Teaching for Transfer

I wrote this paper, “Teaching for Transfer,” for my first graduate-level rhetoric and composition course, Composition Theory (ENG 583). The topic of transfer has repeatedly influenced my research during my master’s studies.

For the introduction, I only tentatively used the track analogy for this paper. It seemed too informal perhaps, not academic or disciplinary enough to use in a graduate-level seminar paper. Ironically, in a paper about transfer I myself struggled with concerns about inappropriately transferring writing skills, in this case skills learned in journalistic settings, to an academic one. In my previous first quarter of graduate study I had duly noted that most journal articles in the field of rhetoric did little to “hook” the reader. I decided to go ahead with the decathlon comparison, however, because I thought that it was valid and appropriate, much in the spirit of David Russell’s ball analogy. But if I were to revise this paper, I would refine the analogy slightly by bringing the FYC teacher/coach more to the forefront, as I mention in the annotation.

Another aspect that I would change would be to make this paper less of a summary of research on transfer and instead to give it more of an analytical focus. I would like to examine Writing about Writing: A College Reader, a first-year composition student text by Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs, to consider whether this text incorporates the components that I identify as effective for transferring writing skills to other contexts. I would choose this text because Downs and Wardle specifically identify Writing about Writing pedagogy as intended to teach for transfer: “The pedagogy teaches potentially transferable conceptions of the activity of writing rather than ‘basic’ writing skills” (578). It would be interesting to examine Wardle and Downs’ FYC text to see whether transfer pedagogy is implemented, and if so, to observe specific ideas for doing so.

Other additions I’d like to make would be to strengthen the paragraph about genre theory, activity theory, and situated learning theory with what I learned in ENG 585. Also, to improve what is currently the conclusion to the paper I would add some anecdotal evidence from my experience teaching ENG 104 that points to the effectiveness of Anne Beaufort’s approach to teaching for transfer. For the new conclusion I would use an adaptation of a blog post I wrote for ENG 585 reflecting on Ann M. Blakeslee’s article “Bridging the Workplace and the Academy.”  In it I considered the implications of situated learning theory and proposed a slight change in terminology that might better reflect what we’re aiming for when we teach for transfer. That blog post is here.

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