The General Education Writing Links program meets objectives for both the General Education program and the First-Year Composition program.
General Education Objectives
- More integrated learning experiences. Cohorts of students experience two Gen Ed courses simultaneously, which works against the traditional compartmentalization of learning in isolated courses.
- Stronger learning communities. Students have closer ties with students and instructors, potentially experiencing (as in, “first-year experience”) university life in more meaningful ways.
- Reinforced domain learning. Texts and assignments can be shared, which leads to a deeper understanding of a subject area or knowledge domain of the non-composition course. “Themed” links, which happens in cases when texts aren’t shared but each course uses different texts related to a shared theme, also contributes to deeper subject area learning.
- Reinforced communication skills. Students have a real writing context to apply strategies for adapting to writing situations. This makes writing assignments in the composition course are more relevant. In many cases more writing is integrated into the non-composition courses.
- Improved quality of instruction. Instructors, generally GAs and PTIs, receive additional support and training to plan and implement links.
- Increased student performance. Students in links tend to be more motivated, attend class more regularly, participate more actively in classroom activities, and earn higher grades.
- Higher student and instructor satisfaction. Both students and instructors tend to report more satisfying learning and teaching experience because of all the reasons listed above.
- More meaningful context for writing. The lecture course becomes a real context for writing:
- Writing assignments can focus on the rhetoric of a particular discipline (and also use it as a point of comparison to other disciplinary rhetorics).
- Lecture course instructors become a real audience (assignments and discussion can focus on understanding the needs, questions, reasoning and language expectations, etc. of instructor as reader).
- More relevant texts. Students are potentially more invested and familiar with texts being assigned in the non-composition course:
- Texts of the lecture course, including textbooks and other readings, become the basis for rhetorical analysis in the composition class.
- Texts from lecture course can be read/analyzed differently in composition course
- Lecture course itself can be read as a “text,” in cultural studies terms, as a cultural system with prevailing and marginalized discourses, particular values and privileged practices, insiders and Others, etc.
- More relevant assignments:
- In cases of the shared writing assignments, formal and informal assignments in the composition course can focus on the process of preparing the lecture course writing assignments.
- In cases of themed writing assignments (not shared in lecture course), assignments in the composition course can still be “linked” to the lecture course in a variety of ways, including further analysis of shared or themed texts, critical interpretations of lecture course as context, personal essays about students’ ideas and experiences with the lecture course discipline, comparative essays about disciplinary differences, etc.
- Informal writing assignments can reinforce the use of writing as a tool for learning, e.g., the use of journals and other free writing to understand material in both courses.
- Improved quality of writing instruction: Instructors, generally GAs and PTIs, receive additional support and training to plan and implement links:
- A writing instructor teaching a writing link must be sensitive to disciplinary differences and the use of rhetoric as a techne for negotiating disciplinary discourses; the writing instructor must teach this “metarhetorical awareness” or “rhetorical knowledgeablity”—the ability to recognize, adapt, and strategically act within new writing situations—to students.
- This necessarily requires a particular attitude toward writing instruction, which may or may not exist prior to the writing instructor’s participation in the linked course program.
- Additional workshops and staff meetings serve to reinforce the spirit of linking, in terms of planning how to exploit the lecture course as a rhetorical context and vehicle for teaching the variability and situatedness of academic discourse(s).
- Increased student performance: Students in links tend to be more motivated, attend class more regularly, participate more actively in classroom activities, and earn higher grades.
- Higher student and instructor satisfaction: Both students and instructors report more satisfying learning and teaching experience because of all the reasons listed above.