Sunday, October 16, 2005

Assignments without Context

Why do we assign paper topics in Beginning English? Do we actually wish to have conversations with our students, learning from them as we explore academic discourse? Or, more likely, do we assign topics merely as excuses for exercising form and grammar expectations? I am afraid a great many composition instructors rely on paper topics not as actual explorations of ideas but rather as means to correct students.

Carefully consider the assignments given in most first-year composition courses. Are these assignments meant to engage the instructor in discussions with students? Doubtful. Most assignments are routine... nothing more than pretenses for editing.

What is the message we are actually sending to students? We are not indicating that their ideas and beliefs matter. We greet them with assignments meant to result in corrections... designed to expose errors in academic style. In their first year composition courses, students experience a devaluation, not encouragement.