I believe that English teachers should learn other Discourses to help teachers of disciplines other than English develop assignments based on the writing to learn philosophy. However, if genres and their typical rhetorical moves and linguistic formulae can be studied and acquired in a reasonable amount of time, it is difficult to fully grasp the Discourse of a discipline understood as a historically situated human activity. English teachers can gain an understanding of the superficial structures of a discipline but clearly need to collaborate with the instructors of these other disciplines to develop programs that can really help students immerse into the discursive practices of a field of study. Two observations in Thaiss and McLeod article stood out for me: first “teachers must be aware of ways in which student writing and learning are happening in the rest of the institution” (p. 287). Second: “[the discourse conventions of their disciplines] seem so natural to those fluent in them that it is difficult for them to see why students struggle as they learn them” (p. 287). Let’s start with the first point. Ideally, English teachers should see themselves as detectives who try to understand what teachers in other disciplines do with writing assignments. This is an important step to take if we really want to integrate pedagogical practices and make our classes more relevant to our students. It also true that teachers of other disciplines rarely have a meta-awareness of how their disciplinary discourses function in conjunction with precise modes of thinking, structured activities, disciplinary habits and rituals. It is a responsibility of English teachers to invite other instructors to reflect on their practices so that they can devise ways to have students engage with them on a deeper and more authentic level.
Concerning the section on Filaments of growth in WAC/WID, I have a provocation to launch: are we sure that technologies have made student writing far easier? Undoubtedly there are now several avenues for the students to express their linguistic creativity but sometimes I wonder whether there are too many tools to choose from. Abundance of choice can paralyze users of technology, just like it paralyses consumers when they enter a store that is exploding with items on sale. CMS are used side by side with WordPress blogs, Google Drive, and, in many instances, social media and other writing platforms. Every tool comes with its own idiosyncrasies that partly detract from the experience of writing by posing a variety of obstacles that can be rather distracting. Writing can certainly improve our learning experiences but when the flow of our ideas is interrupted by technological glitches or by sounds and beeps that come from our machines, the software installed, or internet pages left open, well, we become less absorbed in writing, and the whole activity becomes less beneficial.
How far should we go in our attempt to learn the discursive practice of other disciplines?
Do technologies always assist the writing to learn process? What can go wrong?