Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Coming Clean in Cambridge

Okay, I have to admit it: I'm not currently engaged in writing center work on a day-to-day basis. MIT does have a Writing and Communications Center, directed by Steve Strang, but I work as a lecturer for the Writing Across the Curriculum Program, a job I was hired to do in fall of 2002. In this blog entry I want to describe this work, something folks sometimes have a hard time getting their heads around (probably due to the prevalent images circulating about MIT, such as theMIT nerd test).

Starting in 2001, MIT instituted a communications requirement for all undergraduates. This far more extensive writing requirement than had been in place previously largely came about as a result of surveys of alumni, who reported that MIT had taught them to be terrific engineers and scientists but not-so-terrific communicators. As a result, their career advancement was less than ideal (following the adage I heard earlier this semester, "Engineers who can't write work for engineers who can.").

Now, each undergraduate needs to take four total classes designated as "communications intensive" or CI. Two of those CIs are in the humanities, arts, or social sciences cluster, and two are within students' major departments. The primary class I was hired to work with is a sophomore-level molecular biology lab class, affectionately known as "7.02" (numbers are big around here). My colleague Marilee Ogren (who has a PhD in neurobiology and lots of experience as a scientific journal edtior and writer) and I designed "7.02 SciComm," a stand-alone scientific communications class in which we help students read and write research articles. You can learn more about SciComm at our website for the current semester or at the version of our class that's been put on MIT's Open Courseware site.

The communication requirement as applied to students' majors has largely been applied to existing lab classes. The thinking was that these were already sites in which students were doing some writing and were organized into smaller sections, even if the larger lecture was hundreds of students. In other words, the infrastructure was largely present, and it was a much easier sell to departments concerned about squeezing in yet another requirement.

In addition to SciComm, I also regularly work with a junior-level biology lab class and have worked with CI classes in political science, management, electrical engineering, chemistry, and architecture. That sometimes means offering writing workshops throughout the semester and conferencing with students, akin to writing fellows programs or it might mean only responding to students' writing, never actually meeting with them. Our level of involvement in any individual class varies according to the department, the class, and our time available. It's a very flexible and often funky job.

I do like this work a great deal and have learned tremendously about WAC in the last three and a half years. MIT undergraduates are remarkable folks, many destined to do great things, all very committed to working hard and solving problems for the greater good. Given that as an undergraduate I never took a science course (except for computer science), one would think my background would be limiting. However, I use my skills as a rhetorician to understand how a scientific article in any field manages to do its work, and I use my skills as a teacher to help students acquire and demonstrate that understanding. I also find it fascintating and ironic that the knowledge in science and engineering is socially constructed in ways that the humanities with its continued glorification of single-authored works sure has not achieved in practice, despite frequent lip-service and theorizing. The model of the research lab as a forum for teaching and learning is one I'm hoping will influence the work we do in writing classrooms. It's the writing laboratory reconsidered, and that's laboratory in the best experimental intent of the word.

So you see, I really often feel like I am doing writing center work here, but not in the conventional sense. That says something quite powerful to me about the ways writing centers and their ideals can transform the teaching and learning at our institutions.

Neal

7 Comments:

At 11:33 PM, Blogger rediffco.com said...

adult dating adult friend finder sex hot nude college girls teen and adult dating adult friend finder sex hot nude college girls teen and adult dating adult friend finder sex hot nude college girls teen and free dating site adult dating adult friend finder sex hot nude college girls teen and pay per click search engine and aishwarya rai ayesha takia mallika sherawat hot wallpapers

 
At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

runescape money runescape gold runescape money runescape gold wow power leveling wow powerleveling Warcraft Power Leveling Warcraft PowerLeveling buy runescape gold buy runescape money runescape items runescape gold runescape money runescape accounts runescape gp dofus kamas buy dofus kamas Guild Wars Gold buy Guild Wars Gold lotro gold buy lotro gold lotro gold buy lotro gold lotro gold buy lotro gold runescape money runescape power leveling runescape money runescape gold dofus kamas cheap runescape money cheap runescape gold Hellgate Palladium Hellgate London Palladium Hellgate money Tabula Rasa gold tabula rasa money lotro gold buy lotro gold Tabula Rasa Credit Tabula Rasa Credits Hellgate gold Hellgate London gold dofus kamas buy dofus kamas wow power leveling wow powerleveling Warcraft PowerLeveling Warcraft Power Leveling World of Warcraft PowerLeveling World of Warcraft Power Leveling runescape power leveling runescape powerleveling eve isk eve online isk eve isk eve online isk 血管瘤 肝血管瘤 音乐剧 北京富码电视 富码电视 富码电视台 7天酒店 7天连锁酒店 7天连锁 自清洗过滤器 过滤器 压力开关 压力传感器 流量开关 流量计 液位计 液位开关 温湿度记录仪 风速仪 可燃气体检测仪 宿县最帅的胖子

 
At 6:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We really love your blog, i haven't seen you keeping the posts in in some time now. Is everything ok. You can reach me here = web traffic@simply pet products.com. Thanks Again Rob Dog Crates, Dog Toys ( Dog Supplies & Cat Supplies Pet Store, Dog Collars) Send Traffic Now

 
At 4:00 AM, Blogger muthu said...

Aside from the complex physical connections that make up its infrastructure, the Internet is facilitated by bi- or multi-lateral commercial contracts (e.g., peering agreements), and by technical specifications or protocols that describe how to exchange data over the network. Indeed, the Internet is essentially defined by its interconnections and routing policies.

As of December 30, 2007, 1.319 billion people use the Internet according to Internet World Stats. Writing in the Harvard International Review, philosopher N.J. Slabbert, a writer on policy issues for the Washington, D.C.–based Urban Land Institute, has asserted that the Internet is fast becoming a basic feature of global civilization, so that what has traditionally been called "civil society" is now becoming identical with information technology society as defined by Internet use. - web design company, web designer, web design india

 
At 12:20 AM, Anonymous Term Papers said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.

 
At 4:15 AM, Blogger marry said...

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!
_____________________________

Literature Review

 
At 4:23 AM, Anonymous literature review examples said...

Your blog is really helps for my search and i really like it.. Thanks a lot..:)

Dissertations literature review

 

Post a Comment

<< Home