"Her call for rethinking approaches to first-year writing is bold and challenging, and I found myself recognizing many of the problems she mentions with current first-year writing practices in my own writing program."
—Susan Miller-Cochran, College Composition and Communication
Composition research consistently demonstrates that the social context of writing determines the majority of conventions a writer must observe. Still, most universities organize the required first-year composition course as if there were an intuitive set of general writing "skills."
In College Writing and Beyond: A New Framework for University Writing Instruction, Anne Beaufort reports a longitudinal study of one student's experience in first-year composition (FYC), in history, in engineering, and in his post-college writing. Her data illuminates the struggle of college students to transfer what they learn about "general writing" from one context to another. Her findings suggest ultimately not that we must abolish FYC, but that we must go beyond even genre theory in reconceiving it.
Accordingly, Beaufort would argue that the FYC course should abandon its hope to teach a sort of general academic discourse, and instead should systematically teach strategies of responding to contextual elements that impinge on the writing situation. Her data urges attention to issues of learning transfer, and to developmentally sound linkages in writing instruction within and across disciplines. Beaufort advocates special attention to discourse community theory, for its power to help students perceive and understand the context of writing.
College Writing and Beyond reports a major study with serious implications for the university writing program and for writing-across-the-curriculum efforts. It will be of interest to compositionists generally, to WPAs, to writing centers, and to department and college administrators. This volume includes sample course overview and writing assignments.
College Composition and Communication Vol. 62, No. 3 / February 2011 / Susan K. Miller-Cochran
Faculty Focus August 2015 / Angus Woodward