Elon hosts international conference on writing
College writing faculty from around the globe are visiting campus for a June 25-26 program organized by the 2011-2013 Elon University Research Seminar on “Critical Transitions: Writing and the Question of Transfer.”
Do high school students learn to write in a way that effectively carries with them to college? Once in a university setting, is the style of writing in an English class just as effective when composing a biology lab report or writing a grant application for an environmental studies service-learning course?
Is the writing that students learn in college preparing them for the type of writing they’ll need to produce in their professional careers?
These questions and more have been the focus of scholars taking part over the past two years in the 2011-2013 Elon University Research Seminar "Critical Transitions: Writing and the Question of Transfer," which inspired research to assess students’ writing skills in transitional phases, such as high school-to-college and college-to-workplace.
Working in teams, professors seek answers to questions about the type of writing students learn. Research explores how social media may encourage student writing, how personal reflections on writing through audio-video journals impacts writing development, and even the term itself, “transfer,” as a description of ways students take what they learn to future classes and jobs. Seminar leaders are producing a statement about transfer based on the completed individual and group projects.
Those projects and the statement are being shared this week on campus in a conference attended by nearly 140 faculty members representing more than 80 schools worldwide.
“Our goal is to synthesize what we’ve learned about writing transfer and get people talking with one another,” said Jessie Moore, an associate professor of English and director of the Elon University Research Seminar. “Hopefully, everyone leaves the conference with a better understanding of what we already know about writing transfer, how we teach to support it, and what we still need to research.”
Concurrent sessions this week in the Koury Business Center complement the remarks of two plenary speakers.
Etienne Wenger-Trayner, a globally recognized thought leader in the field of communities of practice featured by Training Magazine in their "A new Breed of Visionaries" series, opened the conference on Tuesday morning. His work as a researcher, author and consultant has influenced both thinking and practice in a wide variety of fields, including business, education, government and social theory.
Graham Smart, an associate professor in linguistics and language studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, will give the closing plenary Wednesday afternoon. He has researched writing in both professional and academic settings with a current focus on discourses and argumentation produced by social actors in the debate over global climate change.
Writing transfer is receiving attention from researchers as they begin to test assumptions about the way people learn to write and how they take their skills into a variety of situations.
In addition to the international conference, participants in the two-year seminar have started submitting their findings to academic journals. Edited collections are also in the process of coming together for publication, and though the seminar formally ends this summer, participants plan to meet informally at future conferences.
The Elon University Research Seminar is a program in the university’s Center for Engaged Learning.
“If we’re aiming to help students be strong writers in their professional careers and personal lives,” Moore said, “we want to make sure the curricula we have in place are achieving the goals we’ve set.”
Watch the videos below to learn more about research projects from the Elon University Research Seminar on “Critical Transitions: Writing and the Question of Transfer" and how the choice of content in first-year college writing courses impacts students’ writing transfer.