As with WRA 101 and 195H, students in WRA 1004/0102: Preparation for College Writing (PCW) engage acts of inquiry, discovery, and communication conditioned, primarily, by attention to purpose, process, and culture–as detailed in the Program Learning Goals for FYW. The focus of the PCW course is to help students identify aspects of their prior experiences, linguistic knowledge, and cultural practices that can be used as assets in building toward WRA 101 and in developing and sustaining productive writing practices at MSU.
Guiding the PCW course, specifically, is the pedagogical principle that sees students’ communication repertoire (languages, codes, discourses) as key resources for their learning, writing, and integration into MSU and academic cultures. WRA 1004/0102 creates ongoing opportunities for students to inquire into and articulate their (and others’) experiences, languages, and cultures as a means for knowledge creation and goal setting. Integrating multiple communicative forms (listening, reading, speaking, writing, etc.), students come to acquire knowledge of genre-specific conventions and rhetorical moves for making claims and providing evidence, which results in multimodal and multilingual innovations.
PCW is designed around three primary pedagogical moves:
- Drawing on students’ languages and cultures as sites of inquiry and resources for their learning.
- Using writing and multiple other forms of communication (multimodal, embodied, reading, speaking, listening) as means to identify, understand, and place the “self,” and to communicate that knowledge to others.
- Fostering the students’ introduction to, and integration into, MSU cultures.
While instructors take varied approaches to their pedagogical “moves” in this course, most engage students in an initial project that has them identifying their transition to MSU in terms of their relationship from and to larger communities. Other projects support students in multiple scaffolded stages throughout the invention, drafting, revision, and representation processes: one of these assignments usually focuses on the students’ languages and/or cultures as sites of inquiry, while the other introduces students to and engages them in inquiry into linguistic, academic, and disciplinary cultures at MSU.
The three primary moves of the PCW curriculum are informed by these core values:
- Students’ languages and cultures are assets, not deficits.
- People engage multiple embodied and multimodal means to communicate culturally and linguistically complex ideas and experiences.
- Other modes of communication, such as speaking, listening, and reading, intertwine with and support writing development.
- Understanding how to enact claims and evidence across genres and different writing forms, and for different audiences and situations, aids communication.
- Preflection (creating records of learning as it develops) informs later reflection and learning.
- Ongoing preflection and reflection on learning and communicative processes helps writers mark, describe, and strategize how to meet both current and future communicative challenges.
PRIMARY WRITING EXPERIENCES OF THE PCW CURRICULUM
Early writing project assignments in PCW ask students to examine, share, and explain their linguistic and cultural knowledge with others in the class. In expressing this knowledge, students hone their abilities to communicate across linguistic and cultural differences—practices that will continue throughout the term. Focusing on the claims and evidence that they provide about their home languages and cultures, students consider how best to support their ideas, to make them visible to others differently situated.
As the course progresses, PCW students engage projects in which they map their transitions to MSU in terms of their relationships to MSU communities, cultures, and languages. That is, students examine specific aspects of linguistic, academic, and disciplinary cultures at MSU: they conduct local participant-observer ethnographies with members of the MSU community, reflect on their experiences, and then share what they have learned with their classmates—often through multimodal forms. Often, PCW students make infographics, posters, group-poems, and presentations that convey what they have learned to their classmates.
Thus, here and throughout the course, instructors invite PCW students to use multiple modes of communication—visual (cartoons, children’s books, drawings), audio (music, spoken word poetry, podcasts), and gestural and other embodied performances (e.g., skits, games)—to communicate their ideas to others. At least one project has students specifically “translating” an earlier project into another mode (video, song, dance, poster, interactive game, and so on). In turn, most students will then share these multimodal products at the program’s end-of-term First-Year Writing Conference / Symposium.
While communicative and reflective acts are enacted through multiple means (multimodal, spoken, written), all projects support students through scaffolded stages of invention, drafting, peer reviewing, revision, and representation processes. Students consistently reflect on their practices and their learning to anticipate and set goals for future communication challenges, both in the upcoming WRA 101 course and beyond.