Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:6, 12
This morning I went to a workshop at Clark called Supporting Student Writing in Academic Disciplines, by Nancy Penrose. Although I read a wordy description of the workshop (perfectly in keeping with the title), I hardly knew what to expect.
When we arrived at Clark, the room reserved was the same room I took the math for idiots in last year first semester. Prof. Higgins expressed shock and dismay at the prospect of sitting for three hours in the cramped chair/desk combinations, although I felt no pity for her. A few people, including my favorite Clark professor, Prof. Robertson, trickled in and produced a crowd numbering between 20 and 25.
Nancy Penrose had a PowerPoint presentation in the background, but much of the three hours vanished as various professors discussed dilemmas they had with students. Although the overall point came across that professors need to vocalize their discipline’s conventions, many of the professors spoke of the problems they had with students: the students don’t know how to write scientifically or my students can’t write a sociology paper or my students don’t know the difference between a monograph and a novel or help the students by making a different genre of student work for them to look at. As the only student there (Kat Labbe, a graduating senior, also represented Studenthood from WPI, but I was the only active student) I felt distinctly strange at times hearing vast, sweeping generalizations about The Students. Many of the professors believed students incapable of writing a real scientific research paper; they spoke of the value of focusing solely on a single part of their discipline’s writing. The professors didn’t believe students could write in their disciplines effectively, once those students learned the conventions!
To which I ask: O great professor, where did you learn to write for your profession? Were you not a student at that time?
– KF –