Thaiss and McLeod claim that there are two big takeaways from our studies of writing in transnational contexts: “(1) that teachers in other disciplines care about writing and about student proficiency, though they are usually not trained in writing pedagogy, and (2) students want their writing education to be connected to their disciplinary learning goals” (293). Both of these claims are incredibly hopeful because they operate under the assumption that our colleagues in other disciplines find worth in our work and that our students find worth in our work as well. I think the claims may be a tad overly optimistic, however.
The first claim is pretty straightforward: most folks outside of Writing Studies don’t study writing pedagogy; those in writing studies do. This assumes, however, that knowledge of writing pedagogy is enough to teach writing in the disciplines. Given what Thaiss and McLeod tell us about the importance of Discourse and genres as social (a la Gee, Miller, and others), writing pedagogy knowledge may not be enough. Thaiss and McLeod note that WAC pedagogy becomes most effective, “Once teachers in the disciplines begin to see the teacher/student relationship as one of professional/apprentice, and once they also begin to view their classrooms as social systems that model […] the discourse of their particular disciplines” (288). For those of us teaching in WID classrooms who are “experts” in writing studies but “non-experts” in our students’ disciplines, this leaves us in a difficult spot, because we lack the disciplinary knowledge to truly enter into this “professional/apprentice” model (See Q1 below).
Similarly, Thaiss and McLeod’s second claim makes sense: students want their writing to be practical and to apply to their other coursework. I would argue that this is certainly true—with one large caveat: students want their writing experiences to be practical IF they understand that writing is actually part of the important work in their discipline. I use a forum analysis in my class to ask students to seek out journals in their field to show that people in their disciplines ARE actually writing and that Discourse conventions matter, but Q2 below reveals my biggest struggle in the writing in the sciences class.
Q1: Given the lack of disciplinary knowledge of some WID instructors, how do we best bridge knowledge of writing studies with students’ own knowledge of their disciplines to make the best of this situation and to get close to the “professional/apprentice” model Thaiss and McLeod advocate.
Q2: How do we help students value writing as PART OF their discipline?