Teaching for Transfer: Strategies for First-Year Composition and Beyond

Presented by Charles Paine on October 2, 2014 as part of the Speaking About Pedagogy & Practice in English Featured Speakers Series.

Composition teachers are rethinking the goals of first-year composition. We want to prepare students to handle the writing situations they’ll face in their college courses and in their lives beyond college—to transfer their skills, knowledge, and practices to new, unfamiliar contexts. However, as demonstrated by recent research in composition studies and in education generally, transfer is neither straightforward nor common. It doesn’t just happen, but we shouldn’t simply throw up our hands and say, Well, it’s up to the student. We need to “teach for transfer.” In this webinar, I’ll briefly introduce some of the concepts and difficulties concerning transfer, but I’ll devote the majority of our time discussing practical, workable strategies that facilitate transfer. These strategies include helping students: 1) develop a “theory of writing” and using a sharable vocabulary for discussing what they do and why; adopt “problem-exploring” (rather than “answer-getting”) dispositions; motivate their learning by showing them how their writing skills will be relevant to their personal goals; and learn to “think like writers” by mingling theory with practice, using assignment sequences that invite them to repurpose their writing for new contexts and to reflect on the principles and past experiences they have used to meet the demands of these new contexts.

Charles Paine is a Professor of English at the University of New Mexico, where he directs the undergraduate writing program and teaches courses in first-year, intermediate, and professional writing. He is an active member of the Council of Writing Program Administrators and currently serves on its Executive Board. He co-founded and coordinates the Consortium for the Study of Writing in College, a joint effort of the National Survey of Student Engagement and the Council of Writing Program Administrators. The Consortium conducts general research into the ways that undergraduate writing can lead to enhanced learning, engagement, and other gains related to student success. Professor Paine is author of Writing Todayand The Resistant Writer: Rhetoric as Immunity, and with Joseph Harris and John Miles he coedited a collection of new essays, Teaching with Student Texts.

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