons) became what they are now in spite of rather than thanks to their education. Students are dissatisfied with formal writing and memorizing unnecessary facts.
However, despite the instructors and mentors’ efforts and students’ wish, the process of transition is far from being smooth. In my ENGL 30 workshop, I notice a strange pattern. Students go from active discussion to being passive and disinterested to whatever is going on in their 130 class – all this without any visible reasons. Many students seem confused with what their instructors want. One of my students told me, “We’re not doing any writing at all. We are watching videos and posting blogs”. It seems that students simultaneously want and are afraid of changing their writing practices. They do not accept multimodal writing as a serious academic writing. As Nelson states, they either modify their writing practices according to their idea of what an instructor might want from them, or follow “fill-in-the-blank” pattern. That’s particularly interesting for me. Why do students refuse to engage into the new process if they are dissatisfied with the system of traditional writing? Nelson sheds the light on this problem when saying that “our students’ success depends not so much on their ability to appropriate a particular discourse as on their ability to recognize and negotiate among the old and new ways of thinking and writing they are being asked to engage in” (p. 428). That means that an instructor needs to change students’ mode of thinking about writing, to break their stereotypes before actually engaging them into a full range of multimodal writing practices. I am still hesitant about the way that can be done: Demonstration of samples of past students’ works? Explanation of learning purposes of each assignment? Creating a necessity for the new mode of writing?
Shipka says that “theories of writing, communication, and literacy need to reflect a deeper understanding of place – place and space that readers and writers bring with them to the intellectual work of writing, and examine participants’ “multiple external connections” (p. 36). In other words, in order to make students genuinely interested and eager to work, teachers need to use their prior knowledge and experience that students had with writing outside of the high school five-paragraph essay. And again I have a question: How to make students understand that the kinds of writing practices they have been engaged in outside of school can be beneficial in the formal academic writing?