After moving across the country, hello east coast, I’m ready to begin posting again. That was quite the hiatus. I’ve begun working on my summer project list, starting with revisions to a praxiswiki about an assignment.

This had me asking – what is the purpose of an assignment?

This question is asked consistently in WAC/WID in relation to ‘the research essay’ assigned by disciplinary faculty – what do you expect students to be able to show in an essay when you haven’t discussed writing or the purpose of writing in your course? Fair question – but also heavily exemplifying rhet/comp thinking! I ask myself this every term as I modify and shift the syllabi – why do I want students to complete Assignment A and how can I prepare them for that assignment (I don’t want to hate my life while grading after all). This is not always 100% successful but planning for writing discussions is a post for another day.

How did you value reading? This one really stumped me, when was the last time I talked about how to read, and the function of reading in my courses? I know when teaching 210 (Principles of rhetoric) we discuss this with theorists, and we discuss the unction of methodology, results, discussion as format for science papers – we also talk abut literacy and the ways types of reading are valued, but that never translated into “how do you read? how should you read for this class and what does that mean?” But final assignments require students to integrate scholar voices to their writing, to show how they read and make meaning. Then demonstrate their reading through writing.

These are he complicated questions that underlie assignments. Faculty have learning goals for their assignments, skills and knowledge they expect students to demonstrate through assignment completion, but how do we talk about that, support it with theory, and generalize those ideas to others?

These are the questions i’m grappling with, and attempting to answer in less than 2 paragraphs for this short piece i’m revising and resubmitting. Obviously, keeping the discussion short is a huge challenge.

I’ll leave this post with the question of the week: why do we assign ‘the essay’?


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