The Writing Center launched a new initiative in Summer 2018 to support faculty across the disciplines who assign writing in their courses. Faculty from any department were invited to participate in a workshop, “How Writing Works in Your Disciplines and Lives: Investigating Disciplinary Practices, Values, and Beliefs.”
On June 21 and 22, faculty teams from five departments gathered to talk about their processes, practices, and beliefs around writing. They participated in collaborative activities that explored the disciplinary threshold concepts that underlie the writing students do in their courses and considered what makes writing good in their discipline. Discussions revealed differences in their field-based expectations about how to approach explanations, organize arguments, and reference the works of others. For example, notions of argument are not the same in each field: Political Science students are expected to state a point quickly and then provide concrete quantitative evidence as support, whereas Philosophy students are expected to elaborate more on the logical reasoning they use to advance a claim.
The faculty participants finished the workshop with new ideas for how to teach with writing in their courses and developed a stronger understanding of the larger institutional context in which their courses dwell—that is, what they can expect from students who have taken UT’s first-year writing courses and how they can help students transfer existing knowledge and skills to the disciplinary writing they expect students to produce in their courses.
The descriptions of writing in their fields that each group completed in the workshop are being used to train Writing Center tutors. Starting this year, the Writing Center will be offering new, one-to-one disciplinary writing consultations for students taking upper-division courses in the departments represented at the workshop. Over time, the Writing Center plans to continue the workshop series and further expand its help for faculty and students from across campus.
The Writing Center summer faculty workshop was supported by the Jim and Judi Herbert Excellence in Writing Endowment.