Blog Post for May 3 Readings

As an English 103 TA, I gravitated towards Dobrin’s Don’t Call It That: The Composition Practicum this week. I did not know there was a battle in composition programs to define what function and purpose the introductory, graduate-level composition course serves. I also did not know the larger political questions associated with such programs, especially thinking about the role of WPAs from some of our past readings. Dobrin poses important questions about some of the problems associated with a required composition course for all English graduate students saying, “composition, in general is equated with FYC…as understood to be the goal of the practicum…is the idea that training to teach composition is training to teach FYC” (23). This connection certainly raises many questions as to if the course actually only serves this purpose, or if the course has other pedagogical purposes? I think Dobrin’s connections between the undergraduate required FYC and the graduate required “practicum” composition course problematize the function of both courses in terms of students and how the university views the course. I think Dobrin’s final statement leaves the reader with even more questions, “For me, this collection stands as a call to research, as a call to ask and answer more questions about the politics and power of the practicum” (31). Prior to reading this piece, I had not known the ways colleges have debated and discussed the purpose of the “practicum” graduate course. The fact that the legitimacy of the course has been questioned and both students and teachers face even the possibility of not receiving credit for the course, creates a new understanding of the politics involved in the course. If most college campus require an introductory graduate composition course for English majors, what is the main purpose of the course? How does the course transfer for English majors who are not teaching the FYC and are planning to get their degree in literature? Are these some of the questions facing professors in the field when discussing the function of the course?

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1 thought on “Blog Post for May 3 Readings”

  1. Similarly to Lindsay, I did not know about problems connected to the graduate practicum course. Interestingly enough, in all our extensive readings about composition courses and debates around power, inequality, FYC, and basic writing, we have not encountered arguments about the content of the course that prepares graduate students for teaching. Possibly, it is as Dobrin mentions: the published accounts of the composition practicum are limited (21). Answering Lindsay’s question about the main purpose of the practicum, I agree with Dobrin when he notes that practicum is not only “a course about teaching methods and theories, but also a general introduction to composition studies, to teacher professionalization, to research methodologies in graduate-level English, to theory (to specific theories), to writing…” (19). While I do agree on the purpose of the practicum, I believe that it is impossible to discuss all of these aspects in one class over the period of one semester. I believe that additional courses must be required for the TAs to take. Having two courses required in addition to practicum seems like a reasonable amount of time and effort that is required of a graduate student who only starts to develop as a pedagogue. These two additional courses, which in our case are Composition Theory and Writing Program Issues, help to introduce graduate students into the field of composition and provide a solid foundation for the future growth. Furthermore, all these required composition courses prompted me to think of myself as a teacher and as a writer. While I am not planning to stay in composition field and teach FYC, I believe that having experience in teaching freshman class as well as having instruction in composition theory and pedagogies create a solid foundation even for those who plan to go into teaching literature. Most of the strategies that we are taught are not site-specific; they can be easily transferred into other fields including literature.
    Questions:
    Having read Places of Learning, what are some of the examples (other than architecture) that affect students’ “experience”?
    Dobrin discusses how graduate students are “enculturated into the cultural ideologies of composition” (21). Do you agree with him?

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