It’s a funny thing to think about. I switched my major in my first year as an undergraduate because I realized I enjoyed writing papers and was good at it (as opposed to being a Visual Arts major which burned me out in 4 months). So much of my academic career has been about writing papers. I’m good at it and, to some extent, I enjoy it.
I think I’m over it, though, when it comes to teaching. Yes, I still feel that students need to know how to write. I also think that knowing how to research is important. For some students, I think that learning to write research papers will be highly important. Those students, however, are the ones who will move on in academia or are in fields where they will be required to write such items (yes, all English majors should know how to write in a variety of genres, essays being one of them).
My biggest frustration is the idea of writing a paper that only one or two other people will read. That is not the intent of academic papers. Actually, that is the opposite of what academics hope to have happen with their papers. We are teaching students to write for an audience of one and yet that is not the goal when we ourselves publish papers. I want to share. I want to know what others are working on. If I feel this way, then it seems likely that my students might also feel that way.
I find myself wanting to pull together a variety of materials. In researching for a current paper, I have already had to exclude white papers and blog posts because they are not peer reviewed. I just saw a tweet that would be an excellent demonstration and yet that is also not an appropriate source. This seems at total odds with my actual practice. It seems at odds with the practice of other academics. Why am I being forced into more traditional expectations when it no longer matches the reality of academic writing? Yes, we have a presentation (which I will share) which our class will see and we also have to share our annotated bibliography. Our paper, however, is for an audience of one or two.
Considering I come from an academic background, I used to live and breathe papers, and I have been whining lately about having to write such short papers, one would think I would hold fast to the idea of producing papers.
Nope. Not anymore.
It just does not make sense. I can have students write in other ways. I can have them present research in other ways. I can let them use other sources and connect with learning in ways that make sense to them. I do not have to be the gatekeeper if I teach them well. Some may choose to write papers but I do not need to force that on them.
Here begins a new era of my pedagogy. I choose to be social. I choose to be constructivist. I choose to embrace change and let technology actually impact my teaching rather than replicating conventional means (Laurillard, p. 15). I also want to consider my students, many of whom will have little use for writing papers.
Laurillard, Diana. (2009). The pedagogical challenges to collaborative technologies. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 4, 5-20. DOI 10.1007/s11412-008-9056-2