Generic or specific: writing in and across the disciplines

In this post by The UWC Writing Centre, the focus is on the open-mindedness necessary to teach writing across disciplines. When faculty-requested workshops on impossibly broad topics like “Can you come and tell my students how to write at university?” are not the solution to student writing issues, what is? The preliminary answer: a dialogue on the nature of the writing assignment, faculty expectations and qualifications for excellence within the assignment. This opens the door to conversations about how to best serve student writers in their discipline: by operating somewhere between the generic and the specific.

Writing in the Academy

We get a lot of requests at our writing centre, as I am sure is true of many writing centres, for generic writing skills workshops. Requests like: ‘Can you come and tell my students how to write at university?’ or ‘Can you come and run a skills workshop on essay writing?’ I have serious reservations about any kind of workshop that tries to give students a list of ‘skills’ they need to master in order to be a better writer, or a workshop that approaches improving your writing as knowing what writing at university is broadly and matching what you do to that set of characteristics or features. There’s a lot of research in the field of academic writing and literacies that shows that generic, one-method-of-essay-writing-serves-all-disciplines approaches to teaching writing don’t really work for the majority of students. The ones who succeed following these workshops were probably already fairly confident…

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