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Writing Tasks That Have Worked for Us

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: July 16, 1999
E-Mail Faculty on the Site.

Introduction to the Writing Tasks
The Study Period
Twenty-Five Words or Less

Introduction to Writing Tasks

By Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Part of the Teaching Writing Series
Copyright: July 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.

This page and its interconnected sections consists of writing tasks interdependently developed with our students over the last decade or so. The purpose of the tasks is to share with you activities that worked for other students as stimuli, and for us in understanding the narrative of learning of today's traditional student.

For years the "non-traditional student" has been the focus of considerable educational research. We have tried to find personal and situational factors that we could alter to improve learning with students who were not affluent, not able to travel beyond their local area, not supported by family economic, career, and emotional stability in a world of relative ease, not characterized by traditional reliance on "training, education, and contacts" that are the part and parcel of post-high school education.

Today, with the fast-moving pace of corporate America, this describes all our students. Even the very bright and the relatively affluent find that the old networks of contacts are more complex, that competition for time places serious strain on them, and that role models are changing so rapidly that Uncle George's advise may not help as much as it would have a few years ago. The educational institution is distracted with that old '50s confusion between training and liberal studies. "Relevance" haunts us once again, as it did in the '60s.

Good faith listenint to all validity claims within the academy depends on our bringing to awareness the context in which our students are learning and in which our teachers are teaching, for there is conflict between cultural patterns. The academy is faced with a group of faculty who are judging students from the traditional patterns of the 50s and 60s, for those are the seniors in power now. At the same time the academy is faced with a group of students whose time, social membership, ecological concerns, career opportunities are all differently patterned from those their teachers knew. We need to talk about that. For only in talking about the underlying premises of will we come to know the conflicting cultures and to find ways of strengthening the old, while developing the potential of the new. Most of the tasks offered here grew from that need to talk and our attempt to satisfy it. (Source on conflict of the two groups: Thorsten Sellin, "The Conflict of Conduct Norms," in Wiliams and McShane, Criminology Theory, Anderson Publishing, 1998, p. 74.)

More to come . . .

The Study Period

The social context of higher education has changed drastically in the last decade or so. Where many faculty were able to devote large chunks of their time in college exclusively to their studies, many of today's traditional students feel the conflict of competing cultural norms. Not merely norms of gender, race, ethnicity, and class. We've kind of grown used to those. But norms of how we fit the faster-paced life of many conflicting demands into the few short hours of the day.

In Playing with Habermas, the fifteen minute study period. How it evolved. What we want to know. How it affects the interdependent assessment of learning. . . .