What is meaningful, practical writing?
One of the goals of writing across the curriculum is to make writing more meaningful to students in all classes. It is not a matter of quantity or frequency, but meaning that makes any activity worthwhile for students – or professionals. Meaningful, practical work is fulfilling, and the same holds true for the classroom. In my job, I surveyed all the writing I do in one day and tried to categorize it into what I have to do vs. what I like to do. Certainly the writing I have to do (often emails) is not given much thought or time. I respond quickly, sometimes without really thinking things through (which I don’t recommend), and I don’t really enjoy maintaining my inbox. What do I like doing? What writing in my job is meaningful to me? What gets my attention and time? Resources and professional development. Part of my job is to write or edit writing resources for students and faculty. There is nothing more intriguing to me than to have a topic proposed for a resource that I have to research and then compose in a way that is helpful and meaningful to students and/or faculty. I know that the resources I write or edit are meaningful because students or faculty need them because they’ve asked for them. I also know the writing is practical because it will get used. Because of these two things, I pour a lot of time and energy into resource development, and the same can be said for my professional development conference presentations or publications.
My purpose in rambling about myself in the paragraph above is to set up a conversation here. Just like in the workplace, there is writing for classes that just has to get done, sort of like the email part of my job. But are there writing assignments that are truly meaningful for students? Something they know is wanted or needed and will somehow get used? How do we know the writing in our courses is meaningful and practical? So I’d like to ask two things: What kinds of writing do you do on the job that you find meaningful and practical? And what classes do you teach and what writing assignments do you think are meaningful and practical for students? How do you know they are?