Novice as Expert

In his workshop on sustained writing projects with GRW and Writing Intensive faculty, Mark Long discussed the research of Nancy Sommers and her longitudinal study of first-year writers at Harvard.   Here is Sommers’ article“The Novice as Expert:Writing the Freshman Year” published in 2004.

To follow up with Mark Long, you can visit his blog. The Thinking and Writingcourse at Keene State College that he discussed is described here. Mark will be sending me some additional materials from that program for anyone who might like to read more about the approach they take to sustained research projects.

At the heart of what Mark described, to my mind, is the word sustain. And the verb, more than the more popular adjective, sustain more than sustainable. It’s about time. Mark emphasizes that the kind of intellectual work we do as scholars, writers, researches, academics, teachers all take time. As I understand the premise of Thinking and Writing: challenge students with the authentic work of experts, but support them as novices in that work. The importance of time extends to our own work. We also need time to do the intellectual work of supporting student learning; we need to be sustained in the work we are doing in first-year writing and writing intensive courses.

I mention this so that we can continue the conversation about ways we can and should sustain (and be sustained in) the writing courses and writing program we have designed for our students. I am interested in having the kind of faculty development opportunities that Mark described: a summer workshop that faculty apply for (with stipend) with mentoring in the following year. It sounded, in a word, sustaining. I am interested in that for my own teaching. And I would like to get the support needed to help organize this as Director of Writing.

My thanks to all who participated in the workshops and discussions on Monday.

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