The Community College Writer: Exceeding Expectations
Howard Tinberg and Jean-Paul Nadeau’s recent study confirms many details faculty working with community college writers know, but their research also presents some surprises. CC students do exceed expectations considering the “tidal wave of life” they face. They desire a challenging study of writing–not watered down assignments or standards, but they require very clear procedures of what to do. Tinberg and Nadeau find that their CC curricula is anchored in current-traditional rhetoric (definition, classification or division, narrative, description, and process) with a heavy reliance on skills-based instruction. However, “a more complex picture of writing instruction emerges from the remaining genres represented in student portfolios: the memoir, film review, experimental lab report, journal (especially informal reactions to reading), writer’s autobiography, resume and cover letter” (62). Revision beyond surface conventions is infrequent. Many comments made on students’ papers don’t help them because they’re misunderstood, yet “85% of faculty reported seeing improvements in student writing as a result of faculty feedback” (40). Most writing is completed for English classes, but inside and outside composition class, the writing assignments train students toward academic and professional writing goals. One of the more interesting survey results in the study, I found, was that while nearly all faculty saw student writing as important for future employment, less than half of the students thought writing would be relevant to them beyond school. Students want a writing experience different than in high schools, and so it seems where continued academic writing may fail to engage community college writers, vocational awareness and assignments based on those kinds of procedural rhetoric (genre based, critical-cultural studies purposes) might be embraced for its potential in practicing rhetoric-composition, instead of avoiding or categorizing it as merely skill-centered or remedial.