Marian will be posting a summary of the fantastic workshop last week on Community-Based Pedagogy
. Many thanks to those who attended--and thanks especially to Professor Vesta Daniel
, who gave a fascinating, inspiring talk about the pedagogical possibilities of engaging students with the community. We hope to have a follow up workshop on this (perhaps next quarter), so that we can explore how Dr. Daniel's ideas might play out in the classroom for different disciplines.
Next week will be our second workshop, this time on professional writing in the disciplinary class--"The Press Release: Write All About It!
". Dr. Barbara Glass
, director of the professional writing minor, and Melissa Soave
, communications director for the College of Humanities, will be joining us to discuss how to incorporate the genre of the press release into a class, and also to begin a discussion about the value of teaching professional genres in classes across the curriculum
The idea of teaching professional writing in disciplinary classes may not appeal to many in the University, since the "liberal arts" goals of a university general education have always been contrasted with "vocational" education. This is especially true now that students are up front about their vocational priorities, and are resistant to any work in their course of study that doesn't seem to prepare them for their careers. University instructors and faculty who hold on to the intrinsic value of a broad liberal arts education rightly bristle at such attitudes among students. However, the division between the "vocational" and "liberal" arts has become such a pervasive division that it begins to rival the division between the "two cultures
" of the humanities and the sciences that C. P. Snow
delineated almost a half-century ago.
And, as Baron Snow argued that the division between the humanities and sciences did a great disservice to the production of knowledge, so the division between a liberal and a professional ("vocational" for many implies "job training" quite divorced from critical learning) education can do students great disservice. Most students, after all, will be entering some profession after graduation, and their course of study presumably should prepare them for the work they will be expected to do. On the other hand, defenders of the liberal arts are absolutely correct in arguing that a college education shouldn't merely train students to do a job, but should prepare them to be good citizens and active, critical thinkers in all areas of their lives.
I'm a "have your cake and eat it too" kind of guy when it comes to learning--I am a proponant of WAC who argues that students' writing can stand along side and indeed enhance content learning in the disciplines. I feel the same way about "professional writing across the curriculum." Teaching students using genres they will encounter in their professional lives will prepare them for their work, and it can also help them to critically engage their education as much as any other liberal arts curricular initiative. I am not saying that such balances are easy--to balance liberal arts goals and professional education works against the grain of traditional understandings of the liberal arts as it does against our students expectations for vocational training. To negotiate both--to help students become broad-thinking professionals, citizens, and life-long learners--takes careful pedagogical thought and practice.
Now to find out how
this balance can be made and what sorts of assignments and projects can make this balance...you'll have to come next Tuesday to find out!